Nathan Meyer

Nathan Meyer, EdD, is an assistant superintendent for accelerated improvement for Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky. Previously, he served as principal and assistant principal at the DuFour Award–winning Fern Creek High School.

Develop a Collective Commitment Calendar to Ensure PLC Success

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 academic accountability systems and increased regulations and policies at the local, state, and federal levels, while also confronting the ever-increasing emotional needs of the students they serve. The myriad pressures of school leadership can compromise a leader’s decision making, negatively impacting school culture and student outcomes.

To combat the urgency of the moment, a school leader must ensure that his or her school has clear collective commitments that compliment and reinforce the school’s mission and vision, a step that is essential in becoming a professional learning community. Without collective commitments, our schools can become the proverbial rudderless ship sailing in the direction of the prevailing wind and never meeting our destination. Without that clear purpose, school leaders can lose the trust and support of teachers creating a vacuum of negativity. Anthony Muhammad reminds us in his book, Transforming School Culture, that teachers who were once ”believers” can become resistant to continuous improvement as a result of working in a directionless environment. Collective commitments must be more than something simply written on paper. The effective leader must ensure they are applied in daily practice.

Leaders can implement a simple strategy by building their work calendar to focus on the school’s collective commitments. Learning by Doing describes the action needed for collective commitments by posing the question, “How must we behave to create the school that will achieve our purpose” (p. 49)? The idea of a “commitment calendar” ensures the desired behavior for school leaders and can become an iterative cycle of PLC improvement by moving through the following steps:

1. Examine the previous 10 days of your work calendar. Identify by placing a plus sign (+) next to calendar items that support your school’s collective commitments. Place a checkmark (√) on calendar items that are managerial and routine responsibilities not tied to the school’s collective commitments.

2. Evaluate your plus signs and checkmarks on your calendar. Determine how much of your time is devoted to each and what managerial and routine responsibility checks can be minimized, delegated, or can be completed more efficiently.

3. Develop a Commitment Calendar SMART Goal. Use a SMART Goal process to increase the percentage of time on your school’s collective commitments.

4. Assess your SMART Goal after 10 days and continue the process to ensure that the school’s collective commitments are driving the work of the school.

The commitment calendar work should be encouraged for all members of a school leadership team. Ensuring that our collective commitments are prioritizing our time and resources ensures that the whole school can function as a professional learning community and move towards the fulfillment of our mission and vision. 


DuFour, R. (2015). In praise of American educators. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2006). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Muhammad, A. (2009). Transforming school culture: How to overcome staff division. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

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