PLC Post 1: What Do I Make Of It All?

My school district is taking a decisive action step towards PLC(Professional Learning Communities). We are currently in the trenches of working to get everything aligned and making sure we move down this path properly. I have been fortunate enough to attend a three day PLC workshop by Solution Tree and listen to the mavericks like Rick DuFour, Becky DuFour, and Mike Mattos speak.

However, I still struggle with how to properly implement and make PLC actually work. It is not my job to figure it all out, however, as an instructional coach I feel like I need to have my feet firmly planted on the ground in the ideas and know where I can be of support.

It is hard to deny that PLC’s are best practice. So much research supports all the notions that PLC suggest. I don’t agree with every point and like anything it must be adjusted to a certain extent for it to work in any school. BUT, when we implement we can adjust so much that we offer a PLC Lite version that is not really PLC.

We are lucky that our building has many pieces already in place. We just need to work on the daunting task of culture and creating a laserlike focus with goals that are based on student learning and not teachers. However, in order to improve student learning we must embrace the notion that we as educators must be constantly learning as well.

This post will be the first of a series where I begin to share my thoughts and ideas.

To start with I am digging into the book Learning By Doing as well as my handouts, notes, and research from other texts. I would love any pushback, challenges, resources, and/or thoughts you have.

I am cautious to use the word PLC because I feel like every school has it in place, yet I don’t see anything so amazing that the names of the schools are all over the place. It is one thing to call yourself a PLC and quite another to actually do what is expected. It is hard. It is difficult. And to be honest, seems almost impossible in some capacities. That is not to say we don’t try and make efforts to make it work, but to achieve the true culture transformation of what PLC’s are after is difficult.

A couple key ideas that I am sifting through in my head at the moment.

Most educators and admin prefer the status quo or what is familiar in their current journey even when they recognize it will not take them where they want to go. This happens for a variety of reasons, but I struggle with how do I help them change? We are a volunteer system so educators do not have to work with us. Perhaps it is not my job to help them, but when you see it happen how do we not do something about it? It reminds me of the bully campaigns where a bystander who does nothing is just as guilty. I struggle with challenging and helping educators to work towards a new path to reach their goals. How much do you push before they push you away?

One way to perhaps help is with clarity. The murkiness of education drives me nuts. We must be clear and concise. I will share soon our plan to help educators see clearly how we as instructional coaches can help. We must lead by example. We cannot complain and then not do anything. Perhaps this will help with the issue above. Time and time again I read about clarity and I cannot agree more.

PLC is not a program. It is a concept. Many things in education are concepts. How do we marry them all together? That is a challenge that seems almost impossible.

If it is the schools job to help students learn, then we must make sure we provide time and resources for our adults to learn as well. This cannot be forgotten and must be a goal for any school.

Collaboration where educators really work together on student learning. Do we really know how? How do we make sense of the data? Do we have quality data? Are we even focused on student learning or teachers teaching? Most places have staff that are willing to collaborate on topics as long as the focus stays out of, or stops at their classroom door. We must learn to work collectively and collaboratively. This is tough. It is tough for many reasons.

Until we actually start to do differently we cannot expect different results. Many times we sit in training and PD and are given handouts and ideas, but there is no implementation. We must work to actually move into action in order to see results. This is the challenge.

There is a major disconnect between knowledge and action. I see this when I present at conferences or run my engineering classes at night or with my robotics teams. We have knowledge but have no idea or any desire to move into action BECAUSE we are afraid it might not work OR we just don’t have the skills to morph the knowledge into action.

I see my place as an instructional coach helping educators move from point A to point B. The challenge is help them identify point B and how to realize when they arrived. This must start with educators who want to work on this. This cannot be done with every single educator because not all are ready. This will take time as this is a huge mindset and cultural shift.

Lastly, we must build consensus. I really love this idea. Consensus around shared knowledge and not just a collection of opinions. So often we gather and share opinions. However, if we have a goal, know why we have the goal, and can measure our success then we collectively build a shared knowledge of strategies and ideas that work. This is the key!

These are just some thoughts. As I dig deeper I will continue to share.

Until next time…..


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