Blog

Growing and Utilizing Your Guiding Coalition

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Change is hard, but inevitable. Schools are complex…I would argue they are extremely complex. Name another industry where you have as many variables (students, parents, teachers, bus . . . Read more

Finding the Opportunity in the COVID-19 Crisis

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The 2019-20 school year will certainly go down in history as unprecedented. The COVID-19 pandemic turned all aspects of society, including school systems, upside-down. As schools were mandated . . . Read more

What Does Your School’s Success Rest On? The Four Pillars in Action at East Pointe Elementary

Editor’s note: This entry is a joint publication by Jonathan G. Vander Els and Dr. Josh Ray. Testimonials from Dr. Ray, the principal at East Pointe Elementary School, are noted with the . . . Read more

From Independence to Interdependence

The story of Quitman Public Schools (QPS) does not begin or end with us. For more than 150 years, QPS has been the heart of the Quitman community, and the staff has demonstrated high levels of . . . Read more

Game On

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My phone rang that Sunday and, on the line, I heard my 18-year-old son’s quivering voice say, “Dad, Kobe died.” I sat in the car stunned. I turned on the radio to find out . . . Read more

Pit Bulls and Fallen Trees: A Message to Principals

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It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving break. As a busy elementary school principal, I spent the previous four days resting, relaxing, and gearing up for the mad dash to winter break. I renewed . . . Read more

Develop a Collective Commitment Calendar to Ensure PLC Success

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Rick DuFour details the litany of expectations thrust on today’s teachers and administrators in his book, In Praise of American Educators. Unfortunately, many educators grapple with punitive . . . Read more

Joyful Noise

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The framework, process, and structure of professional learning communities often consume our thoughts and actions as we strive to increase student achievement by constantly focusing on answering . . . Read more

Walking the Walk (Even When You Stumble)

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“I swear we just said goodbye to our students in June just last week!” “It’s probably because the polar vortex added extra days to the end of last year, but this summer . . . Read more

PLC Collaboration: District and School Leaders

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Our district went through an organizational reorg during the 2018-2019 school year. As we morphed into the school year, we wanted to work on improving PLCs. Each level in Jefferson County Schools has a team of district resource teachers to provide support for schools. We have been working with the schools on becoming highly effective PLCs. Our ELA resource teacher created a learning walk tool, PLC Check In, we could use when visiting collaborative teams. My administrative assistant and I looked at the weekly reports to monitor what was taking place during the week. Read more

Your Circle of Influence in a PLC

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You might be wondering, “What is my Circle of Influence when it comes to the PLC process?” The innermost Circle of Influence for the teacher is the classroom and the students within it. It is in that circle that a teacher can and should be accountable to answer the four critical questions of learning. Read more

Assistants as Members of the PLC

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Schools across the country are generally staffed with highly trained professional administrators, teachers and content specialists. In my work assisting schools with building PLCs, the staff members closest to the instruction are usually the ones that first come to mind when discussing who the “professionals” are that make up a PLC. However, in my experience as a building principal, I very quickly realized that the work of instructional assistants can be crucial in helping a school meet goals and sustain success. Read more

What Does Hiring Look Like in a PLC?

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The most important decision you can make as a leader is who gets to join your team. This decision is even more critical when you are in the process of becoming a professional learning community. So, let’s look at your hiring practices through the lens of a PLC. Read more

The Most Important Interview Question I Bet You’ve Never Asked

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Let me start with a simple truth: There is no single decision made by the principal of a professional learning community more important than who to hire to fill vacancies on individual learning teams. After all, the teachers that you hire today are likely to be a part of your faculty—working with students, influencing colleagues, shaping decisions, impacting public relations—for years to come. Read more

The Case for Coaches in Professional Learning Communities

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Instructional coaching is a balancing act of working with teams to help ensure the fidelity of the three big ideas of a PLC and also provide the time and support to individual teachers who need it. If members of a collaborative team become worried about individual teacher performance, then they can get derailed from focusing on the four critical questions that should be guiding their work. Read more