Writing my way through the school year!

When is a PLC, not a PLC?

As I have mentioned many times before, I went to the PLCSummit 2011 in Arizona, and became enlightened about what a PLC school really “looked” like. My former principal allowed us to come back and share what we learned with our teams and the staff. As we continued through the year, I felt really good about what we are doing, and how we were doing it.

However, with our new administrator,  I question the validity of our PLC, it seems we have taken a step backwards.  We have been assured that if we have concerns, we should let them be known, but I wanted to check with my PLC PLN, before I made that move, to see if my concerns had any validity. Below is a list of changes to our PLC that have me concerned. I know every principal is different, so maybe her format is different, yet still adheres to the basic tents of PLC. Help a teacher out, and let me know what you think!

  1. We have not met as a team to plan during one of our PLC meetings so far. Our PLC meetings have been used as “workshops” for various school issues.(i.e. DPAS training)
  2. At our last PLC meeting, she attended with a list of “Reflection” questions. (School started Aug.29)When asked what our needs were, we responded “time to plan.”
  3. A calendar for the school year, that tells us what subject we can talk about, and at what meetings we can talk about them.
  4. We were told what our SMART goals were (Do other schools use this?), Reading and Math, and as I stated above, at which meetings these topics will be addressed.
  5. Every PLC meeting will have a Reading coach, Math coach, or principal present for “support.”
  6. As we meet, what we say is written on an Ipad. (If my former principal attended, he took notes on ideas he felt he could share with the staff)

I watched the PLC videos, and it was run by the teachers, and they were doing an excellent job! I felt that we were moving towards that last year, and now I feel stifled. I would love some feedback and/or from teachers who are in PLC schools, just to see if my concerns are really something I should worry about. Thanks!

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Comments on: "When is a PLC, not a PLC?" (9)

  1. We started PLC last year but had no instruction on what it is or isn’t. We have 25 minutes before lunch-1 day for PLC, 1 day for remediation planning, 1 day for additional supervisory duty and 2 days for tutoring and test remediation. I’m with the special ed teachers and we “PLC” every day at lunch. We were PLCing before it was a national buzz word. For us that means discussing new paperwork or sped requirements, problems with students (we really are looking for solutions from each other, not just complaining about them), caseload questions and problems, teaching ideas, etc. I teach English at the high school level for students with learning disabilities. The problem is, the English dept. has a PLC day on one of my remediation/tutoring days. I feel like I need to be able to join in their discussions as well. I don’t know what it would look like for an entire faculty to get together which sounds like you have.

    • Hi Renee, you’re right, many teachers practiced PLC before it was given that name, just as many did not. We did to some extent, but having attended the summit gave us a clearer idea at what we could do as a team to help our students. We do not meet as an entire faculty, we have grade level teams. We meet twice a week, once during the day, and once after school. The Spec.Ed teacher on our team meets with us, and at times she will meet with the Spec Ed. team.

  2. Your post made me think that teachers are treated like “the bad kids”! The bad class that runs amock the minute the teacher steps out of the room! “Bad kids” are often underestimated and bored out of their minds! Everyone has low expectations for them and no one trusts they can learn on their own so they’re not allowed to talk, or work in groups. The teacher makes all the decisions, and does all the talking because the “bad kids” have nothing worthy to say. Such is the attitude for many PLCs. I am no PLC expert, but based on common sense, shouldn’t PLCs offer opportunities for colleagues at all experience levels to seek support and advice? Shouldn’t PLCs be a judgement free zone where peers can share and build lessons together so everyone is taking risks that will in turn improve performance? A PLC needs trust in its foundation, and when we don’t trust each other, we resort to formulas for safety. Without trust, you have no buy-in, or sharing. People will be afraid to express what they really think, or seek out advice or criticism. PLC topics should be both planned and spontaneous, but to be fair to the “powers that be”, there are those teachers who don’t want to, or don’t know how to have meaningful conversations, planned or impromptu, about improving their practices so administrators resort to the preselected scheduled questions and topics. Hopefully, your PLC leader will listen to your concerns and make changes so all teachers/stakeholders at your school can benefit. Ultimately, a dysfunctional PLC affects the most important member of the community: the student! http://fearlesstech4teachers.blogspot.com

  3. i hear you. this year we are engaged in several different PLCs (we all belong to more than one), and attend one or another on the day/time allotted for these groups to meet; however, we rarely have the opportunity to share (we are presented to), and have lost heaps of time formerly given to actually meet, share & create together. recently, middle management had two very long meetings with senior management (at senior mgmt’s request), the result of which was a resounding “we need our time back.” so far…nothing.i won’t belabour the point telling you the whole story, but simply nod and say, “yes, i know exactly how you feel.”

