Leaders often face big “hot seat” meetings – lots of participants, opinions, issues, and controversy. Having a simple standard process can help them make sure that people are heard, information is processed, and suitable actions are taken. But what about the numerous intimate meetings that take place every day in schools? IEP meetings, for example, put parents, counselors, Child Study Team members, and teachers together to determine the course of action for just one student. These meetings, dealing with emotionally charged issues such as student placement, programs, and personnel needed to support the child, can be just as heated – although on a different scale. Wouldn’t that same simple standard process, used by the Superintendent, be considered equally valuable in these situations?
The Situation Appraisal process in its simplest form can improve the actual meeting and outcomes:
- Start off your meeting by clarifying the goals of the meeting and allowing all participants to voice their issues and concerns. Write each of those issues on chart paper or a white board to keep a visible record and reinforce that all parties are being heard.
- Look back at each issue – ask contributors to clarify if necessary, by asking “what do you mean by…?”
- Determine which issues need to be dealt with first. Remember that the order of actions needed, does not necessarily reflect the order of importance.
- To avoid the common occurrence of repeating this same meeting at the next one, record an action that will help resolve each issue and assign it to a person with a due date. Determining “by whom?” and “by when” is a crucial step in moving towards a resolution of issues.
Anytime that you have different perspectives, priorities, and are discussing change that can evolve into new concerns, you have the potential for difficult meetings. Special education meetings and conferences often have those exact components – made more complicated by other considerations that must come into play: lack of resources, time, money, legal issues, etc. No matter what the size or scope of the meeting, having a simple tool or process that makes your thinking visible and transparent can reduce feeling like you are in the “hot seat” and help all parties feel confident that they have been heard and the resolution is the best for our children.