Bill Hall

Bill Hall is former director of educational leadership and professional development for Brevard (Florida) Public Schools and past president of the Florida Association for Staff Development.

PLC Lessons Learned From the Corporate World

I thought it would be interesting to see how the corporate world might describe what PLCs are and are not by looking at slogans. Slogans like Kellogg’s “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” Purina’s “Doesn’t your dog deserve ALPO?” and R.J. Reynolds’s “I’d walk a mile for a Camel” weren’t particularly helpful, but here are a few that work.

Think Different
Apple’s early slogan underscores the importance of breaking with tradition as you work toward becoming a PLC. Schools must “think different” as they move from teacher isolation to collaboration and as they focus less on teaching and more on student learning. If past practice is not looked at critically, it will be challenging to change. Paradigms and bad habits that keep schools from being their best must be broken.

Just Do It
Nike’s slogan tells us how and when to start the journey to becoming a PLC. Waiting for everyone to embrace all PLC concepts at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Visionary leaders supported by guiding coalitions begin the journey to creating high-performing learning cultures. Schools waiting for the right time, the right place, the right everything go nowhere—just do it!

Connecting People
Nokia’s slogan reminds us that becoming a PLC is about connecting people. These connections are made through culture-building, collaboration, communication, and celebration. Nurturing relationships is essential to developing successful PLCs.

That Was Easy
Becoming a PLC is not easy. It is not a quick fix. It is not a program of the month. Schools hoping that Staples’s motto will be echoed throughout the process will be disappointed. Nothing we do in this profession is easy—never has been, never will be. Becoming a PLC is difficult work, but it gets easier and is definitely worthwhile.

The Australian telecommunications company, Optus, tells their customers “Yes!” Schools working to implement PLC concepts aren’t as fortunate, especially in the beginning stages of building collaborative cultures. As leaders help their teams become PLCs, they will surely hear terms like “no,” “I don’t want to,” “we can’t,” etc. The unknowns to becoming a PLC can be unsettling and scary. What appears to be resistance is most likely a lack of understanding. Once common vocabulary is understood and there is shared knowledge about what PLCs are, “no” becomes “yes” and “I won’t” changes to “I will.” Teams realize that change is not being done to them, but rather being made in partnership with them.

Set It and Forget It
We may be able to “set and forget” Ronco’s rotisserie ovens, but PLCs don’t give us that much freedom. Many schools develop PLCs but do not maintain them. In other cases, schools believe they are creating PLCs when in actuality they have no solid PLC foundation whatsoever. Sadly, these schools slide back to where they were before their journey began. Leaders and guiding coalitions must purposefully lead PLCs and never take their hands off the tiller. When the school leader leaves, there is always the chance the culture will revert to the way things were. Schools must be ever vigilant to not “set and forget” any aspect of becoming a PLC.


Karen Smith-James

I enjoyed reading that post. It gave me much insight on the realities that exist in schools that try to form PLC groups. It can either be productive or unproductive. When it is productive schools and in particular, teachers benefit from the knowledge they gain while working with colleagues. They gain new insights about how to help their students learn. Teachers just "do it" because they realize the awesome responsibility they have as educators. :)


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norma aguayo

I find that the need for team sustainability is a must for collaborative groups to continue once the leaders have moved on. We have undergone administrative changes, and found that our sustainability is now being challenged by the leaders. Conforming to the new leaders' vision has been rather rough as teams had for the most part been successful in the past. Change can be difficult on any end of the spectrum.

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My I enjoyed your writing.
I particularly agree with set it and forget it. We have to develop teacher leaders on every campus, aside from the administrators, so that PLC's do not leave when the "sponsor" does. Teachers can lead from the classroom. We do not all have to become administrators to lead our campus or peers into the next century and generation in education.
Thanks for the educational, and humorous, twist of the corporate "money" tags. :)

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