Saturday, June 29, 2013

Everything I Know About Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) I Learned in Little League

My first experience with organized sports took place on a rundown baseball diamond behind an old church in Johnston, Rhode Island.  I was part of a league that consisted of only four teams that weren’t very good but were coached well, played hard, and had a lot of fun.  More than three decades later I still look back on those glory days of my youth and recognize that the lessons I learned on that field went far beyond how to turn a double play and when to hit the cut off. 
I have had the good fortune of being a part of many professional learning communities over the past twenty years, and the best ones remind me of my first baseball team in many ways.
With that in mind, next time you find yourself at a little league field watching the players swing for the fences and round the bases, perhaps it’s not the next group of major league prospects you should be looking for but rather the next generation of educational leaders.

The best hitter on the team practiced his swing by hitting balls off a tee into a fence every day
The most effective educators are the ones who continually look for ways to improve their practice.

Before games and practices, a player volunteered to lead us in our stretching exercises
Professional Learning Communities are made up of individuals willing to take on added responsibilities

The players were responsible for the care and maintenance of the field and the equipment
In addition to the physical plant, attention paid to the school or district’s mission and vision will impact teaching and learning  

While sitting in the dugout, we cheered on our teammates
Entire staffs need to support and celebrate the accomplishments of its learners

When players committed fielding errors, excuses were never allowed
Professional educators are accountable for the teaching and learning happening in their schools

Drills and practices focused on things that happened during the previous game
In order to grow professionally, teachers and administrators must be reflective practitioners

When a fly ball was hit, we always called for it
Educators know the importance of communication

Keeping an accurate scorebook was expected
Documentation and data collection are an essential component of any professional learning community

We always looked for the signs from the third base coach
Formative assessments provide information that can be used to inform instruction

Our coach insisted we watch the best teams in the league play their games
Peer observations will make us better at what we do

Sunday, June 23, 2013

What this veteran teacher was reminded of by the beginning teachers he supported

This list is very unique for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, I am breaking my own rule of limiting it to ten items.  Secondly the list comes with a dedication to the 15 first year teachers that I was fortunate enough to collaborate and learn with every week.  Each item on the list was inspired by one of the beginning teachers I supported, however it is very likely that they will find themselves in many of the descriptions.  It is my hope this list captures the spirit and excitement that comes with one’s first year in the field and celebrates how much the next generation of teachers have to offer.

I learned…

  • Not to be afraid to try new and sometimes uncomfortable teaching strategies in order to meet the needs of all students
  • Organization and routines allow students to actively participate in managing a classroom
  • Professionalism means advocating for what you know is right even if met with resistance from colleagues 
  • Students will be positively impacted by a teacher’s enthusiasm for life and learning
  • Celebrating the unique talents of students will motivate them to cultivate even more
  • Clear and consistent communication with support staff will make everyone more productive and much happier
  • You get what you give, including respect
  • We sometimes don’t know what we are capable of until we accept a challenge
  • Teachers have the ability to create a safe and caring environment for students even when faced with challenging conditions
  • The needs of the whole child must be addressed and this can sometimes mean making difficult decisions
  • The most skilled teachers are constantly striving to get better at what they do
  • Persistence and dedication will be rewarded
  • Being a fluent user of the latest technologies doesn’t mean abandoning personal connections with others
  • Remaining calm and composed when things don’t go as planned is the right choice
  • It is important to take time throughout the year to look at student growth as well as your own

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Taking Control of Your Professional Development

As summer vacation approaches you may be wondering if this is a good time to think about professional development.  Of course teachers need to decompress following each school year, or time to catch up on the many things that have been put aside since September.  However, summer is also a great time to take control of your own professional growth.  If you take some action now, you will head back to school filled with new ideas, possibilities, and a sense of excitement rivaling any first year teacher!  The best part is you can do it on your own time and for FREE!

  • Explore new technologies and think about how you might use them
  • Get to know your teacher evaluation rubrics
  • Read about current trends and issues in education
  • Collaborate with other teachers and pick their brains about what works for them
  • Set a single professional goal and work toward it with fidelity
  • Attend or watch a school committee meeting (most are archived online)
  • Collect and analyze a set of data that is meaningful to you
  • Join a committee and attend meetings
  • Create relationships and expand your professional network anyway you can
  • Look at your school, district, and state board’s websites

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Change can be... Good!

June can be a time of great unknown for many teachers, particularly those new to the profession.  In some cases, and for any number of reasons, teachers will find themselves in a new room, grade, school, content area, role, or even district come September.  Change can be unsettling but also has the potential to be revitalizing.  This week’s list looks at some positives that can be taken away from accepting a new assignment.

  •   You will grow your professional learning network
  • It is a great opportunity to purge and update materials
  • Facing a new challenge will bring out the best in you
  • Your flexibility will be on display and appreciated by others
  • It is a learning opportunity that will positively impact your professional growth
  • You will discover how students learn at various stages of development or in different disciplines
  • With new surroundings come new opportunities, some you may not even know exist
  • Others will learn as you share your skills and talents as an educator with a new group of peers
  • Working with a new group of professionals can provide an emotional lift
  • Your positive attitude will provide the template for others who will share similar experiences in the future