George Lucas Educational Foundation

Professional Learning Communities...Help?

Professional Learning Communities...Help?

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Hi All, This is the first time I have ever posted to a blog please be kind...Over the last few weeks I have been attempting to start a professional learning community within my school to improve reflective teaching. There has been a variety of responses from my colleagues. I have seen everything from enthusiam, to ignoring, to anger. Realizing that all teachers are at their own place when reflection is concerned, I want to make the most out of the positive responses and see it grow. Hopefully this might encourage others to become a part of the process. Any ideas out there for help in starting and growing a Professional Learning Community? Thanks to all... Jennifer Okiyama

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Karen Jones's picture

Hey all! Great dialogue above. Jennifer-I really believe in self reflection. That is why I went through the process to become National Board Certified. You plan and reflect, writing about what you learned throughout. The beauty of our job is that we are never there. We are always evolving, growing, learning, and changing. We don't clock out and are never done. I do think that as life long learners, we need a group/community to grow with. We need colleagues as our sounding board to bounce ideas off of. I also think that these groups just happen and are difficult to make. Every teacher is at a different place in their growth. Some are stagnant, some want help, some resist change, and some want to grow in leaps and bounds. We gravitate towards like minds. If you have staff members resistant to reflecting on their practice, there could be so many variables involved. They may already have a reflective group or program, they may be overwhelmed or just plain tired. They may feel forced to reflect which can have the opposite effect. I struggle with accepting people with where they are versus where I want them to be- difficult but always a good mantra. I suggest opening the door and accepting whomever decides to walk through. Your intentions are admirable and since I know you, I know it comes from a huge heart.

Janice Barton's picture

My teachers did not want to give up their planning time at first. I explained we would give this a try two days per week. They quickly saw how powerful working together was and how it benefitted the students. I am now working with middle schools in my district and trying to implement PLC's. We are using Learning by Doing (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker) to guide the leadership teams.

Bobbie's picture

Jenifer, way to go on your first post! Look at all the dialog you have enabled! As not yet a teacher, knowing that there are folks like the ones in this post is so encouraging. It has also personally been helpful to me in reminding me why I started accessing professional community sites. They really do provide the assistance, insight and support needed to get on with what we love doing in life, teaching. My thanks to all of you for being there for each other and for all the rest of us too.

RLee3's picture
Third Grade Teacher, New Jersey

Hi Jennifer,

So many people already posted some great comments and suggestions. As PLC's are fairly new to me as well, the most important aspect of a PLC that I've learned is really coming to the meeting with a central goal in mind. Encourage your colleagues to come with an authentic problem and be able to help that person resolve or alleviate some of those issues. Anyway, I hope this was at least somewhat helpful. I hope some of your colleagues have a more positive outlook!

Kevin Crosby's picture
Kevin Crosby
Educator and School Counselor / Trinidad School District #1

Professional Learning Communities require support, including time and resources, from administration. It needs to be school-wide and non-negotiable. Without that expectation a small group of teachers could perhaps influence others to come on board, and maybe convince administration to support a broader effort. Administrators tend to respond favorable to the PLC Four Critical Questions:

1) What do students need to know and be able to do?
2) How will we know when they have learned it?
3) What will we do when they haven't learned it?
4) What will we do when they already know it?

These speak to standards, assessment, and differentiation for those students who are slipping and those who are advanced. Principals relate to this stuff because they are held accountable for it. Who can argue against reflective and planning time related to those critical questions? If we as educators are not answering them we are without direction and without a map.

shanebravo's picture
In the world the parent-child relationship is one of the longest lasting so

There are many benefits for teachers and students. PLC demands a commitment to collaboration and sharing. It is a good idea and one that should make students more interested in school. The program shows the innovation and attempts to encourage while teaching our youth. We share ideas about how to teach different things and it might have a great way of telling time.

Things to do with Kids

Ms. Sam's picture
Ms. Sam
Special Education Teacher

Hi Jennifer

Kudos for you first of all for trying to start a professional learning community! Getting people behind you on something that is new is not an easy thing to achieve.

Some experiences I have had with PLC's can be small, and then built larger as time goes on. You could start with finding a time when teachers could meet, before or after school. Then use the time to COLLABORATE! Give advice, seek information, share opinions. Your professional learning community could grow with having presenters coming and sharing information as well. As teachers, you need to be a student as well and research what is going on in the world of education, and then share what you discover!

Good luck!

M. Rauh's picture
M. Rauh
6th grade social studies & science teacher from Colorado

I am part of the professional development committee at my school and one thing we did to encourage a professional learning community was create a quick-check sheet teachers can use to observe each other. The sheet focuses on recording what you see that's good, and praising that, rather than critiquing, although there is room for comments. The design is to check in briefly so it doesn't take too much time, and hopefully you will see something you like and can take back to your own class (or if you see something you don't, you can try to avoid it). We let teachers collect raffle tickets for each observation they do and my principal buys gift-cards that get raffled off at staff meetings. The more observations you do, the more tickets you get. This is our starting place to get teachers observing each other without stress or massive time constraints. Our hope is that it will lead to more conversations between teachers and a more open respectful environment. :) Good luck.

Kelly's picture
Second Grade Teacher from Michigan

It is clear from the dialogue above that most teachers will agree that a Professional Learning Community is key to helping teachers become more successful within the classroom. In our building we just recently were given once a week to meet and collaborate with our grade level partners. We were only given 35 minutes though. In elementary by the time we walk our students to their special subject and head back to meet with our grade level partner, you are not looking at 35 minutes to collaborate, it turns into 25-30. Which doesn't seem like enough time to brainstorm, share and discuss. I think the biggest negative factor with a Professional Learning Community is finding the time to be efficient and successful with the discussions.

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