GSA Meetings are, for the most part, like any other club meeting at school. Meetings can be structured in a variety of different ways to suit the specific composition of the group, the needs and interest of the members, and the work the GSA has taken on in the school. Below are some ideas and examples regarding the planning and running of GSA meetings. For further information on starting and running a GSA, check out the GSA Guide section of the site here.
Planning a GSA Meeting
Select a meeting time that that will be most convenient for the participants. Decide whether or not your GSA should hold meetings on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. It is always good to create group rules/norms with all members of the GSA, but it can also help to think of or draft some preliminary guidelines. For example:
- What tools or supplies will be needed (e.g., paper, pens, films, etc.)?
- What ground rules will help reaffirm responsible and respectful behaviours?
- Will the meeting be held in a formal or casual way (i.e., seating, speaking in turn, etc.)?
Establish your meeting space as a safe space, create a mission statement, and brainstorm possible activities and topics of discussion for future meetings.
Running a GSA Meeting
There are numerous ways to facilitate a meeting. Your GSA meetings can be formal (i.e. similar to a classroom structure) or informal (e.g. sitting in a circle). They can be very structured and planned or they can be spontaneous and open to change, and so forth. It is a good idea to get input from all the GSA members regarding how meetings will be structured and what the guidelines or group rules will be. A survey/questionnaire accompanied by an open discussion during the first meeting is a good way of figuring out how your GSA meetings will operate.
Consider the following examples for some help:
If you want a formal structure
- People raise their hands when they want to speak (one person at a time, with no interruptions)
- Everyone introduces themselves (e.g. their names and 1 or 2 things about themselves)
- A student acts as a leader/facilitator who does most of the speaking and guides the conversation and questions
- Use a structured and timed schedule (e.g. meetings are 1 hour long, with 15 minutes of introductions and an outline of the agenda, another 15 minutes of discussion on a particular topic, another 15 minutes for games, and so on)
- Sign in to monitor participation
- Assign different tasks to various members for the next meeting (e.g. one person will bring in a favourite LGBTQ film and another person will bring snacks)
- Take meeting minutes and document what was discussed/done (see below for an explanation)
Meeting minutes are a written record of a meeting. Your GSA can appoint a person to record the meeting minutes. This can be one person who does the minutes for all the meetings or you can change the person from meeting to meeting. Your GSA can choose to audio-record the meeting (all participants would have to agree) or someone can write/type the meeting minutes. Remember that minutes are just the highlights or a summary and don't need to be lengthy.
Your meeting minutes might include the following:
- The date, time, and location of the meeting
- A list of those present
- The meeting agenda (what your GSA plans to do this meeting)
- A list of the issues your GSA wants to resolve (e.g. a heated debate that occurred at the last meeting; how to battle homophobia/transphobia/biphobia/heterosexism in your school; and so on)
- Any events/discussions that were important to the GSA's members
- Any group decisions that were made (e.g. group rules, future activities, and so on
- The end time of the meeting
Sample Meeting Minutes
GSA Meeting Minutes for Egale High School
(Feb. 15, 2010)
(3:00 p.m., school library)
Meeting Members Present:
Rita Bhatacharia, John White Bear, Douglas Smith, Elizabeth Drucker, Jen Kyumoto, Marc Porter, Jasmine Chan, Geneva Peschka, and Sayid Alizadeh
Librarian - Sheila Jackson
Guidance Counsellor - Mr. Touhy
- Small start-up discussion (recent events, how is everyone, etc.)
- Film: Better than Chocolate
- Discussion: transphobia, trans-specific issues, gender neutral washrooms
- John and Elizabeth mentioned the idea of having a school bake sale to raise money for more LGBTQ literature for school library—group thought it was a good idea
- Rita expressed her concern about the GSA's posters being defaced—each member will brainstorm ideas for next meeting to have a discussion about it
- Watched film
- Debriefing after movie—all group members shared that they liked the film; Jen mentioned she wants to learn more about trans people and their various experiences; Sayid recommended checking out YouTube for personal videos made by transmen and transwomen and their experiences
- Group discussed plans for next meeting: Douglas wants to talk about the possibility of a gender neutral washroom in the school; Sheila said she could compile a list of LGBTQ books for the group members; the group decided on having a poster party for next meeting to have more posters to put around the school
- Meeting adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
- Minutes submitted by Bhata Bhatacharia
If you want an informal structure
- People sit in a circle or in a way that they all feel as though there is no hierarchy in the meeting
- People speak in turn (e.g. clockwise around the circle) or use a talking stick (anything that is passed around to indicate who has the floor; only someone holding the object should be speaking) or there is open dialogue (and everyone is respectful of other people's right to speak)
- Try some fun icebreakers as a way to get people to introduce themselves and get to know one another (for examples, see below)
- You don't need to have a group facilitator; the meeting events and activities can be agreed upon by everyone or the majority (e.g. there can be various things planned and the order in which they occur can be decided on by the group; participants may choose to have open dialogue surrounding an issue for an entire meeting or to break up the meeting into various activities and tasks they would like to do)
- Everyone can come up with one group rule/norm and see if all members agree
Other things to consider:
- It is important to get input from group members not just during the first meeting, but also throughout all of the meetings. You could use a box for suggestions or hold weekly or monthly ‘how are we doing' discussions.
- It is important to keep the interest of all group members. This can be difficult because everyone has different interests and likes different activities. It is best not to have a narrow focus, e.g. only talking about gay and lesbian issues and concerns and not talking about trans, questioning, bisexual, or two-spirited communities.
- Remember that it may be hard for people to open up and talk about certain subjects at first. It may help to avoid controversial and sensitive issues/topics at first. Wait until group members get to know one another and express a sense of comfort in the group.
- It can really help to review or debrief at the end of meetings. Talking about what has been discussed can be especially important if conflicts arise, sensitive issues are touched upon, or if members have questions about certain things.