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Lizmo Lizmo is offline
 
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Old 03-26-2008, 06:17 PM
 
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I am interested in hearing from teachers who teach in a school that is a "Professional Learning Community." This is a big thing in our district, and I'd like to hear others opinions on it. I personally think it's a big joke.


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See, this is why...
Old 03-26-2008, 07:39 PM
 
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...I need to get my second Master's and ultimately my Doctorate. I need to run a system so that stupidity like this gets KILLED!

Well, to be fair, I'd need to learn about what a PLC is, but it certainly sounds DUMB.

Okay, I read it after googling it. IF it is the same thing that I found online in Google,

"The term professional learning community has become quite commonplace in education circles. The term describes a collegial group who are united in their commitment to an outcome. In the case of education, the commitment would be to student learning. The community engages in a variety of activities including sharing a vision, working and learning collaboratively, visiting and observing other classrooms, and participating in shared decision making. The benefits of professional learning community to educators and students include reduced isolation of teachers, better informed and committed teachers, and academic gains for students. Shirley Hord of the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory says, that as an organizational arrangement, the professional learning community is seen as a powerful staff-development approach and a potent strategy for school change and improvement.1


This site provides an introduction to professional learning communities including research related to best practices of professional learning communities along with sample protocols for discussions."

This sounds a LOT like what Richmond City Public Schools wants to do with their 'New Direction'. Lotsa 'touchy feely' bovine crud that will mean more work for the classroom teacher and even more for the GC.

Last edited by RichmondTchr; 03-26-2008 at 07:44 PM.. Reason: added more info
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Old 03-27-2008, 07:50 AM
 
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only work if teachers are willing to reflect and collaborate. I don't find that many teachers all that willing to do that, to tell you the truth. I find a lot of distrust, jealousy, and competitive behavior among teachers. I find that on this board, most people are not all that willing to reflect upon their practice. Without reflection and collaboration, PLCs are doomed.
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Old 03-27-2008, 01:19 PM
 
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Wow. Reread what you wrote...

...I need to get my second Master's and ultimately my Doctorate. I need to run a system so that stupidity like this gets KILLED!

Well, to be fair, I'd need to learn about what a PLC is, but it certainly sounds DUMB.


Would you let your students make such harsh criticism about projects, topics, people, etc when THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THEY ARE ABOUT?

Plc's are doomed if all teachers go into the change process with such attitudes.

The world is changing rapidly and schools need to be ready to do the same. Teachers who are convinced they are doing it the "right" way and have nothing or little to learn from others might want to rethink their career path.

Sorry if this seems harsh, but I've taught nearly 20 years, won teaching awards, etc. and I am ALWAYS interested in change, bettering myself and my teaching and would WELCOME a chance for me to help my district move forward. I have seen basal reading groups....whole language....the School Improvement movement...two different sets of NCTM standards -- and I have learned to always keep an open mind, always strive to learn from others, and to always look to the future--a future that is uncertain--to make sure my students have the best possible opportunity for learn. Perhaps that's why I've never felt "burnt out"--because I am working to grow and change every year and that is exciting (although tiring!).

Off my soap box--but I've seen great ideas get pushed away because the vocal staff members shoot it down before they even immerse themselves in it enough to make a real judgment. I also would like to include a disclaimer about my state of mind today--too personal to get into...sorry to take it out on you guys!!!!!
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Old 03-27-2008, 02:09 PM
 
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Okay, so this is why I ask the question.
I teach in a "Professional Learning Community". We have to use our planning time twice a week to "collaborate." We have a notebook we have to fill out about everything we discuss. When we "collaborate" we normally just end up talking. Sometimes we stay on topic. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes we make up what we write in the notebook. Sometimes we write what we really did. The day we lesson plan together, we just talk about what we want to do for the week, then at least 2 of us end up doing something completely different. I am finding it's a waste of time. When the principal is watching, everything is fine and dandy. But most of the time, it's just a friggin waste of a planning period. There have been days we haven't met where we have to literally make stuff up or get in trouble by our principal. One week we missed school on a day we were supposed to collab and none of the teams did b/c of the snow day. Everyone got in trouble by the principal b/c he wanted both our days of collab in the notebook--on a week we only met once! So? Everyone made something up!
Ugh. And the sad thing is, we piloted this program. We are in our like, 3rd or 4th year I guess (this is my first in the school) and other schools actually come to see what we do!
It's so frustrating, and one of the reason why I'm leaving teaching. If this is what public school is like, count me the heck out.


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Old 03-27-2008, 02:18 PM
 
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that makes me so sad....

I would love the opportunity to talk with others about teaching, curriculum, assessment, etc.

