Tom Hierck, Charlie Coleman, Chris Weber

Excerpt: Pyramid of Behavior Interventions, Chapter One

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

We believe that academic and behavioral performance go hand in hand. One study (Hawkins, Catalano, Kosterman, Abbott, & Hill,1999) found that when schools raised their level of academic achievement, behavior problems decreased—and when schools worked to decrease behavior problems, academic achievement improved.

We must focus on these two foundational pieces—academic achievement and behavior—if we are to promote success for all students. Moreover, we must do so while facing the challenges we encounter as educators through collaborative, cooperativework with our colleagues—the practice of professional learning communities(PLCs). We acknowledge that this practice is one to which we must continually commit.

We do make a difference. As educators, we have to believe that statement. Every child who enters our classrooms at the start of a school year will be different by the end of that school year. The question is, how will our students change? By the end of the academic year, will they simply be one year older? Will they simply have a year’s worth of new facts in their heads? Will students merely spew back the facts we want to hear, or will they be independent thinkers, mature enough to tackle the academic and social challenges ahead of them? The answers to these questions come from the actions of the adults within a school. What we do with students and how we do it, from the beginning to the end of the school year, are critical. The research (Barth, 2006; Fullan, 2005) on school improvement is clear—it is the shared experience and common approach to addressing emerging and evident needs of our students that will move us forward.

To be effective in helping all students learn, the adults in a school must come to agreement on what is most important. We must have crucial conversations about what we believe about how students learn. We must collaboratively establish norms regarding how we will work and learn together. Collectively, we need to commit to common expectations for both student and adult behavior. We need to ask:

  • What are our common expectations for how students behave?
  • What are our common expectations for how staff work and interact?
  • What about parents and other community members?
  • What do we know about best-practice and high-yield strategies that make a difference in student learning?
  • What collective commitments will we make to ensure that the very highest levels of adult and student behavior become a reality in our school?

The answers to these questions create the foundation for moving a school forward.

As the focus on collaboration in these questions suggests, effective teaching is not a solo act. Robert Marzano (2003, 2007) and DuFour et al. (2010) clearly illustrate that collaborative planning, collective inquiry, and shared commitments enhance the effectiveness of both teaching and learning. Whether we look at behavior, discipline, attendance, or academics, schools that operate as PLCs have the best chance to measurably improve student performance (Buffum et al., 2009).

PLCs ensure that all students have access to a quality education. It is not enough to be satisfied with the success of students who are easy to reach and easy to teach. As educators, we have a fundamental responsibility to support the individual and collective needs of all students. Our schools are no longer built on the premise of learning for some; rather, we now focus on learning for all. We have similarly advanced from learning for overall subgroups to learning for every single child. This commitment is documented in legislation such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA, 2004) and similar initiatives in most states and provinces. Response to intervention (RTI), a key component of the reauthorization of IDEIA, represents a philosophy and framework for ensuring that every student receives the support he or she needs to be successful.

Legislation, however, is relatively easy to craft; it is more difficult to ensure that this philosophy and framework become a practical reality in schools and classrooms. Our students come to us with challenges that are different from those of previous generations, and they face unique challenges for their futures.

Educators must make a commitment to approach these challenges in a positive way, by helping students find their passion as they prepare for a world vastly different from the one we faced. We cannot change the students who come into our schools; rather, we must change our approach to working with them. We must commit to proactively serving students by anticipating their needs. We can predict that students will experience frustration, confusion, and perhaps failure in the absence of clearly articulated routines, structures, and expectations for their learning environment. This book will help teachers and school leaders transform the research on student behavior into practical realities for superior school and classroom climates and cultures in which learning is primed to occur.

Over the years, as we have worked with many staffs in a number of school districts, our repertoire of strategies for improving student behavior and overall educational effectiveness has evolved. While there can be no complete, exhaustive list of strategies for making a difference with students, we hope that those presented in this book will help you and your school community get to a place where staff, students, and community members can answer “Yes!” to the following ten questions (Hierck, 2009a):

  1. Does everyone in our school agree on why we are here?
  2. Does everyone really believe we can make a difference for all kids?
  3. In terms of making a difference, do we have a common schoolwide vision?
  4. Are clear and specific schoolwide systems in place to make our vision a reality?
  5. Are classroom plans in place that match the schoolwide systems?
  6. Are individual student support options in place?
  7. Do procedures in the office support the school, classroom, and individual plans?
  8. Does every adult talk about these plans openly, regularly, and systematically?
  9. Do we know, with measurable evidence, that the plans are making a difference?
  10. If our plans are not making a difference, are we willing to try something new?

