Virginia Mahlke

Virginia Mahlke is a consultant who works with educators and administrators nationwide. Her experience as both a teacher and administrator allows her to connect with all levels of school staff.

Lessons for Life as Well as for Education

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.  In particular, he talks about learning to take, and love, naps after being a person who considered them “frivolous in light of all the things on my professional ‘to do’ list.”  He mentions how his eating habits have changed from looking at a menu for foods that contain the least calories to foods that he likes and have a whole lot of calories!  He tells us how he has come to grips with the fact that Becky does the driving now and how he moved from feeling “disempowered” to “seeing being a passenger as a good thing.”  Finally, he cites The 5 Languages of Love and how Becky has been an ideal model in demonstrating “the language of acts of service and devotion.” 

As I read the blog, I couldn’t help but make some connections to the evolution of a highly effective PLC.   I was struck by how imperative it is to be willing to change one’s perspective about teaching and learning to create an effective PLC culture.  For example:

  • Rick references taking naps now – for years we educators have plowed forward with our “to do” list and regarded as frivolous anything that took our time away from planning, teaching, and grading, all in isolation.  Maybe the nap is a metaphor for us realizing that even with all of our experience and personal expertise, we can’t keep plowing forward alone.  The “nap”, or the time spent in collaborative planning with colleagues, rejuvenates us and makes us feel and be better.
  • Rick references changing his eating habits – I think we as educators have for years chosen from our menu of strategies the very least, or the minimum, of assistance we would provide to students, thinking that it was their responsibility to access the learning.  But in a PLC culture, we look at that menu of strategies and choose what looks best for an individual student and what will provide the most learning calories for that child.
  • Rick references giving up driving because of the pain medication he is taking – in a highly effective PLC culture, don’t you think the staff relishes sharing the driving with others?  It’s less tiring; it’s less monotonous; it allows you to look out the side windows to find a new idea or to just enjoy the journey of teaching.
  • Rick references languages of love – the language of acts of service, or devotion, to me is the tipping point between a traditional school and one where we do “whatever it takes” in the service of our students, and because of our devotion to the educational process as the best hope for creating confident, capable members of society.

Some of you reading this may feel that I have stretched the limits of analogies and metaphors, but I kept seeing a connection between the way Rick has taught us for years about the strength of the PLC culture and the way he is teaching us now about the strength we each carry within us to adjust to, and thrive within, any new normalcies. By examining our prior practices and changing our perspective, we develop newer, more relevant practices to meet our current realities.  


Luis Ramirez

Thank you for this inspiring message. I visited Rick's website and others in My wife and I had a premature daughter, she weighed one pound two ounces at birth and had a 2% chance of survival. She turned 25 this past September and graduated with her bachelor's degree in 2016. We are very proud of her. I wish we would have been able to share our story with others in a similar PLC back then. Our daughter is very healthy thank God, aside from the average cold and some allergies she has never suffered from any illness. She is currently looking for employment and possibly enrolling in a master's degree program.
Thank you,
Luis Ramirez
New Jersey

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