Professional Learning Communities

When I heard Clay Shirky say that the only proven way to improve teacher performance is for teachers to learn from each other, my conscience stirred within me. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are a growing trend in excellent schools and we didn’t have one yet at my school.

Shirky went on to say, “Letting teachers choose to opt out of new tools is okay because it keeps the naysayers from blocking forward movement. Let those who are interested implement change.”

The next week I began asking my fellow teachers if they’d like to create a PLC. Within three weeks, eight out of thirty-seven teachers signed up. At our first meeting, eighteen showed up!

Our First Meeting

At our first meeting we discussed Harry Wong’s book, The First Days of School. This meeting was unlike any other I’d been to at our school. Several teachers had already read the book and shared how it had helped them. Teachers who were planning to read it asked incredible questions. I came away with at least 10 ideas for things I could do on day one of the next school year. I got more out of those 30 minutes than I’d gotten from 30 hours of certain professional classes. It was unbelievable!

What’s Next

Our next plan of attack is to have a “lunch and learn” at our school. Everyone is working to finish the book and we’re going to discuss and share ideas. No one is required to do this — we are attending by choice, making it that much more powerful.

Reach Out and Start Your Own PLC

It can be intimidating to reach out to colleagues, but we know that the way to improve schools is to improve teaching. We must do this for ourselves. Although it is frustrating to have an insufficient amount of money to spend on professional development, we can get so much from a PLC — for free! We are so excited to be part of a teacher-led group that encourages sharing and collaboration.

I encourage you to talk with other teachers at your school. See if there are a few who would be willing to start a PLC. Some may refuse to join you, and that’s okay! Don’t be discouraged, there will be other teachers who are just as excited about starting a PLC as you!

If you’re having trouble creating a PLC within your own school, there are plenty virtual PLC’s. In Summer 2014, thousands of educators joined the Summer Learning Series, open to any and all educators (#SummerLS on Twitter). You can also keep an eye out for Voxer groups and book studies that you can join.

When you work with teachers who are willing and excited, change happens. Are you ready to level-up your classroom?

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