Blog

How Kids WIN Systematically

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My experience as a teacher was amazing! I loved teaching, my colleagues, my families, and my students; but I wish I could have a complete redo on my time in the classroom. Regrettably, as a teacher I never had the opportunity to function within a Professional Learning Community. Sure, I had amazing colleagues who became life-long friends. Yes, they were willing to share their “things” that worked for their kids in their classrooms. I definitely was able to get to know “their kids," just as they were able to get to know “my kids” because we shared them for periods of time throughout the week. We even shared data! If you’re reading this and thinking, “Why is Will suggesting he didn’t function within a PLC?”, let me explain. Read more

Harnessing the Collaborative Power of the Four Critical Questions of a Professional Learning Community

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With so many demands on curricular teams these days collaborative time can quickly be sacrificed for coordination tasks such as scheduling events, casual dialogues of best practice, rote test modifications, and adjusting curricular pacing guides, to name a few. This kind of collaboration tends to produce shallow curricular changes, narrow instruction adjustments, non-timely remediation, and superficial assessment modifications. Read more

Why Size Doesn’t Matter

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I have been blessed during the past 43 years to work in amazing school districts of all sizes—one as small as 600 students to one as large as 37,000 students. Time after time, school after school, district after district, we have learned size simply doesn’t matter for four main reasons. A highly functioning PLC continually examines and improves its capacity through four main elements: Organization, Execution, Persistence, and Celebration. Read more

"Are we doing anything important today?" My Instructional Shift From Doing to Learning

In my college education classes—roughly a thousand years ago—I was taught to identify and note behavioral goals in my lesson planning, such as "students will read and discuss Ch. 10 of To Kill a Mockingbird," or "students will write a paragraph discussing characterization in The Great Gatsby." And I would write these activity goals on the board to answer students' perennial question: "What are we doing today?" or more annoyingly, "Are we doing anything important today?" Read more

A Tsunami Is Headed for Higher Education

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A tsunami is headed directly for American public colleges and universities. The wave of discontentment with public K-12 schools that resulted in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is now lapping at the doors of public institutions of higher education. There are clear warning signs. One only has to look at the increasing number of books and articles that are critical of America’s colleges and universities. Books with titles such as The Moral Collapse of the University, The Closing of the American Mind, Profscam, The University in Ruins, and Our Underachieving Colleges consistently send the message that our colleges and universities are in disarray. Read more

Doing It or Doing It Well? Using Data for Learning

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About five years ago, I decided that it was time to get in shape. An infomercial caught my eye and I found myself ordering a video program, weights, bands, nutritional guide, and pull-up bar while wating impatiently for my new life to begin. After the second day of inserting a DVD into my computer and following along, I realized this commitment was not going to be easy. With persistence, in about a month, I felt I was actually making progress and able to do the exercises. However, just as I began to swell with pride, I caught a glimpse of myself in the fireplace glass and gasped. While I thought I looked like the trainers on the DVD, I suddenly realized I wasn’t even close! Read more

Legendary Lessons I Wish I’d Known My First Year of Teaching

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I recently spent time with my parents for our weekly lunch date. Amid our customary conversations about the state of our nation’s political system and where the best senior citizen lunch discounts can be found, we began to muse about life lessons that I had learned during my formative years. After much time had passed, these lessons (and the resulting consequences) are now looked back upon with some measure of fondness. But during the time they occurred, these lessons and consequences evoked the same emotional reaction as losing my favorite George Brett baseball card. Read more

Building Trust

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One of the more frequent questions that we receive from teacher and administrative teams as they begin the PLC journey is this: “How can we possibly plan, implement, assess, and reflect . . . Read more

Opening Doors Leads to Greater Learning

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This past month I have been working with collaborative teams to answer the second question of a professional learning community, “How will we know when they have learned the content?” (DuFour, Eacker, & DuFour, 2008). The teachers are analyzing more than how many students got the correct answer on a common assessment; they are focused on students’ depth of understanding of the content. Teams are analyzing student thinking and the habits of mind aligned to the essential learning standards. These often come from the process standards in content areas that describe the habits of mind teachers must develop in their students (e.g., ELA Capacities, Mathematical Practices, and Science Practices). (CCSS0, 2010 & NGSS, 2013). Read more

Gaining Ground for Students with Special Needs: Honor their Abilities and Strengths

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Tailoring instruction for students with special needs is often the most challenging instructional demand for collaborative teams to navigate. Teachers want their students to feel successful, yet . . . Read more

The Moment Everything Changes

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The first of the four critical questions of a Professional Learning Community process is, what is it we want our students to learn? This question underscores the need for teacher teams to identify . . . Read more

Leading With WHY

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When working with districts and schools, I’m often asked a question from site leaders something similar to this: “How do you get people to buy in to Professional Learning Communities? . . . Read more

New Year's Resolutions and PLC Goals

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How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Have you been making it to the gym? Eating more vegetables? Setting new goals at the beginning of the year is a great way to push ourselves . . . Read more

Four Ways to Stop Ignoring the Forgotten Fourth Critical Question of a PLC

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One of the first pieces of common vocabulary educators acquire when learning about Professional Learning Communities are the four critical questions. These questions serve as both a big picture . . . Read more

What Next?

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Did you just attend a summer PLC institute and you’re all fired up to get back to school and start your journey? Are you thinking how can I do this alone? Who can help me? How? Are you . . . Read more