Is Your PLC Journey Written in a Loose-Leaf Notebook?
The basic and fundamental concepts of becoming a PLC are not found in a loose-leaf notebook where selected pages can be removed at will. You cannot take out the section on creating a mission & vision and throw it away. You cannot remove the page on developing team norms and set it aside. You cannot intentionally discard the pages on the importance of building shared knowledge and establishing a common vocabulary. There are no shortcuts to the PLC process. Essential elements cannot be ignored or dismissed because they are looked upon as being too elementary, too time consuming, or simply unnecessary.
As critical as it is to embed all essential concepts of becoming a PLC, it is equally important to build your PLC in a logical sequence beginning with building a strong foundation. At times, schools and districts that use the loose-leaf-notebook approach take pages from their PLC notebooks and move them to other sections where they do not belong. You would not build a new home by constructing the roof first, installing the flooring second, laying the foundation third, painting fourth, and so on. You would not ignore the steps to a cake recipe by heating the dry ingredients in the oven first, frosting them second, adding eggs and water third, etc. If these examples make no sense, then it is just as incomprehensible to dive into developing common formative assessments before a solid cultural foundation is built. You should not develop a vision and mission before creating a guiding coalition. You should not write SMART Goals before building shared knowledge of the PLC concepts with your staff. It is very important for schools and districts to ensure that all concepts are thoroughly understood, deeply embedded, and introduced at the correct time along the PLC journey.
Trying to build a PLC culture when following the loose-leaf-notebook philosophy will only bring about frustration, confusion, resistance, anxiety, and sabotage. This way of thinking will produce an even worse result: a return to traditional approaches to doing things that are harmful to student learning.
Keating, Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour (2008). The journey to becoming a professional learning community. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.