As we near the end of the book (and unfortunately summer), we come to an often overlooked or at least underestimated part of the PLC process….training and supporting the leader of the team. Most PLCs are led by a grade level chairperson or a content department chair. Generally these people have earned such a title because they are great teachers and probably have also shown the ability to lead around the campus. However, leading a PLC can be a challenging process for anyone and some of the protocols and activities outlined in Chapter 6 can go a long way in helping a PLC leader prepare.
While I will not go through the specific activities outlined in this chapter (you can read them yourself), I can’t emphasis enough how important it is for the leaders of the building to set the tone for professional learning on the campus. The question Venables’ poses on pg. 111 is highly valuable and should be asked over and over again: Why does this activity have to do with being part of an authentic PLC? While this question is used as part of the Traffic Jam protocol, it should be used as the basis for any agenda for a PLC.
Another important component in successful PLC’s is setting up the expectations. In Chapter 2 we discussed norms and the need to take the time to discuss and create them as a team. In our own curriculum with students, it has become common place to take time within the “First 30 Days” to set up rituals and routines in the classroom with our students. We emphasize building relationships between students and teachers and we should do the same with our PLCs. The first few weeks can and be used to understand the purpose of the meetings, agree upon agendas, expectations, and even practice some of the proposed protocols or activities. While we may think we don’t have time to “set up” our PLCs, I would argue that we don’t have time not to.
Although the entire PLC is responsible for student learning and the overall culture of the PLC, everyone will look to the leader to set the tone. When PLC leaders ask difficult questions that challenge the status quo, they are pushing the entire team to get better. By using protocols, it can help everyone involved, especially the leader, to become more comfortable challenging each other and improving over time. Richard Elmore, co-author of Instructional Rounds, shared that “Schools that show the greatest improvement, generally do so under their own devices”. This takes leadership from teachers, innovation, and a willingness to challenge each other. When your PLC has acquired these characteristics on a consistent basis, you will have arrived as an “Authentic PLC”.
· What has our campus done for PLC leaders to prepare them to move their team’s work forward?
· What protocol in the chapter, or elsewhere, are you looking forward to using in your PLC this year?