About a year ago, I learned a technique for keeping meetings on topic from a colleague. It's called "the parking lot". When a side issue seems to be picking up steam and drawing the group away from the topic that brought them together, the meeting facilitator notes the new subject on the board (puts it in the parking lot) and returns the group to the scheduled agenda. At the end of the meeting, those that want to can take up the suspended discussions or decide how to follow up in another way.
Of course, in informal social gatherings, a parking lot is not needed. A conversation is enriched by turns in unexpected directions. But a meeting at work is different. People have set aside a chunk of their limited time to address a topic. At my organization, people may have traveled an hour (one way) and spent up to $15 in travel costs to be in the room. It's important to use that time effectively.
So, why am I going on about this in an ELT blog? I think of respecting the time of those few who stop in to read my posts. I want to take some care in writing and try to explore or develop one main point. If I don't have the time or can't narrow my thoughts down somewhat, I don't like to post.
That's where the parking lot comes in! I may not be posting as often as I like, but my parking lot is actually pretty busy. As may happen in a business meeting, some parked items just drop off the list. Maybe they weren't substantial enough to spend a lot of energy on. Maybe they were just a case of misunderstanding that has since cleared up. And so forth. Other items are not well-defined. There's something there that I want to explore, but I'm not sure what it is yet. A few items are not (in my opinion) appropriate for a public posting. It may involve topics that I think are too sensitive -- specific information about another person, details about my organization's operations, etc. It helps to work them out anyway and sometimes they generate ideas for general posting.
Some topics that I'm thinking about now and would like to post on, if life permits:
- Student-centered teaching: Something about this idea doesn't work for me. Is it really what I'm doing? Is it really what we want? Could there be another perspective that might serve even better?
- There is so much that teachers are advised and encouraged to promote in the classroom in order to support the learning that's going on. Self-reliance, goal-setting, active listening, technology-readiness, etc., .etc. Aren't these good ideals to foster in general? How?
- Our team is planning a shift to a stronger emphasis on civics learning. We can go in a materials direction or an unplugged direction. I think unplugged is a natural for civics (don't read about it; let's go explore and/or participate and use English to plan, execute, and debrief afterwards!). Can I make a good argument for this as we make our plans for next year?
- Using recordings in class: I took some steps in this direction but the effort petered out. Probably due to being overwhelmed by all of the information. Thanks to new ideas and inspiration from Breaking Rules, I'm going to resume and want to share as that learning progresses.