We have NO collaboration time--and I sure wish I had that opportunity.
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biweekly PLC's
Old 03-27-2008, 02:58 PM
 
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We have bi-weekly PLC meetings that are run by my principal. We have no real input towards the agenda of the meeting. We started this a couple of years ago. I think that it could have merit and potential however, it's rather difficult when your principal doesn't really allow any wiggle room in his agenda, let alone get any collaboration done with a couple of people who are as equally difficult to plan with.

Sorry, I didn't mean to hijack your post. I wish that our PLC would run much better.
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Old 03-27-2008, 03:27 PM
 
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My friend and I always say we are going to start our own school with people like us that want to get better and learn and push ourselves--and only teachers who share that philosophy can work there.

Because we will be SO amazing, we won't NEED an administrator.

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Old 03-27-2008, 05:57 PM
 
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That school sounds good to me.
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Teaching at a PLC school
Old 03-28-2008, 05:04 PM
 
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Hi,

I currently teach 5th grade at a public school that has embodied the PLC philosophy. It's definitely been a lot more work, but has given me great rewards.

This PLC journey is a shift in thinking. There is a shift from a focus on teaching, to a focus on learning. Instead of emphasizing what was taught, we fixate on what students have learned. Coverage of content now takes a backseat to students demonstrating proficiency on essential standards. Teachers work collaboratively and hold each other accountable for the results.

As part of a Professional Learning Community (PLC) every educator strives to answer the following questions:

1. What is it we expect students to learn?

2. How will we know when they have learned it?

3. How will we respond when they don’t learn?

4. How will we respond when they already know it?

As educators answer these questions, we have a pyramid of interventions in place to meet every student’s individual needs. There is a plan for every child’s learning! We are reteaching to the students that can't get it the first time, and enriching our students that always get it the first time. It has allowed me to "deepen" the learning of those "high" kids that almost always get forgotten.

As we focus on essential standards, we expect that every child will learn! We will not let students off the hook. Students are expected to meet proficiency on identified skills and concepts for every grade level. A student will be deemed proficient in these areas when they have a score of 70% or above. If a child has not yet met proficiency on grade level skills and concepts, they will be awarded an “I”. This “I” reflects “in progress toward grade level skills and concepts”. This “I” will be reported on class work, as well as report cards. Once a child has demonstrated proficiency, the grade will then be changed to reflect this achievement. We are the first elementary school in the county to assume such an undertaking and change in practice in our district and are quickly becoming a "model" school for this.

As we continue on our PLC journey, we continue to grow as educators and help all students learn!

I was very skeptical at first, but after doing it this year, I can see my students "moving" and meeting benchmarks that may have been unatainable before. It truly works and I am proud to say that I believe in PLC.

If you need any other information, let me know.

Johabella


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Old 03-28-2008, 05:39 PM
 
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It sounds like a good concept, Johabella, and if it works in your school I think that is great. However, my principal could have written that post, and all the teachers in my school could (and have) read and reflected and discussed it...but at the end of the day, at least at my school, it's just people goin through the motions. We know what to say that sounds good...but the actually concept isn't being applied correctly.

I think that's why it's so frustrating to me. It must work some places, right? Then why are we just goin through the motions and accomplishing nothing?

Also, does your whole district use PLCs?
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Old 03-28-2008, 06:28 PM
 
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A lot of people have asked about PLC's and I always have the same answer: I think the idea is great on paper, but with little training they just don't work. I hate the days my team meet for a PLC because nothing gets accomplished. We all set a time line to teach the same thing at the same time, which is great since every child in each class learns at the same pace and all. We give common assessments that prove our EC and ESL kids are not passing, but do nothing with the data. Our grade leader is totally a cheerleader for the PLC, but seems to be the only one who has bought into it. The general talk among the teachers is that it has created more work and negative attitudes toward one another. I can see myself leaving this profession if I am going to be asked to be a "cookie cutter" teacher.
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Old 03-28-2008, 06:32 PM
 
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I can definitely understand how it can be frustrating when it seems as though you are going nowhere. That must be very tough. I'm really sorry that you are going through that.

Does your team look at the data that you all have, based on a "common formative assessment", during your meetings? At our school, we sort the data by students that passed the skill tested, those that didn't, and those that were "perfect". On Wednesdays, we each take a group of students from all the fifth grade and homogenously group them so that all the ones that need enrichment go to certain teacher and deepen their thinking on that skill. Another teacher takes the ones that didn't pass and reteaches it so they get it in another manner which they then get retested on. The last teacher will get the students that passed, though with errors, and attempt to "fix" it. We all get students from all the classes and work at the level they need for that certain skill tested. Every week, we test a new skill (reading) and when we meet, we sort the current data and create our groups. I don't know if that's something you are already doing, but it might be worth a shot to try out, if you are wanting to change it up. We do it for math and reading right now, and hope to do it for Science at least once before the end of the year. I can truly say that is the main thing that has helped our students as a whole.

