PLC: The Start of Something New

Thanks to our school improvement grant, 20 teachers from my school have the opportunity to take a graduate level course for free. We are partnering with a local university and hoping that it will smoothly transition into a cohort where we can earn our master's degree in teacher leadership. So far, this is our pilot class and the instructor comes to us on Monday night from 3:15 to 5:45. The class is called Professional Learning Communities and Curriculum and the university developed it specifically for our school. If it  goes well, they plan to implement it into their regular program.

Our first class was January 24th. I plan to post some notes that I'm keeping from each session. We've also been given some readings and if you are interested in what those are, please comment and I'll try to post titles/authors.

The 20 of us have been broken down into smaller groups to try to simulate a real PLC type setting. Our first assignment has been working together to develop a PLC readiness survey that we will give to other teachers in our school who are not taking the class. To me, it seems pointless because regardless of whether we are ready or not, we're doing it.

We've started meeting on Wednesday mornings from 7:15 to 8:00 based on content area. We started the first week by discussing norms. The meetings are not mandatory this year and we are being paid for each meeting that we attend.  So norms were kind of hard to decide since technically, we don't have to show up.  Next year we are going to eight periods so that we can have built in collaboration time which will then be mandatory.

But anyway, I think it's going to be super hard to have PLCs when we don't have any common classes. I am the only algebra and geometry teacher. Every teacher is the only teacher. How are we supposed to collaborate? How do we create common assessments? Yes, we can implement strategies and games and lesson formats, but somehow I think we are missing the point. We are the first small school in Illinois to try this and we are supposed to be setting the example for other small schools. We are pioneers and the terrain is tough!

Yesterday was our monthly in-service and we talked about exciting things such as exit exams for every course, student portfolios that show mastery of every required standard (basically a sbg report card!), aligning curriculum K-12, and implementing grade level vocabulary standards.

I think we are doing everything I want to do but I get frustrated because there is no manual on how to do this.

I can't wait to get started!


  1. I find it strange that the university is piloting the class at a school where there is only one teacher teaching each subject. My experience is that PLC’s in larger schools than yours tend to be a mixed bag. At best, you’re developing common assessments and sharing innovative and engaging lessons with each other. At worst, you’re developing common lesson plans by committee or by taking turns so that your forced to teach lessons that may not be as conscientiously or competently prepared as you would. For what my opinion is worth, I would suggest pushing your professor to tell you how PLC is going to work in your specific school to help you and your colleagues: I realize that’s an obvious suggestion, but I’m curious as to how much experience your professor has in actually implementing a PLC model in a school your size, or any size for that matter, rather than just learning about it from other scholars’ research. States have dangled grant money the past few years to districts that implemented the PLC model, and while the money may be welcomed, it would be nice if the teachers actually got some direct benefit from all the effort involved.

    I am curious as to the readings from class and would appreciate your sharing them, so please do.

    Paul Hawking
    Blog: The Challenge of Teaching Math
    Latest post: http://challenge-of-teaching-math.blogspot.com/2011/02/libbys-little-tigers.html

  2. Paul,
    Those are my exact feelings. I have posed the question many times and still have not really gotten an answer.

    I know that personally, my instructional team is working to eliminate gaps in teaching middle through high by looking at ACT standards. So that will be a benefit but in the long run, I'm not sure how all of this will pan out.

    I will get back to you on the readings later this weekend.