Thursday, February 09, 2006

Professional Learning Communities...really working

Here is Rick DuFour himself (I'm not sure why I put him on my blog, but I did.)
After attending the DuFour conference, I saw that the district was invested in Professional Learning Communities. Rick DuFour explained how his school, as well as others, handled such communities and made it valuable to their teachers, ultimately strengthening their teaching. Many at my table were skeptical wondering how many more meetings would be added to our plates, how many more grumbles would arise from the masses, and how would we possibly do more than we already are.

Several points impacted me:
* teachers need more time and that means that the district must give teachers time to work
with their communities
* teachers must be able to start with professional communities relating to content
* common assessments must be the staff...not as finals, but to assess what our
students need and how we as teachers can help each other get stronger at what we're teach

I am the team leader for English 9 as well as sharing the position with Anne for English World Lit. I decided to put together an agenda to try out some of the DuFour concepts. I listed the skills we wanted our students to have leaving 9th grade (or 12th grade) and then had a place for our team to figure out how to "get there." We discussed norms--ideals and agreements we would all make in order to reach our goals. The team was amazing. Once we realized the common assessment was coming down the line and yet, that it wouldn't be forced, nor would it be a final, but a "test" to give our students 3 weeks into class and again at the end of the semester, the team was on board. We excitedly discussed how we all could benefit from each others' strengths. We agreed to meet every 3-4 weeks to "attack" a specific goal and define it further in terms of pacing (how long we should spend on it), terms of importance, writing, and reading strategies. How empowering!

I feel that our 2 development pieces this year: the grading conference and the collaboration conference immediately impacted my teaching and have improved what I do with students. How cool.


At 10:22 AM, Blogger Barbara S. said...

I got the same main points from the DuFour workshop! I am glad you are putting his ideas to work, and we just need to inform the people who grumble about the benefits gained from PLCs!?!

At 12:56 AM, Blogger Crosby said...

I look forward to more content-based group discussions within my department. I remember that during my first semester at AHS I taught Cultural Geography with Bill Boehm and we planned the entire semester together. He is one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever encountered, and I learned so much from him that semester. Although I love teaching US History and really do like all of the people in my department, I find it almost impossible to really get anything done in our US History group because it is just too big (10-12 people). Alison and I have been planning our Western Civ classes together this year, and that has been awesome. I guess my point is that we need some training on how to make large-group PLCs useful. My experience in education thus far is that as more people get added to a committee, the less actual work gets done by the committee. I am also looking forward to having more school day time devoted to these content-based committees. Ten to twelve people certainly cannot coordinate unscheduled hours, and I absolutely detest lunch meetings with more than 2-3 other people because nothing gets accomplished. After school really doesn't work because so many people coach, and before school doesn't work because many people have to take their kids different places. AAHHH!


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