PLCs, it's time for us to get back together.
I forgive you for interrupting my valuable teacher time.
I forgive you for making me comply in completion of all that dreaded accountability documentation that I gave to my school admin teams, for which I never received feedback.
I forgive you for your lack of direction, intentionality, and ability to connect with what I actually needed for my professional development.
I am ready to reconcile, because for the first time I realize that I have had a part in our demise. All this time I was always so quick to blame you and so quick to go to the dark side, that I never saw the beauty of our potential.
I remember hearing about you for the first time. Even before we met. I thought we would be great together for a long time. I was excited to see you on our professional development days, and even after school. For a brief while, I could say I even loved you PLCs.
It quickly turned ugly. Soon, there were those afternoons, after a full day of teaching, that I cursed your name as it was uttered over the intercom - "PLCs will start in 5 minutes in the library. Please bring your evidence of student work." Those words were almost always accompanied by the immediate scramble to try and grab some of that student work that I thought might best relate the topic we were supposed to be talking about. I remember grabbing the most generic examples I could find, just in case what I thought we were going to be talking about was incorrect, again.
"Another make work project" I would mutter to myself, and every slightly more loudly among my equally disgruntled colleagues. It started almost immediately - the clock watching, the marking, the internet surfing, and texting. Heck, we even took phone calls we would never pick up on personal time. Washroom breaks, water bottle refills, snacking, and even cutting out art materials for next day's lesson. We all took our turns in our small group rotating through any one of these distractions. We would curse that one eager teacher that was still in love with you and actually did everything they were supposed to. Then our PLC days became the most likely days to see colleagues away on appointments.
Coming into the principalship, I swore that there was a better way. I would be the one to find a new way to bring meaningful professional development to my staff. I tried everything, intentionally, to oppose you PLCs, even denying your existence. And for a long while, I convinced myself, and my staff, that we were happy. I was hopeful that I would show up to a senior leadership meeting and hear someone say PLCs were going away forever. They didn't. It never has ceased to be at the centre of the conversation.
Then it hit me, it wasn't you, it was me.
I was the closed-minded one.
Enter immediate regret.
This was the first step to me reaching out to you again.
I didn't get to this spot all by myself. I need to thank our district senior leaders for staying the course. I also need to recognize the Galileo Educational Network for providing the "how", considerate of all the obstacles which I encountered in my teaching career, and backing the need for effective PLCs with current research. Finally, and ironically, it was my own teachers who have brought us back together. They want to work with you, and for that to happen you and I need to be good. For them, and for the sake of improving student learning, I can do this. But, let's not get back together for the sake of the kids. Let's find a way to fall back in love. For this to happen, we both need to give a little. Let's go slow, stay flexible, and change just a bit.
I am optimistic.
For those non-educators, PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) happen when teachers come together to work in a group. PLCs can take on many forms depending on the direction of the school district and/or construct of school administration. When done right, they examine the critical questions surrounding whether or not there is evidence that teaching has had a direct impact on student learning. Much time and attention goes into ensuring schools are getting this right.
The above pictures depicts student work before PLC and the picture below, after PLC. The teachers in this PLC had recognized that many of the students were struggling with paragraph formation and they set this as a key learning intention After a series of lessons around forming good paragraphs, the students were able to apply the necessary concepts independently. This is the evidence that shows how teaching can have a direct impact on student achievement.