Saturday, May 07, 2011

PLCs

I am still not happy with how things are going - although after this week I am pleased with the direction I'm heading. I had a 5 minute conversation with one of our Social Studies teachers when I returned his projector (since the Wii didn't hook up in mine) and I shared with him the Wii Bowling activity. He shared with me that he had spent 2 days with some of his classes going through Obama's speech Sunday announcing that Osama bin Ladin was dead, looking at not only what was in the speech but why it was there. It got me thinking. That 5 minute conversation was invigorating to me - I enjoyed hearing what he was doing, it seemed like he enjoyed hearing what I was doing, and I felt a little validated with what I had done with the Wii (and I hope he felt the same about his activity). We just don't have that kind of discourse in my school.

And that got me thinking - could we have that kind of discourse in our school? Other people have PLCs - why couldn't I start one? Our school is kind of a dichotomy right now - about half to 2/3rds of our staff has 25 years or more experience and will be retiring in the next 5 years or so (especially because the retirement years and age will be changing in Ohio). There is a smaller group of teachers with less than 20 years experience (and I am one of the ones closest to 20) and we are getting more and more younger teachers. The culture of our school is rather negative still and our superintendent is trying to move us forward but in my opinion, that's rather hard when most people don't want to change or try anything new because they have the preconceived notion that what they are doing is fine and any new "edujargon" is just the phase of the moment and it will go away. I hate this culture and I have the tendency to stay to myself so that I don't get poisoned by the negativity.

So, I talked to my biology teacher friend about it. He's working on his masters and he shared with me he was looking at something similar. He's all for it and we're starting to generate ideas. I talked to the Social Studies teacher (same one mentioned at the beginning) and he's in. He also shared about not liking the negativity, so I know now I am not the only one who feels this way. We have 2 English teachers retiring at the end of this year, so next school year we will have two (hopefully younger) new English teachers and maybe we can bring in one or both.

After giving you all this background - here are my questions I am working through:
  • How many people is the "right size" for a PLC?
  • What do you discuss? Do you do book studies, lesson reviews, just share ideas?
  • How often do you meet?
  • How do you keep people coming when it's not manditory?
  • Do you set "ground rules?" What ground rules do you have?
I have a PLN on Twitter (not formal, but I consider it my PLN anyway), so I have some ideas, but I've never done this in real life. Probably the biggest thing for me is I want to keep the negativity out. If you could take the time to offer your experiences, that would help me out as we're trying to set this up. Thanks in advance!

4 comments:

Craig said...

My district has PLCs. We meet about 6 times a year with our departments, although not everyone has a department to meet with. For example, all the 4th grade teachers meet together, all the 6-12 math teachers meet together, and all the 6-12 science teachers meet together. But there is only on agriculture teacher, so she meets with the tech ed teacher and the business teacher.

We were excited to begin this because we could work on new things with our departments and share new ideas. However it quickly turned into something negative. We were required to create a goal and an assessment to test if we were meeting that goal. Creating the goal is good because you want some accountability, but we spent the entire first year working on creating an assessment and didn't have any time to actually work towards our goal.

Next year, we are restructuring our PLC time. I'm not sure how it is going to work, but I think we are still creating the goal, but just using that time to research and create things to help implement our goal. So if I have any suggestions from our experiences, make the teachers accountable (or some won't do anything), but make it flexible (or nobody will get anything done). Hope this helps!

Dan Anderson said...

Our district also has PLCs, started up this year. We meet about 10 times a year. Each PLC is focused on a specific course, so for instance I'm in the Geometry PLC. The duFours have some great information on their PLC website: http://go.solution-tree.com/plc/ . They had a pretty good conference. I think it was expensive, but the district found it worthy.
* groups from 3 to 6 are best
* we create common assessments (important for comparing data), and discuss the how, when, and what of teaching geometry
* about every 3 weeks or so, 40 minutes on average
* ours are mandatory, so not sure how to help you there
* rules for the group are important, most of them are related to abiding by the decisions that we made (so no modifying tests for your class only)

Helpful?

Sarah said...

If you are working with teachers across subject areas, I think of that as more critical friends groups vs. a PLN or PLC. PLCs are more focused on same subject teachers looking at student achievement (ie. common assessments). Check out the resources here
http://www.nsrfharmony.org/resources.html
We have used some of them through our coaching program and might be a starting place for your group.

Dvora said...

At a previous school we did a group cross-grade and cross-curricular and used an ed related book to spark discussions. Different people led the discussion each week and we even tried modeling ideas we had gotten. I got a lot out of this group even when I did not totally "like" the book we were reading. We had books on teaching as well as those on research like the brain.