This was an excerpt from Chapter One of Pyramid of Behavior Interventions: Seven Keys to a Positive Learning Environment, by Tom HierckCharlie Coleman, and Chris Weber.


 

Comments

esauvola

In our school district there is a Teaching and Learning Committee that is made up of principals and K-12 teachers. The team members have been meeting together monthly for the past year to create district wide behavior plan that is based on a “code of success” within each school. The school year begins with an assembly that focuses on students developing a purpose statement. This statement focuses on why students are at school, the importance of school (school is….), and how we should treat each other so that our school can be a better place. After the assembly, students in their individual classrooms work for a few weeks to come up with common rules and expectations for behavior (aka Classroom “code of conduct”).

In addition, the Teaching and Learning Committee meet collectively to share the classroom agreements and come up with descriptors that match students shared rules and expectations. For example, cooperation, self-control, responsibility and safety were a few descriptors that the member came up with. Moreover, to ensure that students had the opportunity to share and express their reasoning for establishing the rules, each school had an assembly. Each class was given the opportunity to share their “code of conduct” to begin the process of jointly deciding on a school wide “code of success.”

At this point in the year, the local elementary school that I work at has appointed representatives from K-5 classrooms to work with responsible 6th grade leaders. The students will meet in the coming weeks to come up with a consensus about what the established rules will do to make the school a better place to learn. The students along with other adults will come to an agreement on which rules should be included within the school wide “code of success.” By mid-October, every school within the district will have collectively created a “code of success” and every student will take part in signing the agreement to commit to all rules that have been agreed upon.

Teachers and administrators who are part of this Teaching and Learning Committee are committed to improving the community within their schools. Each time they meet they focus on best –practice and supportive strategies to decrease behavior issues and establish a school wide learning community. Their focus is primarily on implementing strategies that will enhance student engagement, lessen disruptive behaviors, and promote academic success throughout the district.

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ehorne

I was not familiar with PLC until I was asked to do an assignment for my master's program online. I think that professional learning communities are a great way to create an environment that would help students and teachers be successful. I believe that by having the teachers and staff of a school all together about issues, the students will be able to be addressed by all teachers in an appropriate way. Everyone would have an opportunity to collaborate with others and provide suggestions to others when needed. For new teachers like me, this would be a wonderful tool to gain insight to other teachers' practices and philosophies. I feel that it would create a stronger environment within the school and that would create a more positive environment for the students.

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teach4u

This is the first time I heard of PLC. The school I currently work in is starting to rise from the ashes. I believe that instituting professional learning communities would benefit both the students and the staff. As a new teacher, I believe it would be great to have someone to talk to.

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jmgirdner

My experience in teaching has been abroad in England although I am American. In that setting in the school I was working at, we had an afternoon a week where all of the same level teachers would get together and either go externally to a PLC or create our own PLC internally during that time. I did find it very beneficial to have that time during school hours where we had the ability to learn and discuss with each other in a positive setting. We often discussed behavior strategies we tried and would offer advice and suggestions to each other. I believe that it helped me better my teaching practice and be a much more effective educator in my classroom.

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butterfly12345

My school has a behaviour plan that is standardized. Our focus is solely on positive behaviour. What we do is we meet at a specific time and make an evaluation of the effectiveness of our behavioural plan. We modify it according to the students behaviour and academic outcomes.I look forward to using PLC to help me gain more insights into how positive behaviour can improve academics in my school.

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mbraddock

My school has adopted the PLC strategy this past year. I believe it has been one of the most beneficial strategies for mine as well as my collegues professional development. We meet once a week to share ideas and insights that we have gained throughout the week. We have also developed a mission statement and two main goals in which we are working toward through out the year. We share ideas and strategies on how we think we might be able to accomplish these goals as well as maintain our mission. Afterwards we return to our classroom and practice each others ideas and strategies then reflect on our lessons to see if our common ideas and strategies are working. I believe that teachers who plan together will achieve excellence together. Furthermore, I agree strongly with this excert. Effective teaching is not a solo act but contains collaborative planning.

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Staff at AllThingsPLC.info

@dellacascale - This response is from PLC at Work associate and author Janel Keating:

Re-culturing a school, and thus improving student learning, is a complex, difficult and incremental endeavor. It is only natural that many teachers will be skeptical of the efficacy of particular activities in which they are asked to engage—given their past experiences. After all, attitudes result from experiences we’ve had. Therefore, success will depend, to a great degree, on the quality of top-down leadership in your school. Those who are skeptical will only change their attitude when they see results of their new behavior.

