My last day at the conference included attending a session called Capacity Building for the Sustainability of a Campus PLC facilitated by Dr. Shannon McClure and Dr. Chad Teague. The focus of the presentation was to highlight concrete steps for school leaders to use for capacity building and education, stakeholder buy-in, and scheduling needs in the PLC process. Dr. Teague suggested that their session was somewhat of a “continuation” for those of us who attended the DuFours' presentation on Thursday.
The facilitators provided a handout of “what not to do” when considering implementing a PLC model in your school. These cautionary guidelines were then followed by concrete steps that can assure the sustainability of an effective PLC. Facilitators McClure and Teague began by emphasizing that school leaders should not make a PLC optional, assume what teachers know, and implement without a shared understanding from all stakeholders. For example, each PLC should develop its own norms and determine “what is most important to us and their kids.” Other considerations when planning a PLC model include assuring that your school has the support of district administration, creating a realistic schedule for teams to meet, and setting expectations in advance with teams regarding the “sacredness” of PLC time.
Dr. McClure warned that damage can be done behind the scenes by those that do not buy in to this collaborative learning model. She reminded school leaders that “teachers are as diverse as the students they teach” so it is necessary to provide guidance to those who need or want support as well as create opportunities for those that want to take the lead. It is important to gauge where teachers are but understand that teachers might get nervous “opening their doors” to others, so give them time to build and grow, and don’t get frustrated. She suggested that “students are losing when teachers are not sharing” so clearly this collaborative approach to teaching and learning is essential.
Toward the end of the session, the presenters discussed PLC sustainability steps, including a reminder that our role is not to micromanage but rather provide guidance, leadership, support, and the resources to each PLC. Dr. Teague also reminded us that “rigor” must be included in PLC conversations so that we can meet all levels of student need in the classroom. As an educator I am always glad to hear the word rigor because we consistently use data as it relates to students at risk but not enough time is spent considering those students who already know, understand, and are able to do what is expected of them.
—Janet E. Cerro, principal, Fletcher Elementary School, Cambridge, Vermont