Blog

Lessons for Life as Well as for Education

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Those of us who have been reading Rick Dufour’s Caring Bridge blogs about his journey through the highs and lows of cancer and its treatment options have been struck by his eloquence and his honesty about life and living it to the fullest. In the entry dated November 30, 2016 Rick talks about the need to develop a “willingness to change one’s perspective” when responding to the new normalcies that cancer creates. Read more

Are You On A “Learning By Labeling” Journey?

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You can call your goat a chicken, but you won’t be eating eggs for breakfast! You may be thinking…what the heck does that mean? Quite simply put, changing the label does not change the outcome! We all should be able to agree with that statement, and yet, I am amazed at how many times I encounter settings where labels change, but practice does not. Read more

School Is a Home for the Mind

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Ask most teachers and they will tell you they wish they had more strategies/training/resources to challenge their students to think for themselves; to acquire and use a repertoire of strategies that will help them attack a problem or situation for which there is no immediate or obvious answer. The importance of this aspect of student learning has become glaringly obvious with the increased rigor of Common Core standards and the assessments used to measure proficiency in those standards. Read more

Connecting PLCs and RTI

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The fundamental purpose of the Professional Learning Community process is captured in Big Idea #1: When a school or district functions as a PLC, educators within the organization embrace high levels of learning for all students as the reason the organization exists and the fundamental responsibility of those who work within it. (DuFour et all, 2016) Read more

Collective Inquiry and Building Shared Knowledge

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One of the factors that makes the PLC at Work model unique is the emphasis on building shared knowledge and building the professional capacity of practitioners. The traditional school model featured individual development, and the PLC model supports collective development. In fact, one of the key principles of the model is that learning for educators is the key to improving student learning (DuFour, DuFour et al. 2016). One of the most important responsibilities of a school leader is to invest in the capacity of those who influence student learning. In the PLC process, we call this activity Collective Inquiry. Read more

From STEM to TEAMS

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There's been much discussion these days about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education and what it really means. In fact, you may have been a part of the discussion and are looking to infuse STEM in one way or another into your existing curriculum. Proponents argue that if we can increase math and science opportunities while infusing engineering and technology, it would expose students to the areas of STEM, and could tackle potential career deficits while preparing them for successful 21st Century careers. Read more

Developing Leaders in a PLC

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Being a leader in a PLC comes with tremendous responsibility as well as tremendous opportunity. There is a litany of responsibilities a leader must focus on to build a high-performing school or district. One of those very important responsibilities is develop leadership in the organization. The key is how you develop that leadership. Read more

It’s Not a Meeting; It’s a Way of Being!

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In her keynotes, Becky DuFour often uses the phrase "Clarity precedes competence!" Over the years we have heard the term/acronym "PLC" used in so many ways that it will be hard for schools and districts to be truly competent unless they are clear regarding the meaning of the Professional Learning Communities at Work process. If we continue to use the term "Professional Learning Community" (PLC) in the way that it is being used in many quarters, then it truly has lost its original meaning and influence. Read more

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