One mistake that frequently occurs is that the leader lacks specificity in exactly what products team are to produce and what these products should look like. For example, when asking for collaboratively developed shared commitments from the faculty the leader should clearly explain why this is important, how they will be used, when the initial draft of the work is due, and provide exemplary examples of the work to be done. Often, leaders spend too much time on the foundational pieces. It is much better to complete the task and move on to the next steps, and then when needed, go back and re-visit the shared commitments. The second time around there will be more “context” for the work.

It is important for each team to begin focusing directly and specifically on the work of the team—developing and utilizing team norms, and doing the work associated with the four critical questions of learning; that is, (1) What is essential that each student learn, (2) How will we know if they have learned it? (3) How will we respond when they don’t learn? And, (4) How will we respond when students demonstrate proficiency? Principals must monitor the work of each team, focusing like a laser on the quality of each team’s work, and constantly asking, “How can I help?”

Last, if attitudes are changed by new experiences, it is critical to share and celebrate incremental success along the way. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of publically recognizing the work and success of students, and faculty and staff. Recognition and celebration is how we motivate and inspire others. When student achievement data begins to show improvement regardless of the subject or the degree gain, it must be recognized and celebrated. Waiting until the school has achieved its long-term goals to celebrate success simply is insufficient.

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Staff at AllThingsPLC.info

@Stacie - this response is from PLC at Work associate and author Janel Keating:

You’re absolutely correct, the quality of communication within a grade level team is an important factor for improved student learning--and teacher success. You are also correct in your observation that communication between teachers who teach the same grade is particularly helpful for teachers, such as yourself, who are teaching a particular grade for the first time.

While there is not a proven strategy that is guaranteed to work, there are things you might try—and remember perfection is not your goal, but rather incrementally improving the quality of communication within the team. Think of it as a “layered” approach. You might first begin by simply bringing the issue to the next team meeting. While you should not be “pushy”, you should be professionally honest, and simply bring to the table the fact that the team could and should do a better job of communicating with each other. Most important, be specific. For example, point out that it would be of help, not only to you, but to other members of the team, if the team improved the quality of communication—starting with re-visiting and re-committing to the teams norms. (Of course, if the team has not developed norms this would be an excellent place to start. If this is the case, begin first helping your fellow team members gain “shared knowledge” of the power and importance of team norms by sharing excepts from Chapter Five in Learning By Doing 2nd Ed.)

Teams often do not communicate very well simply because they do not know what to communicate about. One approach may be this; rather than simply encouraging your team to communicate better, you might try asking clarification from the team on specific issues. For example, point out to the team it would be helpful to you, and perhaps to other team members as well, if team members could discuss exactly what is essential for students in your grade level to know or be able to do in, say, mathematics or writing, etc. Or, you might suggest it would be helpful if team members shared ways in which they monitor student learning along the way, and perhaps the team could agree to pool their thinking and develop and collaboratively analyze the results of common formative assessments. Or, perhaps you might ask team members to share how they help students who are struggling with their learning, and point out there are some things they could to as a team that individual teachers cannot do. Remember, asking for specific assistance from team members is better than simply asking for more generic improvement of communication—yet, it accomplishes the same goal.

Last, talk with individual team members. Share your feelings, your concerns, your ideas. It’s usually good to start by pointing out things that are positive about the team, and then move to how things could be even better. Especially, talk with the team leader, and when the occasion is right, talk with the principal. Ultimately, it is the principal’s role to enhance the effectiveness of each team, but if the principal is not performing that role, do what you can do in your own sphere of influence.

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silva2

At our school we have been fortunate enough to gain a new administrator that strongly believes in PLC's and positive student impact on achievement. Before we had monthly staff meetings and required trainings, but never had the attitude of full on staff engagement in outside learning. Last year we began implementing the RTI process for monitoring student progress and instructional strategies. I would suggest going to your principal first and sharing some of the insights that you have gained here. It all starts at the top and without them on board, hard to make a positive change.

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cronincronin

We were fortunate that our entire district jumped on the PLC bandwagon. We attended a seminar that merely defined the PLC and then our principals tried to put it in action. Last year was our first year and we went through the process very, very slowly. I hope to get more out of it this year. What we did accomplish last year though included setting a vision for our school, setting norms for any type of meeting (I think we did this waaayyy too long), established essential learning outcomes, and set 2 smart goals for each grade level. And that was starting out slow. I found all goals to be beneficial on our road to a PLC.

