The Agenda

Agenda comes from the Latin verb “agere” which means “to drive” or “set in motion”. Another translation is “things to be done” (8).

Without a clear plan about what is being driven forward, do some meetings become stuck, with everyone frozen in place? Some research shows that meetings are ineffective when the organiser fails to convey the purpose of the meeting to the participants. Making it clear why people are attending the meeting and what will be reviewed is essential to helping others feel included and interested.

Meetings with schools and families often have an agenda communicated in a casual and unstructured way; “Can you come in so we can talk about Michael’s progress?”, “Tanya has been struggling with her friendship group. Can we talk about this?”, or, “We notice that Cameron is not as active as he once was in lessons. Can we meet to discuss this?”.

There is an opportunity to be more direct and supportive of families in the meeting space. A therapeutic approach anticipates any anxiety-inducing situations and attempts to support those in the space with solutions.

In more detail we can examine a request for a meeting often levied at families:

“We’d like to speak with you about the progress Charlie is making.”

There are a number of ways this statement could induce anxiety, leading a parent to question:

Is the progress good or bad?

Is the progress being affected by poor behaviour?

Does Charlie need any extra help?

Is Charlie behind their peers?

Is this an urgent situation?

Do I, the parent, have the right skills to deal with this situation?

Am I, the parent, in some way to blame?

Will I, the parent, be exposed for not keeping an eye on Charlie’s progress more closely?

What else might I have missed?

When we call school meetings, we know there is a power balance. Some power dynamics invite supportive relationships and others might impede this.

When working with students and their families, school staff can take on roles that fit within a hierarchy created subconsciously depending on context and culture. In some cultures teachers are respected and revered. There is a duty to respect the teacher and their knowledge, and providing critical opinions of school staff is considered impolite (9).

Schools are traditionally organised in top-down hierarchies to establish boundaries and foster respect. So much of the role that school staff embody is based on societal conventions of hierarchy. Working in an international setting requires an understanding of the cultural impact on hierarchy and attitude towards authority. We must ask ourselves how we understand and acknowledge the power of one or the other in a therapeutic relationship, and how that invites collaboration.

Consider: How often is a school agenda shared with families with the expectation that they might ask to amend or add to the document?


(9) Fisher Y, Refael Fanyo R. Parents' Perceptions of Teachers' Authority and Parental Involvement: The Impact of Communality. Front Psychol. 2022 Jun 16;13:908290. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.908290. PMID: 35783703; PMCID: PMC9244623.

Last updated