Richard DuFour

Richard DuFour, EdD, was a public school educator for 34 years. A prolific author and sought-after consultant, he is recognized as one of the leading authorities on helping school practitioners implement the PLC at Work™ process.

Stop Blaming and Take Action: One Teacher’s Manifesto

A teacher who attended a two-day conference on PLCs was moved to write the following manifesto urging her colleagues to join her in a concerted effort to bring the PLC concept to life in their school. She clarified that she does not regard herself as a "great teacher," but instead considers herself an "okay teacher with a big mouth" who believes "we all have the potential to be great together."

It is rare that an individual in our profession would present an appeal to colleagues to re-examine traditional assumptions and practices. It is much easier to fly beneath the radar and remain in the comfort of our individual classrooms and schools. It seems to me, however, that if we are to meet the challenges confronting public education we need individuals to step forward as champions of effective change who enlist others in the effort until we reach the tipping point that signals new beliefs and practices have spread throughout the organization. As Margaret Meade once wrote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that has."

From: Ballantine, Sara
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2009 10:49 PM
To: All Teachers and Staff
Subject: The Problem With Education in America: An Autobiography

Dear Esteemed Colleagues,

I would like to take this opportunity to say, well, to say that we suck. Don’t believe me? Ask Rob, he’ll show you the numbers. Now please take a minute to compose yourselves, grab a tissue, call your mom/spouse/brother/sister/accountant/etc. to wallow in self pity.

Done? Let’s move on.

The question still remains, who is to blame?

No, scratch that. That isn’t the question. The question remains, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

I do need to preface this by saying that I have no misgivings about my talent, as well as my shortcomings. I believe it would be safe to say that we, in fact, all have talent, as well as shortcomings. So again, just to be clear, I write this not to determine who is the "suckiest" out of all of us, but rather, as a call to action.

We are all aware that our first semester numbers were pretty dismal to say the least, and the budget situation is about as pretty as we could expect the offspring of Steven Tyler and Janet Reno to be. I don’t feel the need to outline all of the barriers in our way; we are all well aware of the current state of things in our country, our district, and our school.

Thus, I propose that we stop focusing on the things we can’t change, and concentrate on the things we can.

Let’s stop blaming the social demographics of our students, the apathy of parents, the lack of motivation in our students, the skills that they "didn’t come in with," the middle school teachers, the elementary teachers, the birth control that the parents of our students didn’t take, the fact that we didn’t have any coffee this morning, the union, admin, each other, and start taking responsibility for the job that we were hired to do.

Let’s change our focus from the curriculum that is not available, the money that isn’t there, the challenges imposed by the "block" schedule, and start looking to each other as our greatest resources.

Let’s put the idle gossip, sidebar conversations, personal attacks, etc. aside, and start engaging in constructive criticism that serves only one purpose-us getting better for our students and for each other.

Let’s recognize that we can no longer wait for the system to work out its own flaws, our admin to lay the hammer down, our union to fight our battles and make a commitment to our students and one another to be accountable for our actions.

Let’s build, from within, a system in which we are accountable to each other, and most importantly, our students.

Let’s stop using data to point fingers, place blame, whine about what we are unable to do (whatever the reason), and start using it to inform our teaching practices.

Let’s identify the talents that lie within us, capitalize on them, and use them to compensate for the areas in which each of us is weak.

Let’s establish a culture in which students recognize that failure is not an option and so do our teachers.

Let’s put an end to the mockery of what’s become of our profession, and take the steps necessary to replace nobility in what it means to be a teacher.

So, how can we do this?

I propose that we start engaging dialogue that is candid, honest, respectful, and leads to solutions rather than creating even more problems.

I propose that we not spend one more precious minute of COLLABORATION time talking about budgets, the trash on campus, what we perceive to be the incompetence of those around us, our marital/family/pet/car/etc. problems, and start using the time to focus on what we are going to do to improve student achievement.

And then, let’s do it.

I propose that we recognize the fact that we all of have different ideas of what it means to have a collaborative culture, and stop spending our Monday afternoons hiding behind the closed doors of our rooms with only the colleagues we trust, and convene in the library, with all of resources (primarily each other), and start fixing what is, and has been for too long, broken.

The issue is critical, more so than some of us care to admit, and the time to take action is now. Actually, it was yesterday, and even before that, so it must be NOW.

I understand that I am saying things that many of us don’t want to hear, presenting issues that we would rather not confront, and making suggestions that we fear we will not be able to fulfill. I understand that this letter will make me unpopular among some of you, and expect some criticism. And to be frank, I really don’t care. I say that with conviction because this isn’t about me, it’s not about you, it’s about the 900 lives that we are charged with five days a week, 180 days a year, and the job we elected to do.

Some of us will be convening in the staff lounge (in the cafeteria) tomorrow at lunch to begin this dialogue and create and action plan; however, I hope to see ALL of us there. Let’s face it; we don’t have until next week, next month or next year.

So, Esteemed Colleagues, I propose that we do everything we can to make us not just "Better than Good," but that we do whatever it takes to be more gooder.

