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How To Run An Effective Special Ed Meeting That Ends On Time

Jul 13, 2008
Meetings and paperwork are a fact of life for special education teachers. A successful meeting starts several days (or more) ahead of the actual event. Here are some suggestions to help your meetings run smoothly and end on time.

1. Exactly what documents you need to have ready for the meeting depends on the state you live in. At the very minimum you will need a meeting sign-in form, something to take minutes on, a copy of parental rights and, if it is an IEP meeting, enough draft copies for every two people to refer to during the meeting. You will need additional documents for evaluation meetings, referral meetings and so forth.

It's important to call or email every team member several days before the meeting. Remind them about the date and time, as well as the location (room 12, library, etc.). Be sure that each member is all set with progress information, and copies, if needed.

3. An agenda will help you keep the meeting on track. Most people like knowing exactly what needs to be discussed before they can leave. Running a meeting is not a group activity. It's your job to make sure you don't get sidetracked and that you end on time.

4. Where is the meeting being held? Make sure people on the team know about this. Be sure the space is reserved, if that's procedure for your school. Most schools that I've worked in have a space issue. If that's the case in your school, you'll need to get creative about possible confidential meeting locations. I typically use a conference room, the principal's office, the library or the speech room if my classroom is occupied.

5. So, now you've gotten your space reserved, confirmed time, date and place with the other team members, and all of your paperwork is finished. At the start of the meeting you may need to go over ground rules for behavior. Some teams can be quite contentious and get into things like personal attacks. If your meeting might veer off in that direction, take a precautionary measure and remind participants that the meeting will be civil, including speaking one at a time, no swearing or personal attacks, or whatever you think needs to be stated.

6. Right before the meeting begins, if you haven't done this beforehand, make sure the secretary knows where to send people when they come in. And, if you think the meeting might get emotional and teary, make sure you've got a box of Kleenex available.

7. As people filter in, have them sign the attendance sheet. Acknowledge everyone.

8. Do introductions if you need to and then move on to the agenda.

9. Go through the agenda, remind people of the end time, and go over the "rules of engagement" (no I don't really call them that at my meetings. The meetings where I do have to discuss this aren't really the place for a comedy act, if you know what I mean!).

10. Between 15-20 minutes prior to your scheduled ending time, put the team on notice that you only have a few minutes left.

11. Thank everyone for coming and make sure to get all of the copies of draft documents back and the signatures you need before people walk out the door.

12. Running a meeting can be difficult. Preparing what you can in advance leads to a less stressful meeting (at least for me) 9 out of 10 times. When I first started teaching and holding meetings, I wasn't really comfortable in that role. Over time, with practice, meetings aren't so scary anymore. Just remember, nobody is born knowing how to run a meeting.

13. Make sure you get the meeting minutes back from the person who took them for you before you leave.
About the Author
Deborah Walker teaches special education to middle-schoolers with significant disabilities. She lives in northern New Hampshire with her husband, middle-schoolers, 2 dogs and 3 cats.. Go to Special-Education-Teacher-Resources.com for more great resources.
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