I would suggest you get your principal and grade level coordinators on board first and explain what the PLC is and what it could accomplish. Obviously the leaders of your school will set the tone. Then start slowly as we did so you can build upon your success.

At our first meeting of the school year last year, our principals had teachers break apart into teams and go around the gym writing on butcher paper what we wanted our school to look like, sound like, smell like, etc. We used this information to create a vision for our school. From there we set norms so that our faculty meetings and plan time together would run smoothly. "It's ok to disagree" etc. I loved created essential learning outcomes to address what our students should know coming in and exiting our class. Finally, we wrote smart goals to hold teachers and students accountable.

We will obviously expand on smart goals this year.

Don't know if you're an elementary school like we are, but I think if you get a few people on board, it's a beneficial process!

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Staff at AllThingsPLC.info

This is a good place to go for resources to help you get started with PLCs:
http://www.allthingsplc.info/tools/print.php#15

Hope that helps! Best wishes on your journey.

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Staff at AllThingsPLC.info

I'd suggest starting at our archives in the Singletons category - it offers ideas for ways to network and connect.
http://www.allthingsplc.info/wordpress/?category_name=singletons

Another idea would be to visit our evidence pages and search for smaller schools. You can read about successful PLC schools that are similar in size to yours.
http://www.allthingsplc.info/evidence/evidence.php

Thanks for your question! And best wishes on your PLC journey!

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ddnc

I agree that it is important to focus on student behavior first. The administrators offer support when it is needed and have enacted a behavior management plan that works well and helps the school to run efficiently. The effectiveness of the plan allows teachers the time to focus on instruction. The school I am working at also has a strong commitment to the PLC of it's teachers. These two things combined make for a pleasant and productive environment for both students and teachers.

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morrisons

In our district, we are working towards a PLC model. We are not there quite yet. We are doing some restructuring. This will be difficult, as we have some non-believers. I am a fairly new teacher and many of the non-believers are veteran teachers. I do believe that the shift from "my students to our students" will really benefit all of the students. I love the questions at the end. I would love to take them to our first collaboration meeting at the beginning of the school year. I am looking forward to helping both behavior and academic by utilizing PLC's.

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waldenu

PLC's really help teacher's reflect on how to improve their classroom's and their school.

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tandersonacsd

There will always be that one individual who tries to ruin whatever is in the makings! I have a member on my team who is negative about all issues we discuss. When she is not negative, she controlling and tries to dictate the entire group. Although it is terribly rude, the rest of the team has learned to ignore her negative comments and we often talk right over her when she's in a negative mood, continuing on our merry way without her. I would definitely inform your administrator with hopes that they would be able to reduce the negativity. Good Luck!

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kcbrock

Our school uses a behavior management system that is uniform throughout the school. We began this program a few years ago in an attempt to improve student behavior and achievement. I feel that this system is working very well. Students are aware of expectations from day one and can adjust easily in any setting at our school. We have also seen some improvement in student performance since this program was began. I have been pleased with the results in my own classroom and find myself rewarding positive behaviors much more frequently than redirecting negative.

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regan.gritz

I really agree with the arguments that were brought up in this post; improving student behavior is the first and most important step to reaching a higher level of academic achievement. I have witnessed in my few years as a teacher that students who misbehave are those who don’t pay attention and don’t want to come to school. This is why I have made my goal for my upcoming year to be improving my own policies for classroom management in order to create a highly effective learning environment.
I teach 7th grade science which already has the combined issues of being a subject some students don’t enjoy along with my students being at an age group where social activities often outweigh their desire to learn. I feel that implementing some of the policies in this blog post will help get me and my students on a better track when I use them in class discussion next week (our student’s first week back). Particularly I like the questions that the blog asks our communities if we can answer yes too. The question, “Does everyone in our school agree on why we are here?” would be a good conversation starter with my students. After a long summer break I like the idea of refreshing them on the importance of an education. Too often students feel they are at school because their parents make them go and the students suffer from having this negative attitude.
Issues like this will go into consideration when planning my first week and new classroom management policies. I greatly appreciate the inside you have shared in your blog. Thanks- Regan

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msg

I really enjoy PLC's.I think it is a vital part of the teaching career. I am glad to join the blog community, because there are many in my building who are not welcoming to new teachign techniques.

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Ardoin0711

This sounds so wonderful! My school does not function near this well. We have 30 minute "planning" periods with one or two dedicated a month to grade level meetings. At these meetings, nothing seems to get accomplished. We have a new principal this year with a lot of great ideas. I sure hope one is to implement PLCs correctly. Our students need us to communicate and plan more efficiently and our staff needs/deserves the support.

