Saturday, March 8, 2008

Professional Learning Communities

Reducing the isolation teachers feel is crucial to doing our job well. Having meaningful professional conversations is crucial for re-enforcing our best work. Finding, supporting, and learning from expert teachers in our own buildings and programs can serve as critical links to enhancing our profession, retaining our teachers, and sustaining a healthy morale.

So why is it so hard to find a PLC that people feel good about?

Why do I get the feeling that teachers see PLCs as bad medicine and would like them to go the way of your average '80s hair band, reduced to the casino circuit? (LIVE at the Medina Ballroom: RATT and DuFours-- Singing their special cover: 'Schmoker in the Boys Room'!)

Why do I think that the concept of PLCs is too important to let this happen?

Judging by the way the wind is blowing the district would like to replace PDPs with PLCs and teachers will merely maliciously comply because they will feel it has being done to them instead of with them and that the PLC work just gets in the way of their real work in meeting the needs to kids.

If that happens, that's too bad. PLCs really are a great idea on paper. I mean that.

They could break down the isolation teachers tend to feel when teaching alone all day, they can help us recognize the expertise we have in our own buildings, they can have many minds trying to solve the same problem so we better meet the needs of our students, and can allow more professional conversations to happen more often.

They could even be a powerful professional development tool for our educational assistants who are charged with incredible professional responsibilities of their own, if they were invited to join a relevant one rather than asked to clean the refrigerator or put up poster paper on our professional development days.

Admitting some 'user error' in implementation, re-introducing them "with fidelity" and asking for a good-old-fashioned-playground do-over could go a long way in creating professional learning communities that we see as helping to meet student needs, rather than in the way of meeting student needs; helping to meet our professional needs, instead of wasting our professional time; discovering expertise among us, instead of assuming we know nothing; and in taking control of our professional learning needs, rather than having professional development done to us.

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