  4. Consider yourself lucky with the accomplishments that you and your school have come to implement on your campus relating to PLC’s. Though you feel like you’re taking a few steps backwards with this new principal, you have at least a good foundation. It might just be that this new principal does not have as good an understanding of what a true PLC should look like. If your principal is approachable, why not just offer some suggestions, armed with the knowledge that you and your coworkers learned in Arizona. it’s obvious that PLC’s across the country are not being utilized in the manner in which they were originally designed. Including schools in my district, in Texas. Our schools has PLC’s by content area. I “lead” (and I use this word loosely) the writing PLC, on my campus, which is made up of one person per grade level, K-5 including Special ed. We meet one time, per six week grading period, and our “activities” are designed by the principal. With our new state standardized test, STARR, being implemented this year, the new buzz word is “Rigor”. Thus, at our first PLC meeting of the year, our principal made us revisit Blooms and asked us to place various verbs into the different levels of learning, That’s it… no discussion, no reflection, no extension. It took us 20 minutes after school, and I was out the door, back home by 4 p.m. watching Judge Judy. LOL! It is because of this that I find myself lurking around online, finding all that I can to better myself as a lifelong learner and teacher. I would like to see my campus move in a different direction with its PLC’s, but for now, things are what they are, due to leadership and campus climate. As everyone knows, if you don’t get buy-in from the majority, changes don’t take place, so until then, I’ll keep looking and searching online, and reading “Diary of Public School Teacher” to get my PLC on! LOLOL!

  5. […] wrote a post with this title  in 2011. Fast forward. A couple of weeks ago we were handed a rubric. The purpose of the rubric […]

  6. In Gaston County, NC, our district has done extensive training on PLCs. There is an understanding that Staff Meetings serve the broader purpose of schoolwide concerns, Grade Level Meetings serve the purpose of of everything that isn’t covered under PLC. The PLC meeting is where we address the four guiding questions, which are:
    1. What do we want our students to learn?
    2. How will we know when they learned it?
    3. What will we do if they don’t learn it?
    4. What do we do when they have learned it?
    We start by establishing Norms & SMART goals. Our SMART goals have to be in line with our School Improvement Plan. So the principal will state at an opening faculty meeting that our SIP goal is 80% reading proficiency according to mCLASS DIBELS. o PLCs will drill down from there setting a series of SMART goals that help us toward that over all school goal. If you’d like templates of documents we use, I will be happy to share them with you.
    http://www.solution-tree.com/web-events.html?topics=31 is a great place to find free webinars about PLC and Common Core

  7. I have yet to have a productive PLC meeting in a school. In one school, it was the same meeting with a different name. The bully ran the show. In another school, it was a different bully that ran the show. This year is the worst yet. I have yet to go to a meeting where at least one staff member does not crack under pressure and start to cry. Our last meeting resulted in 4 teachers sobbing. I kid you not. Professional, experienced teachers treated like unskilled, blithering idiots. The true PLCs happen behind closed doors between two or three people. My best PLCs happened at Starbucks with a teacher that shared my kids. The things we were able to do to increase student achievement. I have learned the hard way to choose very carefully those teachers you can share with. Then collaborate for the good of the children away from administration, and away from gossips.

    It’s a sad reflection of how teachers are viewed today.

    • It is not a true PLC if you are picking and choosing what colleagues to work with. It seems that you are more distressed by your fellow teachers and throw in administration at the end for an unknown purpose! I am a coach and know most administrators got into it after years of teaching. That makes it hard to believe they are all bad….After reading most of these posts it looks as if everyone wants to work alone and get paid to do what they think is best. That is great…run your own company.

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