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nturner

My school has been on the road to effectively implimenting PLCs for three years. I too feel as though my school has only reached the tip of the iceburg in impacting student growth with PLCs. However, I think this is what the process is about. If research, collaboration, and reflection on implementing PLCs occur throughout the journey then, over time, the community will access more and more students to raise them to their full potential. My school has focused all of our PLC time on reading instruction, intervention, and data analysis. Over the past three years our grade level PLCs have increased in collaboration and student achivement in reading. I feel as though we have made a cultural shift regarding academics and how we discuss dilemmas and successes, but we need help to shift the culture of behavior, both student and teacher, in my building. I am curious if there is a school out there that has made strides in improving their school's culture through PLCs. I fear my school will reach a limit to academic success through PLCs if we do not confront the cultural context of the learning.

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jessicarosenberg59

My school participates in PLC meetings weekly. I found the 10 questions to be very interesting. I know that not every one in my school agrees on why we are at the meeting, however, my team always took our discussions for the week very seriously. The way the PLC at my school works is we are in grade level teams. From there every week we meet for an hour. During our meeting we always have a topic we must discuss, log, and send to the principal. After that we are to discuss issues that are going on in our grade level. The PLC meetings are very informative and give me a time and place to ask questions. Most of the time I am running around so much and I don't have time to ask about permission slip procedures or when we are administering a test. The PLC meetings last year really made my team strong and we were able to assist our students better.

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smithn49

I have been a member of a school district that has used the "PLC model". However, after doing more research on PLC if feel like we have barely begun using it to its full potential in impacting student learning. I feel the PLC and RTI models are used interchangeably in the district I am in. Currently we are very focused on data pre-test, posttest, retesting until mastery is shown. What I think is lacking at times is the critical dialogue about what is being taught and how. I found it very interesting that behaviors are being addressed as part of this PLC. Our new superintendent spoke with us at meeting about wanting to work out behavior issues, before tackling academics through PLC and RTI. I am interested in reading more of this book to learn about how behaviors are addressed through PLC.

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dunnigan33

We use PLC in our school weekly. THe only problem is getting everyone to agree on what is being said. We have older teachers who believe in one way of teaching and will not take on any "new" ideas. Then we have the teachers who have been teaching under five years and will accept any new information that will help! Some of the "experienced" have converted and are willing to try new things for our students. By doing this, they are seeing that change is good. I know that soon all of us will make the change necessary for our students to learn, because that is our main goal.

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PE300

PLC is not used in my school and I am not even sure if it is used at any of the schools in my county. However, I would be all for seeing one started. I think the idea of getting everyone in agreement of how things should be going is a must. If you can get everyone in the same building on the same page then that school should run pretty smoothly. Smoothly on everything from academics to discpline. I think this would also be a great thing because it would make some of the meetings I have attended much more interesting considering I teach physical education.

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bbenton

Having an entire school system able to answer yes to the ten questions listed at the end of the chapter must be refreshing. Achievement and behavior are definitely dependent on one another. Our system has tiered intervention practices in place, but I believe that with the PLC program our results would improve. How do I find more information that I could present in a meeting with the administrators of my school?

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RBC

PLC is not part of my school. We do have a teacher's conference every year, where all teachers belong to the same Diocese meet and attend classes. Input or sharing of specific topic was given by another teacher from other school. At the end of the conference, there is a collaborative activities where each teacher shares a classroom activities or strategies for a specific subject. Then the attendees will be given a credit for PLC. I hope PLC will be part of my school.

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Marilet Torrez

Professional Learning Community (PLC) was part of our school before last school year. The goal of our learning community was to improve student learning through teacher support system. The PLC meetings did not make an enormous impact to the student’s learning that year, but at least it allowed developing a better communication system among teachers. We had to stop PLC in our site, because our school went down to D, and we were so busy trying to get our school to a higher level. I hope this year we resume the PLC meetings, because we can not continue working isolated in this endeavor. It takes a village to educate a child.

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enh

I find these PLC environments to be very encouraging. I would love for my school to begin running this way. We have faculty meetings and some of those are designated as grade level meetings, but never ever can it be defined as PLC. Any suggestions on how to get my school on the PLC road???

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jfortes

I've heard of this at other schools in my school district. Unfortunately, there will always been those few teachers who are difficult and don't want to participate. When situations like this occur, we have notified our "site lead," who is in charge at our site, in making sure the "facilitators" (those who oversee the PLCs in each grade level and keeps in contact with the admin to let them know what is going on with the PLCs) are doing what they're supposed to be doing. The facilitators also notify the site lead of specific needs or questions or even situations, such as the difficult teacher who doesn't want to participate in PLCs, so they can tell the admin. At this point, the admin should be dealing with this matter. It shouldn't be the teachers' responsibility to be in charge of the other teachers' behavior.

