Merrilou Harrison

Merrilou Harrison, a consultant, has more than 30 years of experience in education. She is a former teacher, administrator, district teaching and learning director, university instructor, and state-level leadership instructor and coach.

Are We Educational Hoarders?

In this age of reality shows, many people’s lives become transparent to the world.  One of those shows is "Hoarders." This is a show in which a person’s gathering and keeping "stuff" becomes such an obsession that their normal lives are highly impacted. As they work through the issue of sorting, organizing, and getting rid of all of their possessions, it becomes a traumatic time.

The same is true in our schools. We may not be physical hoarders, but we may be educational hoarders. Continuing to add to the requirements of each staff member without helping them through the process of focusing each activity while letting go of less effective strategies, drives us to be hoarders and not to be the most efficient for each student.

One of the powerful ideas of PLC is the idea of "what do we STOP doing" in favor of more focus on the learning and the results of that learning. When we help our staffs become an efficient system that focuses on the critical learning of each student, we enable them to look at all of the activities and strategies that are being implemented to evaluate their effectiveness. Taking the staff through the conversations about each activity, program, and tradition that directly meets the learning needs of each student can be time consuming at the onset, but will lead to a stronger staff that enhances the results for each student.

The conversation and commitments regarding what we continue doing, what we let go of and the rationale of each, helps the staff feel more empowered to impact, guide and own the school. These periodic conversations produce the results that are so important for our students.  There also ceases to be a "they" did it to us conversation that moves to this is what "we" decided to do together to make a difference conversation.  We keep the essential.  We let go of the non-essential.  We have time to focus deeply on the learning and the relationships that make a difference.

No matter when in the process each school has the conversation, it is critical to have the STOP doing conversation.  Becoming a non-hoarder of educational ideas, strategies, and processes gives us the freedom to focus on what is critical, brings a deeper calm and is worth the trauma of the whole process.  The positives of the STOP doing conversation outweigh the trauma.  We must be strong, be focused, and be kind.  But we must face the hindrances to student achievement.  We must help our staff be an efficient system that is focused on the results of each and every child.  We must be non-hoarders.



I think this is definitely a topic that needs to be brought up in my school. There are many times when new ideas and strategies are shared with our PLC, but we struggle to fit them into our already full repertoire. The reaction of myself and many of my colleagues is, “That sounds like a great idea, but I don’t have time to do that in my classroom.” I think an important part of being an educator is to reflect and evaluate our strategies to make sure they are effective. As part of a PLC, I should be willing to have colleagues observe my teaching strategies and give me honest feedback. Receiving input from my colleagues can help me to filter out those less effective strategies and activities. By dropping the things that don’t work, I will have more time to implement new things that do.

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I agree with the above poster. I love the idea of "stop doing." I think that this something that truly needs exploring. There are so many great strategies, programs, intiatives, etc out there. However, they are no longer great when a teacher tries to do them all! They become medicore at best. I believe that a TBT and PLC team works best when they are able to focus on a few ideas at once. They work on perfecting those ideas, before even thinking about adding something new. I believe that this approach would also help teachers feel less stress and feel that their job is more enjoyable. I am hoping that this year will better as we move toward the commom core.

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I love this idea of "stop doing" - every year it seems that new initiatives are brought in. We work tirelessly the entire year on the initiatives. Then the next year comes and we still haven't finished our work from the previous year. But we have new things we are focusing for the year. We do all this work and it seems that nothing ever becomes of it. We need to stop adding yearly initiatives and actually finish something. I am tired of focusing the year on a particular topic and not seeing it in action or an end result. If my district could just take a look at this idea of stop doing I think we would feel like we made some accomplishments to benefit our student body. The main focus a few years ago was standards based classroom/grading - some departments were successful with implementing this into their classroom. The goal was to have all departments using standards but this didn't happen. This type of thing is frustrating as an educator because parents are confused by why their child's classes are grading so differently. I had to field many questions about this and have since decided to go back to way I use to grade. Much less frustrating since the entire school hasn't been using standards. I'll go back there once the all whole school is on board. Again, this stop doing list seems a great way to go - I'm all for it!

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I think that it is good for school districts to use PLCs but as with any strategy you need the data to see if it is working in the classroom.

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My school district recently allowed members our DLT and PLC committees to discuss the activities and requirements that are overloading classroom teachers. They reviewed all of the tests, benchmarks, SCAs, and computer programs that the students are doing. The committees talked about the outcome of giving the students such a large amount of work. They also examined student data to see if progress is being shown. After the DLT and PLC committees met they discussed their ideas with the TBT (Teacher Based Teams) at each of the school building. The TBTs then compiled a list of the most effective programs that are beneficial to the students. This led to the TBTs meeting once a week to collaborate and talk about grade level activites. Teachers are now able to focus on effective strategies that do not contradict with their best practices.

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I am happy to say that my entire school is involved in weekly PLC meetings which last one hour, and it is during these meetings that we are able to discuss student progress and interventions that may be needed. Also, by meeting regularly, we often share resources with oneanother that may be of use to our colleagues. It is amazing how much we can learn from oneanother, and our students reap the benefits over and over. I am so pleasesd to be able to work with such a great group of educators.

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At my school we are focusing greatly on new expectations for the entire staff. We are being given time to focus on these different expectations not all at the same time. I find that it is very helpful in lightening the load of all of the changes. A big part of these times has been to help us identify methods or strategies that need to be changed or ended, rather than just adding new methods. This post is very correct, if we hold on to all of our individual strategies, each on will lose its effectiveness, and the students are the ones who will suffer the most.

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