About Franchesca Warren

For fifteen years Franchesca taught English/Language Arts in two urban districts in Atlanta, Georgia, and Memphis, Tennessee. Increasingly frustrated with decisions being made about public education from people who were not in the classroom, in 2012 she decided to start a blog about what it was really like to teach in public schools. In the last four years, The Educator's Room has grown to become the premiere source for resources, tools, and strategies for all things teaching and learning. To learn more about Franchesca Warren's work, please visit www.franchescalanewarren.com.

 

The quickest way to send any teacher into a frenzy is to make us sit in an ineffective PLC (professional learning community) meeting. We’d rather grade a million essays, meet with an irate parent or even hear nails scratched on our chalkboard–anything but another meeting that tells us how to use graphic organizers. After sitting in a meeting where I was about to fall asleep, I began to think about the actual purpose of PLCs. Were they created to wreak havoc on teacher’s schedules or do they really have a purpose? After doing a bit of research, I came across the book Learning by Doing PLC’s which told me that PLCs are meant to:

•  focus on teaching to a focus on learning

• provide Infrequent summative assessments to frequent common formative assessments

• help determine the appropriate response when students don’t learn or already know it to a systematic response that ensures support for every student no matter who the teacher may be

• clarify what students must learn to collaborative teams building shared knowledge and understanding about essential learning • An external focus on issues outside the school to an internal focus on steps staff can take to improve the school

• focus on issues outside the school to an internal focus on steps staff can take to improve the school

Wait, what? How is that most PLCs that I’m a part of consist of nothing of the above? Instead, they are usually time for our administration team to tell us what we are NOT doing right.

That's right..in most schools PLCs SUCK. Click To Tweet

If the overall goal(s)  of Professional Learning Communities are supposed to be focused on teachers learning from one another , how did they become meetings where teachers are engrossed in doing anything beneficial to classroom instruction? When did these meetings become a time to roll our eyes and resent the time we spend in them?

The answer is simple, PLC's became ineffective when administrators used it for 'filler' for any and everything they wanted to accomplish in the school. Click To Tweet

The answer is simple, PLC’s became ineffective when administrators used it for ‘filler’ for any and everything they wanted to accomplish in the school. Combined with making teachers painfully endure these meetings on a weekly schedule, has made a ‘recipe for disaster’.

Knowing that PLCs are common occurrences in most schools, how do you make the meetings worthwhile and engaging to educators? Click below to follow these simple four tests to ensure that these meetings are more productive! (Note: share this article with your administration team.)

1. Let your grade/content level teams set the agendas for the meeting. Nothing is worse than sitting in a PLC meeting with an agenda that has nothing to do with your work in the classroom. This is a ‘sure fire’ way to make teachers ‘zone out’ well before the first item on the agenda  is addressed. Instead, enlist your content /grade level leaders  to develop an agenda for the meeting. Encourage them to look at issues that are occurring in their team(s) and then set up an agenda that will not only address the issue but offer proactive solutions at the school level. Every  PLC meeting should be teacher lead, not administrative lead.


2. Differentiate the delivery of  instruction in the meetings. It makes no sense to make a veteran teacher sit in a PLC about the use of graphic organizers or for a teacher who has excellent classroom management to sit in a PLC about classroom management.  In addition, I’ve been forced to sit  in PLCs where a PowerPoint was played and teachers were expected to sit for 60 minutes and ‘get’ information. Instead, assess the specific needs of your school  staff by using a survey. Based upon the results, adjust your meeting content. Another good strategy to increase teacher ‘buy in’ will be to  identify the faculty that may be ‘experts’ in various areas and ask them to present at PLCs. This will  help break up the monotony of meetings.

3. Set a specific time slot  and days for the meetings to occur. There’s no reason that any PLC meeting has to last an entire planning period.  Set a designated time frame for your meetings and stick to it–no matter what. Agree to group ‘norms’ so that people can arrive on time and be ‘present’ in the meeting so that the work can be completed. Teachers are already ‘bogged down’ by district mandates, classroom needs, and other professional development.

Respect our time. Click To Tweet

4. Plan activities that matter. No teacher wants to sit in a meeting and look at graphic organizers for 45 minutes. Instead take the time to develop activities that allow teachers to reflect and engage in the work they do in the classroom.  Ask teachers to bring in student work or sample assignments and lead discussions on common trends in student work. Take time and do case conferencing on students who are behind academically. Even take this time to contact parents who children are having discipline issues. The point is this- use this time to actually strengthen the culture of the school- not just to have another meeting

Now tell us how PLC meetings are handled at your school?

Use this time to actually strengthen the culture of the school- not just to have another meeting. Click To Tweet

 

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