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jfortes

PLCs have been a part of my school district for the past five years. Each year, it has grown and proven to be more effective as time passes. Each year, there has been different focuses in which the teachers choose their own inquiry focus. The inquiry focus would also be based on curriculum study, research study, or unit study. We also used a variety of tools to show student data and learnings. I really enjoy having PLCs because it really gives teachers a chance to sit down, collaborate, ask questions, and analyze research and data together. It also gives teachers a chance to look at different approaches to ensure students are learning and are on the same page. We all have the same common goal which is to raise student achievement and to make sure our students are learning. I strongly believe that all schools should participate in PLCs. The teachers and students will benefit from this experience. Effective teaching is not done solo, but through strong collaboration.

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dellacasale

PLC's are quite new to my school. We display some characteristics that are necessary in order for this to be effective such as:What are our common expectations for how students behave? What are our common expectations for how staff work and interact? What about parents and other community members? As a grade level we sometimes differ on these items: What do we know about best-practice and high-yield strategies that make a difference in student learning?
What collective commitments will we make to ensure that the very highest levels of adult and student behavior become a reality in our school? I am a new teacher to the building and to teaching in general..perhaps we have a difference of opinion because we have different levels and years of experience. Some teachers who are experiencing burnout often don't want to be apart of these meetings because they think this is just another thing we have to do for school, and they are not passionate about getting effective results. We, as teachers, all have an idea of what committments we can make in order to ensure that the very highest levels of adult and student behavior become a reality in our school?
We have agreed on goals we would like to reach. However, do we to participate in more of these meetings, and receive extra support from our administration in order for us to feel completely secure in our goals? Some teachers are skeptical that this is not going to be effective.

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rachelesmith27

My school district does not have a PLC in place, but we are given opportunities to meet collectively as groups of the same grade level and content area. However, these meetings are strictly after school for the most part, which can become a hassle for some. I, too, am a fairly new teacher, so I am reluctant to share my own opinions at times in fear that some of the veteran teachers may shoot down my responses. I have seen this behavior shown to other new teachers. I do, however, enjoy listening to comments from the other teachers and I have come out of my shell more as I have gotten to know them. I am one of those teachers who likes to stay in the classroom. I very rarely leave my room unless I absolutely have to. I know that this behavior does not make for an effective collaborative learning environment, but it does help me to stay out of the gossip mill, and I would rather not be mixed up in the drama of some of my colleagues. I am open to the idea of a PLC program being initiated in my school, but many changes would have to take place for it to really work. I do enjoy working with other teachers of the same course when everyone is willing to share and work together. In my past experiences, much of the time set aside for collaborative planning has been wasted due to others complaining or not being on the same page with what they wanted to accomplish.

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abitner

I love the idea of creating PLCs for schools. We need collaboration and communication amongst each other to better contribute to our student's needs. I feel PLCs are the next step teachers need to be willing to take to revitalize themselves and understand what level, interest, motivation, and drive students possess in this day and age. My Senior year in college even created learning communities to better assist the needs of Freshman coming into college. Learning communities are a vital tool that should intrigue teachers. Being part of a learning community group to discuss and formulate ways to better student learning is activity that all teachers should want to be a part of. I hope wherever I acquire a Teaching position that PLCs exsist to help better me as an educator. We should want to better ourselves for our students after all they are our priority we have to connect with them and reach them on their level.

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acolley1

and the correct spelling of princiPAL...nicely done!

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acolley1

I am excited about the concept of incorporating PLCs into the educational environment, and I enjoyed reading the information in each of the comments. As several people mentioned,though, working in a school that is not fully committed to working in PLCs is difficult. In addition, I currently teach in a district with high administrative turnover. This past year, we had a principle who was willing to take steps to move toward creating PLCs, but he was just recently reassigned to another position in the district. I have been teaching in the district for six years, and will have now had four principals. Many of the educators who are resistant to the PLC framework know that there will likely be policy/staff changes every few years, so they have no incentive to alter their methods. I agree completely with MBarn that PLCs are dependent on the expectations from the administration, so I hopeful that my district will begin to move in the right direction. At this point, I would think that my best option would be to focus on my own classroom and to collaborate with the two other grade level teachers who are willing to look at instruction through a PLC framework.

