When Norms Mean Something…

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. Continue reading

Professional Learning Community Continuous Improvement

I recently revisited the text Learning by Design by Cassandra Erkens and Eric Twadell. The authors share a model having seven leadership practices for highly effective Professional Learning Communities leaders. Core to these practices are:

  • creating and sustaining collaborative relationships
  • aligning systems
  • facilitating shared responsibility.

Furthermore the model has the element of building coherence and clarity as the basis or foundation. Surrounding the core is:

  • modeling practices and expectations
  • reflection on leadership effectiveness of self and others.

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Professional Learning Communities

Several years ago, I was introduced to the concept of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) when I attended a PLC at Work conference in Syracuse in July, hosted by OCM BOCES. My colleagues and I saw how PLC would address so many of the issues in our district. We were pumped with this new information and could not wait to get started. In fact, we were so anxious to get started we worked a week in August with the intent to roll out a PLC in September. I realize now that we were rather naïve in our thinking of PLC—treating it like a thing, a quick-fix strategy—and that we were ready to implement without planning for implementation and how to sustain growth in our organization. If I were to go back in time and work with my former colleagues, I would recommend that we collaboratively plan using the following questions proposed by Solution Tree around foundational PLC themes: Continue reading

Reflection in Community

John Dewey believed that reflection is a pivotal aspect of the learning process. It is the thing that makes the learning stick so that it might deepen our understanding around a topic as well as support further learning and discovery. This blog is about reflection, namely reflection in community. When teachers learn together, we find it helpful to have protocols to support and refine our reflection. The National School Reform Faculty offers frameworks that facilitate our analysis. Recently, I used a revised format of this protocol with a group of educators who just finished their second year exploring and implementing Project-based Learning with special education students. The group agreed that the framework enabled them to not only think about what was happening in their classrooms, but also to see how others might view the learning experiences. Continue reading

Good Teaching

I am currently reading Best Practices at Tier One: Daily Differentiation for Effective Instruction by Gayle Gregory, Martha Kaufeldt and Mike Mattos. In the introduction, the authors highlight that Response to Intervention or RtI ranks second in the most effective influences, inside or outside of school that can increase student performance according to Hattie (2012) meta-analysis (p. 1). The authors go on to point out that the entire RTI framework and process is founded upon effective, grade-level core instruction- or in other words Tier 1 instruction. Continuing on, they make the point that the most common reason that schools struggle to successfully implement RTI goes back to having (or not having) effective core instruction. Continue reading

Indulge in Instructional Rounds!

As we enter this season of indulgence (for some of us, at least), I’d like to share my new favorite form of professional development: Instructional Rounds is a collaborative approach utilized for the sole purpose of improving individual practice.  This past summer, at New Tech Network’s 2015 conference, I had the opportunity to attend a session around the what, why and the how of “Rounds”. The session was offered by educators from Katherine Smith School in San Jose, California. Much of their research and practice is based on the book, Instructional Rounds in Education, by Elizabeth City and Richard Elmore. So, I read the book and it has changed the way I engage in professional development! Continue reading

When ALL Really Does Mean ALL

Is it really the middle of October already?! This means that we have been meeting, planning, teaching and reflecting for about six weeks. We’ve been building solid routines and getting to know our students. We’ve had Open Houses and maybe even been to some professional development. But let’s take a moment to breathe and think back to this summer’s PLC at Work Summer Institute that OCM BOCES hosted and Solution Tree presented. For me, it was three days of pure, transformational inspiration. Continue reading