Singletons and Small Schools
If you are thinking “How does all of this PLC stuff work when I’m the only one who does what I do?” you are most likely a singleton teacher! Examples often include teachers of band, choir, art, auto mechanics, consumer science, technology, psychology, business, drama, nursing, special education, dance, media, agriculture . . . the list goes on and on. In a small school, you may be the only person who teaches your grade level or subject, which also makes you a singleton!
Most educators understand that they will achieve so much more if they work together and use common assessment data as a basis for making decisions. Great, but who do you create common assessments with if you are the only person who does what you do? Making the problem worse, we often find that schools new to the PLC process leave singleton teachers off collaborative teams altogether or assign them to a team as an afterthought. Ouch! That’s not how we develop a collaborative culture. We can do better!
How to Include Singletons
The critical criteria when forming collaborative teacher teams is that members must share essential learning outcomes. There are at least five team structures that can potentially meet this criteria for singleton educators: 1) interdisciplinary teams, 2) vertical teams, 3) singletons who support, 4) digital teams, and 5) structural change.
Let’s address one the most common structures. Interdisciplinary teams are comprised of educators who teach different content. They choose to focus on skills they teach that they have in common instead of the differences in their content. For example, business, automotive technology, construction, and nursing teachers might form a career tech team. Although the content is vastly different, they might find that employability skills—like customer service, collaboration, problem solving, communication, writing a resume, and interviewing for a job—are all enduring life skills that matter greatly to the future success of students who may choose any of these vocations as their life’s passion.
Highly functioning interdisciplinary teams choose to focus on enduring skills that transcend content. Once they’ve found skills in common, they create common rubrics, administer assessments, and collect data for the purpose of improving their teaching and responding to student learning. In short, they commit to follow the PLC process by finding what essential skills they have in common with their teammates rather than letting the differences in content be an obstacle.
An interdisciplinary team may not work for every singleton teacher. A different structure may work better. The point is: although the solutions may be as unique as each singleton situation, we can and should include our singletons as we build a true collaborative culture.