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MBam

You are very fortunate to work at a school where a strong importance is put on PLCs. Unfortunately, that is not the case at my school. I teach pre-k and there are 4 of us on our team and we work well together. We get one hour a week to work together, but that is not always guaranteed. There are things that come up and then the team meeting gets cancelled. When this happens, we usually use our lunch time to meet (30 mins). I think you are absolutely right that the break down usually comes from the administration. I find that when I go to district meetings, the other schools have been doing things that we had never even heard about at our school, for example our benchmarks. We never got any type of training on how to administer them, when the other schools did! There are huge gaps when it comes to PLCs and it is very dependent on the expectations from the administration.

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bkoster

I agree completely with the importance of working collaboratively as a school community. I am very fortunate enough to work in a school where a strong importance has been put on PLCs. We are given one hour each week to meet as a grade level in our building and then once a month we meet as a district with our grade level. The team that I work with at my school is very close and we work very effectively together but it seems as though when we meet as a district things become less cohesive. We are often frustrated at the things that the other buildings are not following through with that we make sure we make time for even with an extremely over crowded schedule. The break down usually comes at the administrative level where our administrator holds us to different expectations than administrators at the other buildings. Is anyone else experiencing this sort of "competitiveness" between different buildings even though you are in the same district! Our building works together brilliantly but as a district I believe there are huge gaps.

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michelle.smallwood

I love the idea of hosting a district wide PLC. There are many teachers that may be interested in getting together without it being mandatory. I saw recently where a teacher talked about a book group a her school that meets at a local coffee house. What a concept? Teachers can get together in a nonthreatening atmosphere to talk about themselves and education. I have found that only teachers can relate to my teacher lingo and that no one else understands or really cares to hear me talk about what happened in class today! I am going to seek out PLCs to take part in and possibly even host my own. Oh, the possibilities! Who knew teaching could be this much fun.

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michelle.smallwood

Looking back over my past 5 years of teaching, I thought about the PLCs that I remember being most productive. My district has provided several institutes and opportunities over the summers for teachers to learn more about Reading and Writing. I attended one mainly because I was a new teacher and I needed all the help I could get. I was surprised to find that I was one of few new teachers there. Most of the teachers were experienced teachers that were interested in learning new ways to teach Reading and Writing in their classrooms. I was able to learn a great deal not only from the leader of the class but from my classmates. I think this PLC was most productive because it was totally voluntary. No one was instructed that it was mandatory to attend so everyone that was there wanted to be there and learn. When I think back to the PLCs that were mandatory, all I remember is hearing others complain and gripe about how much they had to do and really didn’t have time to meet. I think that administration has to step up and be part of the PLCs that are going on within a school. Professional educators are good about managing themselves and generally contribute to the success of PLCs but when one or two people choose not to cooperate and disrupt the mission of the group, I think that administration should step in. Sometimes if the collective group is overbearingly positive, then the negative participants will just remain silent. Therefore, I think the key is to stay positive, remember your mission, and keep your eye on the prize. What is the prize you ask? The success of our students!

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heather

My school just recently turned into a tri-academy. All the teachers are broken down into groups within each academy (1 evaluator to five teachers) because we are also implementing a TAPP program. For those of you not familiar with TAPP, it is a series of evaluations in the classroom and it also looks at student test scores in individual schools. At the end of the year, depending on your evaluations and student test scores, there is an incentive of making more money at the end of the year. With that being said I believe PLC's are very important to implement. Since my school has the TAPP program PLC's would benefit all of the teachers and student achievement. I agree with the article stating that "... we need to commit to common expectations for both student and adult behavior." I think sometimes we forget about changing our behavior because we are so focused on our students. PLC's is a place where teachers can share and inquire deeply in our own beliefs and practices. Last year, all of our teachers were placed in a PLC. It was not beneficial because we never made time to meet and we didn't choose where we were placed. I think we all have this problem. We need to realize that PLC's are an important part of our job because we all have a common goal, raising student achievement.

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mygirls3

I love having the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues, but I can also say that collaboration can be rather frustrating for me at times. I'm a relatively new teacher so maybe it's the "newbie" in me, but I hate it when collaboration sessions become a gripe fest. Rumor has it this is the biggest reason why we're not given the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers who teach the same grade level throughout our district- the administrators feel very little quality collaboration would stem from it because of the griping. I don't know if this is true and maybe I agree with it somewhat, but I also feel that it's so important to have the opportunity to work with colleagues. I learn so much from other educators! I was on a committee last school year (district wide) that turned out to be a rather negative experience for me. There were 8 teachers on this committee (all teaching the same grade level) and 1 really put a damper on the whole situation. She constantly complained and acted as if she didn't understand what was expected of us so the others would have to pick up her slack. It drove me crazy and really took away from the experience. It has made me rethink ever volunteering for a district wide committee again. Any ideas on how to deal with a colleague like this would be greatly appreciated.