No, scratch that. Let’s be great.


Sara Ballantine


Marni Muersch


On a daily basis I work coincidently with teachers that are constantly complaining but never do anything about it. When asked to help they are quickly to turn the other cheek. Everyone wants to point the finger but they are never able to accept any blame when the finger may turn on them. I find great pleasure in reading an article that highlights ones positive thoughts in the teaching field. I hope to continue making a difference in my school and I hope to implement similar things you have mentioned. I know not all people are receptive and this article gives me confidence.


Posted on

Kelley Hunt

Lately, we have all been talking about just this subject. Your manifesto really hit home! I'm going to share this with my grade level team and administration. Thanks for putting things into perspective.


Posted on


I also enjoyed the manifesto and wish to use the spirit of manifesto message to pose a process question on the development of the mission statement in regards to building culture. Prior to asking the question, I will provide some background of our current climate and where we are in the PLC implementation process.

Background: I am writing my question from the position of the school improvement leader for a high school that will begin PLC implementation next fall. In order to cultivate culture prior to beginning the 1st step of developing shared mission/vision/values/goals, our staff will read the book Getting Started: Reculturing Schools to Become Professional Learning Communities.

Once we are finished reading the book, I hope that we have built a foundation for a shared knowledge amongst the staff of the PLC principles. However, I am not so sure we will have developed the commitment to the underlying PLC principles, especially the commitment to ensuring that all students learn at a high level.

I believe our staff belief systems represent varying degrees of each of the the four assumptions of the statement "all kids can learn...." identified on pages 59-60 of Professional Learning Communities at Work. As a result, I anticipate challenges in obtaining staff consensus while developing a mission statement that commits to a high level of learning for all. I understand the importance of conversation and contention that leads to greater commitment to the mission statement. However, I do not want to get bogged down and lose momentum from too much contention.


1. I am aware of the questions identified for the mission development process on page 40 of Learning by Doing and pages 91-93 in The Collaborative Administrator. I plan to use some of these questions as a foundation for developing our mission. What are some other exercises that leadership teams have successfully used to build consensus amongst staffs and helps guide staff toward developing a mission statement that commits to ensuring a high level of student learning for all?

2. Are there points of contact out there at the high school level that have recently worked through the consensus building process of developing shared mission/vision/values/goals who could provide lessons learned?

Thank you,

Posted on

Twitted by jswiatek

[...] This post was Twitted by jswiatek - [...]

Posted on

Langwitches » links for 2009-04-30

[...] Stop Blaming and Take Action: One Teacher's Manifesto Dear Esteemed Colleagues, [...]

Posted on


I only wish that every teacher felt this way. I have encountered so many "professionals" that complain all day, but never come up with any solutions.
I love that this article showcases someone that is proactive in the teaching field. I hope to implement similar things in my school, but I do not know how receptive people will be. This article gives me hope.
Thank you,

Posted on


Sara, Wow! Just prior to reading your blog I sent out a message to my faculty about staying the course. I should have just sent your comments. I have included some of my comments to them and will share yours with them.

"....This is why it is even more important to stay the course.

I asked everyone in September to believe or behave as if you believe. Believe that all our students can be successful. Believe that everyday each one of us can become better at what we do. Believe that each one of us can help others become better. Of course, beliefs mean nothing if they do not turn into actions. Wouldn't it be EXTRAORDINARY if we spent our time making these beliefs our actions instead of wasting time trying to tear down those who believe and hold us back from becoming a better place? Wouldn't it be EXTRAORDINARY if we came to school each day all acting on the commitment that "we're not done until all kids learn?"

We can stay good and even great. That is a state of being, and we should celebrate when we do great things. EXTRAORDINARY is a state of becoming; a journey. Our moral purpose is to travel that journey. This is a choice, to go on this journey. No one has or will be excluded from being a part of this journey. Some of you may prefer to remain in a state of being. Some of you may prefer to say you are excluded. You are always welcome to join the journey. All I ask is that you believe or behave as if you believe. Because really, as a parent, do you want your kids learning in a school where everyone believes in being extraordinary or have them in a school where good is good enough?

Thank you.

Posted on

Robert Mackey

Bravo Sara! This is wonderfully stated and puts on the table the critical issues we face in bringing true long term reform to our public education system. As a superintendent I will be sharing this link with my Administrative Council to further get out to our faculty and staff. Your message speaks to the sense of urgency I have spoke about with our faculty and staff when it comes to addressing students not learning the commonly agreed upon essential skills and knowledge in each of our curriculum areas. In these tough economic times we face this year and into the future, your message can also serve as the explanation point at the end of the phrase,"we have an opportunity before us, and when we emerge from these next few years we need to be better at what we do and do it with less than ever before!"

Posted on


Very well said Ms. Ballantine... speaking from experience, just remember that initial enthusiasm is always strong and then will subside if you allow it to.. Keep the momentum and great things can be accomplished by a group of caring, competent professionals. Good luck to you and your colleagues!

Posted on