Archive for collaboration

PLP Experience

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 12, 2011 by gfreducation

Over the past school year a team of teachers at my school participated in PLP (Powerful Learning Practice). The purpose of PLP is to allow educators the opportunity to participate in job-embedded professional development  and action research centered around the changing learning landscape of the 21st century.

The goal of our action research project was to institute changes in teaching practices that would involve students in more authentic learning experiences, the impact of which would expand beyond classroom walls, and to consider the effects of these changes on students’ knowledge of the use of technology for communication, collaboration, and research. A secondary goal of the project was to evaluate the impact our PLP team teachers have on the school’s faculty through their modeling of innovative teaching and learning.

The participation in the action research project has led to many interesting discussions about how teachers can lead positive change from within a school building.  Some of our discussions have revolved around:

  • how schools might look different in 10 -15 years
  • how teachers can encourage other teachers to change
  • how schools might better allocate resources to gain the technology necessary so all students can be connected
  • how we can use teacher “experts” to lead professional development
  • how we need to shift from teacher directed to student directed learning
  • teachers acting as the lead learner of the classroom
  • taking into account student interests, learning styles and passions when planning instruction
  • the importance of connected learning for teachers and students

I would be interested to hear how your schools are changing and what you envision schools and learning looking like in the future.

Back-to-School Challenge

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 23, 2010 by gfreducation

It is that time of year again. For most educators it is the beginning of a new year.  A chance to start over and try new things.  Unfortunately, many educators will not take this opportunity to commit to change, collaboration and improvement.  They will isolate themselves in their classrooms and repeat the things they have done year after year regardless of the results.   They will continue to complain about “education,” that there is not enough time to teach everything and that students just aren’t like they used to be.  Yes, the curriculum is gigantic and students change.  But, the problem does not lie with the students.  It lies with priorities, commitment, attitude and the willingness of teachers to work together.

One of the most common reasons that teachers give for their lack of collaboration  is “There’s not enough time for that.” I think this statement confuses time with priority.  If you truly want to build a collaborative learning community, if it is your priority, if you are committed to it, then it will happen. If you want to collaborate then you will make the time.  To remind myself of this, I placed this quote in my room from H. Jackson Brown, Jr. : “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

As we begin this school year, I challenge all educators to honestly and critically reflect on their practice.   What are your priorities?  Do you have a “whatever it takes”  attitude? Are you committed to collaboration or do you want to maintain the status quo?  In other words, are you part of the solution or part of the problem?  Our students will be arriving soon.  They deserve the best.  Let’s not let them down.

Uncommon Sense

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 22, 2010 by gfreducation

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.