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pamc

PLC's are very important. I teach at a very small K-8 school where there is only one class per grade. We are working very hard on getting a PLC started. Can anyone offer any suggestions?

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sveal

Stacie, I too face some of the same problems you are faced with throughout your school. There are some grade level teams who work wonderful together and then some who are not willing to work together at all. I worked closely with a team of six teachers this past school year who were always in a constant quarell. It felt as if the team was divided, and it was always three against three. It made for a really miserable year. During the grade level meetings no one wanted to share their ideas with each other.Collaboration amongst teachers is crucial for student success and school improvement. When communication is lacking it can cause a negative work environment. My suggestion to you is to encourage weekly grade level meetings to help everyone start communicating with each other. Encourage all teachers to share their ideas with each other.

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Sheresa Neece

Stacie, I have the same concerns at my own school where some grade-levels work very closely together as a team, and others rarely speak. I am fortunate to work in a grade level that works very closely together. I can't imagine making it through my first year without my colleagues. Besides just working together amongst grade levels within our school, we also have monthly grade-level meetings throughout our district. A different school hosts the meeting each month, and it's held in a grade-level classroom. This past year our focus was on math since we use Numbered Literacy opposed to traditional math textbooks and workbooks. To begin with, We come together review the upcoming standards and benchmarks to be covered and then share ideas and present lessons that have worked well with the other teachers. We even provide handouts with the activity and samples of student work. It isn't a requirement to share, so it's very nonthreatening. Most of the veteran teachers lead the meetings, which was great for me as a first year teacher. I think this would be helpful for you and provide you with an outlet for grade-level resources and that PLC you are searching for that may not be desired in your building. It's a great way to form relationships with teachers throughout your district,to see different classroom set-ups, and to share successes and failures throughout your grade-level. You should suggest it to your principal, as it counts for PD hours - which frees him of any preparation. If not, you could send out a district-wide grade-level email to see if anyone is interested, and you could host the first meeting. Hope this helps!

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Twilkinson

I completely understand how you feel concerning wanting to make. This is the first year in our department we are going to participate in weekly meetings to collaborate about our students, skills, strategies, and behaviors. Could you use data to convince the other teachers to participate? What if you made it sound like this is something you need as a new addition to the department? I think I would explain how these meetings for be beneficial to you. If they they agree then they will see how they are also benefiting from being part of a department that collaborates to improve student's success.

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Stacie Brooks

I truly agree with the idea that by setting high expectations for students academically, students behaviors will improve. I also think that it is helpful when teachers and schools work together to create school-wide goals and expectations for students. In my school there are some grade levels that work very closely together and others that have very little communication regarding academics. Last year I happened to be working on one of the grade level teams with very little communication. Seeing that it was my first year teaching this particular grade level, it would have been helpful to have a strong professional learning community to depend on. I did not want to seem pushy seeing that this particular grade level group had been working together for years and they did not see anything wrong with the lack of communication, therefore, I just went with the flow of things and struggled to do things on my own. Do you have any suggestions for how to open up the idea of improving communication between grade level teams?

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Maxine Stewart-Forbes

Professional Learning Communities are relevant as they provide opportunities for teachers to use new found ideas in classroom.Collaborative friendships are formed as teachers share ideas and strategies used that work and seek to improve on those that did not work. When one becomes involved in PLCs, teaching is now student focused. Additionally, the teacher focuses on what it takes to do this job and ensure it is done to the best of one's ability. A teacher involved in PLCs should always be referring to his or her mission statement by redefining and revisiting it as it forms a basis for meeting the education, attitudinal, and emotional needs of children.
To gmt if a teacher displays reluctance to become a part of PLC, she should not be forced as success of these meeting depend on the willing and openness of those attending. What can happen is that she not be invited to future meetings. Those who are involved and are at the same school as she is , should ensure that strategies discussed at meetings should be implemented in classroom and ensure that she sees the ideas working.

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gmt

I believe Professional Learning Communities will provide more success in the classroom. But I have a question when it comes to principal assigned communities. I was on a team last school year where I had to work with a teacher who was very negative about the entire process and she made out meetings unproductive. She made it obvious she did not want to be there and it appeared the entire team she was doing anything she could to get the meetings over with and had no regard to our success. Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with this type of situation in a PLC?

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