Last month I attended a conference led by Rick and Rebecca DuFour on building professional learning communities. It was a very engaging conference that really hit on some of the key issues we continually face as we work to develop our school into a true professional learning community (PLC). One of the questions Rich posed during a session on building a collaborative culture of a PLC was: What are you tight about? He then stressed the importance of communicating what it is to all stakeholders in the PLC. I started to think about this notion of being tight about certain things, and what those things really are. Now, the staff knows that my number one pet peeve is being late to meetings. I’m about as tight as they come when it is about being on time for meetings. But being tight is not about norms, it’s about the non-negotiables when it comes to student achievement.
After the conference ended, I gave serious consideration to what I am truly tight about, and settled on what I consider my top five non-negotiables, combining what I experience on the job and what was reinforced at the conference. These are the five non-negotiables that will be discussed opening week of school:
1. Interdependence – working together rather than in isolation. According to Patterson (2008), “Interdependence calls for individuals to share ideas, provide materials, lend a hand, and otherwise willingly and ably collaborate (p. 183).” It means using building expertise to improve student learning gained through collaboration and vertical articulation.
2. Vertical articulation – going beyond the team level in articulating student needs.
3. Common assessments across grade levels – all grade levels have a common means of assessing what is learned by all students.
4. Saying NO to averages; looking student-to-student, skill-to-skill – Even when averages look good, there will always be those students who have not learned a particular skill, and those students who already know it well. Ensure that there are interventions for students who have not learned the skill, and for those who have it mastered.
5. Embedding collaboration in routine school practices – interdependence and vertical articulation are the norm.
So, what are YOU tight about? It’s definitely something to think about.
July 19, 2009
Professional Learning Communities at Work, Solution Tree publication distributed at PLC Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 24, 2009.
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