Uncommon Sense

It has been a long while since I have posted.  Plenty of time to read, reread, learn and reflect on teaching, learning and education in general.  Over that time I have come to the conclusion that what I thought of as common sense may not be so common at all.

We have begun to try to establish a PLC at our elementary school over the past two years.  We have had many successes and some setbacks. We are lucky to have a principal who is willing to provide time, resources, support and encouragement for PLCs.  The most difficult task–getting all teachers on board– still lies ahead.

During my coursework, I have been reading  about school reform, teacher collaboration, PLCs, and student success and I have participated in many #edchat discussions on the same topics.  Most of what I have read seems like common sense to me.  So why is it so difficult to implement? Why don’t many teachers want to collaborate?   Even when given the time and resources to engage in a learning community many see it as just one more thing they have to do and may even simply refuse. If collaboration would become the norm, their workload would greatly decrease over time and student learning would increase, making their job more rewarding.  It is almost as if some teachers don’t want to learn!  They just want to put up the same bulletin boards, drag out the same old tired worksheets and do the same thing year after year, acting as if it is going to be 1988 for the rest of their students’ lives.  Is this because it is easy or is there something else at play?

So what really keeps teachers from wanting to work together for common cause?  Why is it “my students” and not “our students?”  Why do we continue to talk about “what I am doing” rather than “is what we are doing working?”  Teachers want students to collaborate with each other on class projects; yet so many teachers see it as a weakness or a chore to collaborate on their own project: student success.  Is it the culture of schools that creates competition between teachers, making needing to learn seem like a weakness?  A friend of mine always says “Go to any teacher meeting and you will see the worst students.” Is it the personality type of many who choose the teaching profession?  I am stumped.  In Pyramid Response to Intervention: RTI, Professional Learning Communities and How to Respond When Kids Don’t Learn, Buffum, Mattos and Weber make  two interesting points that hit home for me:  1.  No teacher can possibly possess all the knowledge, skills, time and resources needed to ensure high levels of learning for all students and 2.  Not working as a PLC is educational malpractice.

What is even more frustrating to me is that not only do some (maybe many) teachers refuse to take part in meaningful collaboration with other teachers but they actively try to discourage teachers who are already collaborating as well as those who want to change and become better.  I have heard many comments  this past year alone that would discourage improvement.  One example  –  “Well we don’t have hours to spend at school like you do”  – was directed to a teacher who was sharing successful results in math. Of course there are less direct ways that this discouragement happens, as when teachers say  to anyone who will listen that planning with their grade level team takes away from “my planning time.” Really? I thought that was planning time.  How can those who are and want to collaborate be supported?  How can the “me” attitudes be changed to “we?” Can those attitudes be changed at all?  How can the climate be changed so those who AREN’T collaborating feel uncomfortable rather than those who are or those who want to?

As you can see, I have many more questions than answers.  I would like to hear from you about your road to building a true PLC.  How do you get teachers to buy in to the common cause?  While our PLC  is still under construction, I believe we have gone from a dirt path to a paved road with occasional tolls.  The superhighway still awaits.


One Response to “Uncommon Sense”

  1. I looked forward to the times that were set aside last year to meet with my grade level colleagues. When given time…at least an hour or more, lots of things can be accomplished. I felt we used that time very wisely. When you are talking smaller periods of time, it is harder to get the quality that is needed, since part of the time important discussion and idea sharing takes place. By the time we walk kids to a special and back again, use the bathroom, 10 minutes have passed, out of the 45 allotted! It feels like there is not enough time to discuss, share ideas, and come to a consensus. I really DON’T think teachers do NOT want to collaborate, but as you know….TIME is key!
    Granted, in our building, there are a few teachers who are seen as not being “team players”, but I would bet the majority of teachers love the idea of TIME to collaborate.

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