Over the last ten years, I am not sure if there has been a more well-intended, but poorly implemented educational practice than Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). PLCs are wonderful and they are not unique to education. Collaboration, team building, debate, and discussion are all part of healthy parts of any successful organizations. They provide a platform for innovation and continuous improvement. Entire industries have been built on the simple concept of putting a group of well meaning adults in a room and expecting them to somehow collectively improve not only their individual performance but those of the entire group.
So what is the problem? One of the biggest mistakes we make is isolating ourselves from people who disagree with us. We often don’t invite the “skunk” into the room. Too many times, especially in education we are too cordial. We view “debate and discussion” and an argument or even worse personal disrespect. Without healthy debate, however, your PLC will never be as effective as it could be. When discussing ideas, innovation, or even student work if there is not a “skunk” in the group that will be the voice of dissent or at the very least offer a different perspective your PLC will never move past compliance level.
Next time you are working with a team or group look around and listen. Is there a person on the team willing to stick their neck out and challenge the status quo? Excitement and learning occur when we decide to create the future we need, not simply defend what we already have. Unless your team is willing to stay ahead of the curve, you will fall behind. Allow the skunk in the room….they are not always right, but they are not always wrong either.