Monthly Archives: August 2013


PLC/r = PLCm + PLCi

The traditional model of a PLC involves the meeting of teachers in like disciplines and or like grade levels. The idea is that this helps them focus on their issues given the similarity of the disciplines or the grade level, in some cases both. As a Professional Learning Community the main idea is that as a group of for example math teachers we can best evaluate and model best practices to each other because we share the same discipline and in many cases the same or similar students. Building relationships in this setting is easier given the similarity of the discipline or students and this is especially helpful in high school where conversations between colleagues used to be held primarily after faculty meetings or informally in hallway discussions. So the PLC premise is built primarily on school systems with either sufficient financial resources to accommodate the process or with a deep enough pool of teachers who can watch each others classes for a brief period of time and there are enough colleagues in the same discipline and or grade level to accommodate the PLC meeting.
In rural schools throughout this country PLCs falter or collapse completely as schools, primarily those schools with a small faculty and student body try to imitate larger schools PLC implementation process. Many rural schools have perhaps one or two 7th grade math teachers in the complete school system. The entire math department in a school may consist of just a few individuals without a common planning time so the only method to their meeting as a math centered PLC would be to hire subs to cover their classes, a plan most rural schools cannot afford to implement. An alternative to the PLC process as presented is a PLC/r or a rural PLC program. A rural PLC or PLC/r simply means that we’ve taken the framework of the traditional PLC and modified (PLCm) that framework to allow all disciplines and supporting staff to join in the PLC meetings lending it to more of a totally integrated (PLCi) meeting. Therefore in the rural communities across this country PLCs can work and can be successful by just accepting the fact that the modification of the PLC does not detract from the form and function of the PLC but rather presents a new and perhaps better way to get the faculty working together and sharing knowledge while meeting in these PLC/r during a more convenient and affordable times.
While PLCs are designed around individual disciplines and grade level meetings, this mix of disciplines and grade level teachers in PLC/r’s bring to the stage a whole new view of shared teaching and shared experiences. The idea is two fold. First to grow unity within the group each PLC reflects on their school and asks themselves what could they do as a small group to help the school become a better place for faculty, staff, or students? The second part is to share and discover as a faculty the professional development they need this school year.
The first part of the group work involves the development of a team goal. This team goal must be one that the team feels they can accomplish during the year or the semester depending on school scheduling. For example the development of a parent newsletter, improving faculty intra-communication, development of display boards showing student testing progress, all are small and achievable faculty goals that are relatively easy to implement and will give the team a sense of accomplishment at a very early stage of the PLC/r. Team goals are transferrable to the next year or next semester; some team goals become projects for the freshman – senior class or a school club to take on each year. It does not have to be a big item with multiple layers of tasks but should be the simple and easily implemented. A great example of an easy to do and implement program is a truly effective one called Word of the Day/Word of the Week (WOD/WOW) program I’ve outline in an earlier blog. Once this program is generated and installed it is an easily maintained program with demonstrated results in raising ACT and end of the year testing scores.
The second part of the PLC/r is the most important to the faculty and the student body and that is the practical application and shared knowledge and skills of a blended faculty working on better understanding themselves, In this era of implementation of Common Core and PARCC testing transition there are worlds of change and improvements we don’t necessarily get to practice individually just due to time constraints or the lack of knowledge about the subject. But with team leadership and shared responsibility the PLC/r can soon consider alternative methods of exploring professional development. Central to the PLC concept is that we as a group of professional educators need time to share and collaborate with colleagues and the PLC/r actually enhances this experience by allowing the involvement of all disciplines and grade level teachers to interact with each others and therefore share a broader range of knowledge than just their own discipline or grade level knowledge. During a recent PLC meeting where one of the professional practices we were using called Professional Rounds, the PLC/r was visiting the local elementary school. This PLC consisted of primarily middle and high school teachers. They were visiting a first grade class and they were amazed at the amount of time the kids spent using the Smart Board and how well they used it. At the next PLC meeting the following week while reflecting on that experience the high school teachers were stunned at the fact that these little kids could use the Smart Boards but many at their school were just using them as white boards due to either lack of training or did not see the usefulness of the equipment. Then they discovered that amongst their group was a teacher with expertise on Smart Boards. The next few PLCs were then conducted using a Smart Board.
PLC/r have the power to markedly change faculties. They are the least intrusive method of advancing teacher knowledge through collaboration especially in rural school settings.