Monday, February 27, 2012

Ideas I'd Like My Future Principal To Consider: Putting the 'L' Back in PLC

My district went to the Professional Learning Community (PLC) model several years ago. I really like the concept of scheduled, on-going, sustained staff development with time carved out of the regular school day. (We have ten two-hour late start days a year. Not enough, but a beginning.)

My concern, however, is I feel like our PLC's have become too narrowly focused. To be clear, we've done lots of good stuff in our PLC's, so I'm not saying they've been all bad. They haven't, but I worry that instead of a PLC we too often look at them as a PAC - Professional Assessment Communities. We spend a tremendous amount of time trying to figure out how to measure how our students are doing, and not enough time talking about learning.

Folks with more experience than I have with PLC's might argue that based on what I've described we've failed to effectively define our essential learnings. There is probably something to that, but I think - for the most part - our PLC's have done a decent job of defining those essential learnings as they are described in the PLC model. The problem, I fear, is that more and more I find myself disagreeing with the basic tenet of essential learnings, namely that there's a fixed curriculum that all students should master, and therefore there are essential learnings within that curriculum that our PLC's can define, focus on, and successfully teach.

I wish we could spend more time as learners ourselves, more time talking about what that's like in 2012. I would like our PLC's to look more like a PLN (Personal Learning Network) and less like a PAC. Now, to be sure, they must be somewhat different from a PLN, as by definition there's a group instead of it being personal, and it probably needs to be somewhat more focused than a PLN has to be, but I believe that we need to radically rethink how we are structuring schools, and we can't do that if we're more focused on assessment than we are on learning. We need to experience the world of 2012 as learners ourselves, and discuss that with other teacher-learners in our PLC's, before we can figure out how best to help our students.

So I'd like my future principal to ask us to put the 'L' back in PLC, to be learners first, and assessors . . . well, I'm not sure where, but not first. I'd like my future principal to be the Lead Learner, and model that for our staff, our students and our community. Perhaps then we can not only put the 'L' back in PLC, maybe we can put it front and center in everything we do in schools.

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