Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Professional Learning Communities

Our school district has a huge initiative to create Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). The administration tells us these are created when grade level teachers meet to discuss best practices, strategies to meet needs of particular students, etc. The PLC would also include teachers from adjacent grade levels to ensure flow of curricular goals and other topics of common interest. Our Superintendent summed up his take on PLCs in one word, collaboration.

In my experience, my fellow teachers and I have always done that. We have always been great at collaboration. Now, it seems, our collaboration has been formalized by regularly scheduled meetings and written reports to our Principal. I find it interesting the prior to this formalization, collaboration came easily and naturally. We would share student needs, teaching strategies, lesson plans, and much more over coffee, during prep times, at lunch, in the parking lot. Those conversations happened daily.

Now that we are required to do it, we must schedule those meetings. Scheduling a 30-45 minute meeting into a teacher's week requires Houdini-like skill. Coordinating available times with multiple teachers compounds the burden. The Administration says we should use our lunch times, prep times, or before and after school times to do this. Of course, they have to be arranged around RTI meetings, staff meetings, professional development meetings, building committee meetings, district committee meetings, parent meetings, case conference meetings. Oh yes, for the past year and a half, we have followed the administrative "suggestion" to give up 20-30 minutes daily of our lunch hour for math remediation with our students (They have to give up recess).

All of this has the lofty goal of enhancing our professionalism and increasing student learning. While I will do my duty and be an active participant in this new requirement, I can't help but wonder if education isn't being mandated and legislated into oblivion.

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