Monday, January 11, 2016


The fog will lift.

A little over four years ago, we heard the mandate from the district office: you will now be required to have a PLC. Now, I'm not usually a negative person, but I did question this new requirement. There are so many acronyms in education; I had no idea what PLC meant. There was no introduction. There was no explanation. It was just a requirement to have another meeting to "talk about student achievement". Okay, I thought we were doing that somewhat already. 

Our team began having this required meeting during our planning time. Honestly, we were trying to be positive and compliant, but we were all thinking of the thousands of other things that we needed to complete before the next day. The tweak that we made was looking at math test scores. The test scores didn't reveal any new knowledge. We knew who was struggling already!

It wasn't long before our next directive came. Implement RTI. I remember asking, "What in the heck is RTI?" Another acronym without an introduction or explanation. It was just a "you will do". Our math textbooks did have a section for RTI, and so we weren't completely in the fog. It was helping the kids that had trouble catching the concept. Right? Why did we have to add another acronym? Haven't teachers always helped their struggling learners?

My team struggled through the PLC process. It was the blind leading the blind. But, at least, our team was attempting to do what we'd been told. Other teams refused to try. We used our time to have confidential conversations about the progress of our kids. That came to a stop when we were told that the whole faculty would meet in the media center to hold PLC's at the same time. Babysitting. The purpose was so the administrators could make sure that teams were holding PLC meetings. These meetings were basically a waste of time. 

Fast forward a couple of years, and we're still trying to function in fog. The difference now is that because of reading and studying about PLCs, and the many conversations with PLN members, I can sense the power behind a PLC. 

Last Fall, our superintendent sent a video out to schools to help people catch the vision along with some modeling. My team watched it because I played it for them during one of our planning meetings. I suspect that many of our faculty members have not yet seen it because there were technical difficulties during the faculty meeting, and the link was emailed out. There has been no discussion about the video or any of the content as a faculty. 

Being in an administrative program now, I'm highly motivated to learn more and actually see functioning PLCs working in a school. I'm also motivated to move our team forward into having more meaningful conversations that will assure that our kids are learning. It's difficult. There are many barriers, especially in a year-round school. By the time we give one common assessment, it's three months after the fact before we can talk about it. We are never together as a team. Someone is always off-track. It's hard to have conversations about accountability when we are all in a different place. I don't see how a PLC can truly function in this situation, but I'm in the fog.

For anyone also caught in the fog, I highly recommend these two books. And it goes without saying, you really need to take the time to study the work of Rick and Rebecca DuFour.

I can see the light through the fog. Everything about a Professional Learning Community speaks to me. When I personally started to shift away from the traditional teaching focus to a student learner focus, I gained a whole new perspective. I believe that ALL kids can learn! The PLC model is powerful in theory. I want to help move my team/school forward. I don't know how that will look-----yet. I'm thinking that it has to start with a courageous conversation. That's a topic for another day.

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