Another thing we do at our biweekly meetings is create our common formative assessments so that we are all giving the same test, based on skills that we are teaching and coming up with 2-3 versions of the test for those students that may need retesting. Our team doesn't really plan together, but we do give the same assessments and teach the skills for those assessments, just teach it a little differently.

Our district is really pushing for this to happen at all our schools. We are the "pilot" and they hope to have all schools (middle and high included) by 2013.

I hope that helps.

Johabella
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Maybe you need to reread what I wrote under..
Old 03-30-2008, 09:43 AM
 
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...what you highlighted in red. You know, where I posted what I found by Googling?

As far as you being in teaching for nearly 20 years, btdt. Won teaching awards? Good for you, you have the respect of your peers. But as someone who has seen too many 'Teacher of the Year' Awards presented to someone because of whom they knew, rather than what they do, I'll pass on awards, thankyouverymuch.

I am curious, since you apologized for coming off as harsh, what grade do you teach? Where do you teach [you don't have to be too specific, naturally]?

As far as great ideas coming along...yup, btdt as well. I've even written curriculum and, like you I am sure, have done teacher workshops for veteran and new teachers alike. I am a leader both in my Association and building. I am well respected by my administrators and higher ups on the food chain.

I question change, and don't swallow it whole, because I've seen 'new ideas', 'great promises for change', and 'revolutionary ways of teaching' come and go. And they are usually presented by professionals on the periphery of the educational field, selling a product, attempting to gain research data while someone else does the data collection for them, or people who have left education/teaching to sell text books [mind you, I am not speaking about those that have RETIRED from teaching, but have LEFT teaching].

I will continue to question change when I am the one being FORCED to alter MY teaching, use MY time, expend MY energy and be held accountable for MY students testing scores when I have ZERO say in whether or not a particular program, or new fangled idea is JAMMED down my throat.

I am stepping off my soap box now. I am tired, but always love going to work and aiding the students that I love.
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Old 03-30-2008, 11:47 AM
 
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Greetings

I, too, have seen award winners who are "fluffy" teachers who get a lot of good PR--that's not who I am.

I, too, have tons of experiences writing curriculum, teaching grad classes, have an administrative degree, etc. and have seen a lot.

I teach fourth grade in a smaller state...sometimes I see the posts by the Texas and California teachers and they just break my heart. They are living proof of what can happen when the people with power are the people who aren't in the trenches. A lot of the change that happens in our district happens because teachers PUSH for it...based on what they read, conferences they go to, etc. Very little change happens top down--it happens when the good teachers get better, learn on their own, and then spread the good news.

I totally agree with you about the problems associated with the pendulum swinging from idea to idea to idea....but I think that's where professional discussion can make all the difference. WE have no time to have those dialogues--and then sometimes the loudest voices get their way.
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Loudest doesn't mean wrong....
Old 03-30-2008, 02:20 PM
 
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We agree actually. Unfortunately in NYC [at least 9 years ago] all decisions were made from the top down. Where I am now, same thing. Decisions are made from the top down, with NO, I mean ZERO, ZILCH, NADDA, NONE, input from the people who are actually in the trenches.

Your experience with change from bottom up is unique in my years of teaching. In all my years, I've never seen a change spring from the bottom and work its way up, no matter how well, or calmly, professionally, or yes, even LOUDLY, it was stated.

Back on topic, PLCs SOUND wonderful...in ideallic systems/situations. Now, how many people teach in Eutopia? And, btw, who does it put the onus on, AGAIN, to achieve results using this wonderful new approach? Yep....the grunts in the trenches....we teachers.
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Old 03-30-2008, 02:40 PM
 
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In my district, PLCs are becoming a hot topic in collective bargaining. We have done away with "staff meetings" and replaced them with "instructional PLCs" once per month. This means that someone who has been to a workshop shares what they have learned. We still discuss all the usual staff meeting stuff too. In other words, same stuff, different name.

We also have 30 minutes of release time twice a week to meet with our division and lit. coach (and spec ed when possible) for assessment PLCs. Two of us present a student who is struggling, and what we have tried and the rest offer ideas to try next. Then 2 of us review the students presented last time and what we tried as a result of thye PLC. To do all of this in 30 minutes is rediculous! I don't see it as helpful one bit. We share more at lunch in the staff room! I can't see how this is what is intended, but it's what we're doing.
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Old 03-30-2008, 05:54 PM
 
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We do look at our common assessments...not as often as we should though. We did it better at the beginning of the year.

The common assessments are actually written by our district, and they are horrid. They are full of typos. Some of them are pretty random...no rhyme or reason to the questions. We actually have complained to quite a few people about how horrible the common assessments are. Occasionally we will come up with our own--and when I say "come up with" I mean someone will find a sheet out of a workbook to copy.

