I have officially finished another school year. Our last day with students was Tuesday, and we had a work day on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were professional development days. We were very fortunate to have a guest speaker (Ken Williams) come in and talk to us about Professional Learning Communities (PLC). Our district will implement PLC in the upcoming school year. This workshop gave me a good idea of how to prepare and what to expect.
Here are my five big takeaways from this workshop.
Teachers need to work as a team to do what’s best for all students. This goes beyond sharing copies and ideas. We will be composing a list of what is most important for every child to learn and creating a plan to ensure that students master these concepts. This requires a set time each week, not to plan lessons but to plan interventions and enrichment for specific students. This may include flexible grouping across classrooms and/or involving specialists.
Expectations should be set at the first PLC meeting. For example, everyone must be on time and prepared. Other norms are also set such as not having cell phones out. Whatever the expectations are, they should be set by, agreed upon and acted on by each group member.
Every student must meet or exceed the “bar”. The bar is a set of standards from a unit, quarter or trimester that each child must meet. (Five was recommended, but not set in stone.) The recommendation was to look at a unit, and select the most critical standards that every child must accomplish. That does not mean to let the other standards go by the wayside. Of course, you teach them with the same rigor as you always have. However, all students must at least reach or exceed the bar that is set. With this being our first year, we will start by focusing our PLC on one subject – yet to be determined.
The bar is set by the teachers. I liked the recommendation that teachers first work independently to determine what they feel are the most critical standards. Once each teacher has their “top five” most essential standards, the team can come together, share their ideas, state their cases, and come to a consensus on what the most critical standards are. Having teachers create the bar gives them the ownership they need to make sure that the plan is meaningful. It also allows them more flexibility than if the “must learn” standards were handed to them from administration.
Formative assessment and planning are keys to success. Now, I have always been a believer in using formative assessment to drive my instruction. I have shared ideas that worked with my colleagues and asked for help when I was stuck. This takeaway was more of a validation to an idea I have had in place for a long time. However, now I feel pushed to take this idea to a new level. Although my colleagues and I have always been willing to share ideas, we have never explored the idea of flexible grouping across the grade level. This is something new. I am excited to give it a try, as I think the students will benefit from different delivery models.
Does your district have PLC in place? I would love to hear any advice if you do.
***I hope that all of you have a wonderful summer whether it has already started or is just around the corner. Enjoy!