One crucial aspect of learning in community, in essence, within the framework of a Professional Learning Community, might just be the norms that each group creates and agrees to abide by when they plan to grow together professionally. Recently, someone said to me, “Every time this group gets together to inquire about practice or hash something out, the norms need to be revisited”. She went on to say that it is vital for the norms to be shared with the group in relation to the work of the day. A facilitator might ask participants to note the agenda, reconnect with the shared norms and determine which norm in particular they will have to pay attention to so that they might collaborate productively. This powerful “check and measure” often gets overlooked because we are all so busy; however, if just a few moments are taken to revisit and recast our alignment with the team rules of engagement, the worktime can be productive.
So, this month, I urge you to think about those first few minutes when you next connect with your learning community. How will you ensure that the norms are an integral, organic part of your inquiry? For example, if you are engaging in a protocol around looking at student work, are their certain norms that will maintain the safety and integrity of the group members? If you are jumping into some new learning, is there a collaborative indicator that honors risk-taking and an acceptance of all ideas? Might there even be certain protocols that support the habits of mind necessary for the work of the day? The National School Reform Faculty has protocols that support most of what learning communities set out to do when they get together. Perhaps the facilitator of the team can pull protocols that honor the essence of the day’s meeting. That way, the rules are there for everyone, and your time together can truly feed your professionalism. Learning communities, when approached honorably and honestly with an eye on true collaboration can be a powerful and fulfilling form of professional learning.