I feel like I was a much better teacher when I was able to:
Teach at my own pace--I find that we, as a team, spend too much time on things my kids get, and not enough time on things I feel my kids need more work on.
Teach in a way/order that makes logical sense to me. I feel like we are teaching to the tests that we give (common assessments) and not teaching them to learn. We are teaching to know/memorize info we want them to have.
Use my own activities/ways that I have used that I know work. Many times we all want to do different things.

So what happens is that we still waste our planning time two days a week, we discuss, we plan, we put it on paper...then we all go do our own thing anyways. So why bother?

It does sound great, and I'm happy it works in your school. However, I feel like it actually restricts me.
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You're gonna LUV this one...LOL...
Old 04-02-2008, 05:23 PM
 
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Found out today that my school system is going through with its change of direction even though there has been an overwhelming outpouring of negativity from it from the professionals who are going to have to deal with the excessive paperwork it will generate.

Here's what happened...

Principals received a letter asking them to send 4 teachers to a meeting about the change in our system. Principals sent them. The volunteers learned that since they were sent, the principal had VOLUNTEERED their school to take part in the change!! What a way to rook a school into changing! Since the Principals sent them, the school, therefore, VOLUNTEERED to pilot the change!!

Talk about mandating change from the top down while disregarding the input of the professionals that will have to deal with it...

I need a leadership position...I really do....
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PLC school (sorry long, but reflective!)
Old 04-02-2008, 06:45 PM
 
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Two years ago our principal went out of state and heard the Dufours (PLC gurus) talk and came back talking "professional learning communities." One of our staff members was working on his doctorate and chose PLC as his thesis. He shared a brief 30 minute overview of the philosophy, 5-6 staff members went to a week long training and came back but really didn't share much with us. Then about 6 of us went to a week long training with the Dufours during the summer. I was one of those individuals. I could see how in theory it is what all of us need to do. September rolled around and then our principal wanted us to practice being a "true" plc. We met about 30 minutes per week but very informally. We documented "discussions" but never really studied any data other then our state scores. The informality frustrated me because that was not what the training was all about, but I was only one person and quite honestly didn't have the time nor the energy to try to encourage others to do it the right way.

Then this year we have a brand new, young principal who has been trying to "mandate" (although he will deny the word mandate) PLCs. I agree with PLCs in theory and in reading johabella's posts am jealous. It would be great to be at a school where it is "embodied."

The problem is the difficulties with combining the ideals of a true PLC and the realities of being a teacher on the frontline with the students everyday. RTI, NCLB, AYP, State testing, and Differentiated Instruction are just a few of the plates I am trying to juggle. Throw in there 30 students, their parents, my curriculum all within a supposed 8 hour day. Lesson planning, phone calls, staff meetings, committee meetings, Oh, and of course, my own personal life.(?)

If PLCs are going to work, it has to be something (somehow) that the teachers, the frontline, makes work. It has to be real and meaningful to us. It cannot be something that someone tells us we must do or else it is possible that we may lose our jobs. Also, more guidance other than the training I've had, plus a couple of books would be helpful.

How does a teacher who believes in PLCs in theory put it into meaningful practice and balance all of the other demands that are placed on us?
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Old 04-04-2008, 02:21 PM
 
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Do you have any books or websites that you can recommend as resources to how your school is doing PLCs? They way your school is doing it sounds great and I'd love to research it a bit!
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Old 02-01-2009, 07:40 PM
 
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I think how you have described PLC's are how they are meant to be. I am only in my second year of having my own classroom. I came into a district that had just started PLC's the year before. We are taking it slowly but are getting there. I think as a new teacher it has been a tremendous help in making me a more effective teacher. My teaching partners and I meet daily. We all have an hour of planning at the same time and come together even if it is only for a few minutes. At these meetings I can hear everyone's ideas and share my own. I do have to say though you have to be open minded and be willing to share for PLC's to work. I think where some of the frustrations come from are if you don't like your teaching partners. In response to some other's posts about how everyone has to teach everything at the same time, that isn't the case in our district. In a PLC it is the thought that we are all responsible for the student's learning and not just their teacher. This primise is the point of it being a community. In our meetings we talk about if we need to take a little longer than originally thought or if we are ready to move on to the next unit. We also decide what we use for all of our common assessments. If we want to we can use the district assessments and in some cases we do. In other cases we don't because we don't feel they are testing what our essential skills are and how could they since we come up with our own essential skills. Of course not every teacher in our district has bought into the PLC theory, but those that have reap the rewards it has to offer. As a new teacher it is also a nice set up because you have support all of the way! Thank you Johabella for speaking up about how powerful PLC's can be!
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