I finished the book Every School, Every Team, Every Classroom a couple of weeks ago.
Although written to support District Leadership for Growing Professional Learning Communities at Work, I read it from the perspective of a building principal growing a learning community at school. I was re-inspired.
A few years ago I had the privilege of attending a professional learning community summit with Richard & Rebecca DuFour over the period of two years. The first summit I attend was with district leaders and the second was with my building staff. Each experience was a powerful change agent for new thinking and best practices on creating a student centered learning system. The essential questions of a PLC continue to be my guiding force to improve student achievement and adult actions in our own learning community.
Eaker & Keating remind educators to keep returning to the why--ensuring high levels of learning for each of our students. Although proceed with caution. "The mission is not to become a professional learning community but to ensure learning (p. 40). Leadership matters in this new way of leading schools. Leaders must have a passion and will to disperse leadership into the classroom and facilitate targeted professional development to shift new thinking from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning.
Recently I attended a professional development session for principals of schools in improvement for the State of Oregon. Janell Keating was the keynote speaker and inspired each of us with her passion and persistence on how we as building leaders can be intentional and relevant as we create our own learning communities. She reminded us our mindset and way of thinking is the first step towards creating a school we would want our own children to attend. Build trust, act trustworthy and get rid of the words "At Risk". We can change our school culture with our attitude, opinions, and behaviors and most importantly celebrate what your value regularly.
Chapter six is the heart of the process to ensure your learning community is focused on student learning. "If we really mean it" our work will be focused around the four critical questions and the "interconnectedness of the work that occurs in teams" (p. 112). "A professional learning community requires a structural and cultural shift from a focus on teaching and covering content to a focus on high levels of student learning for each and every student (p. 131).
My ah-ha moment came when Keating talked about as a building administrator we need to not only support the system to do the work, but more importantly to monitor the products of the work. Frankly it is easy to get lost in tracking which grade level teams is at what step in the process. I don't want to get caught in that trap and Keating says I am not alone in that thinking. Which products does an administrator monitor? Here is the beginning of my list for Monday.
Standards--unwrapped priority and supporting
Pacing Guides--linear and across grade levels
Assessments--formative and checks for understanding
Student work-patterns and data
Learning Targets--with success criteria
Administrators also need time to get to the table and ask questions to determine what next steps are needed to propel the school forward with a laser focus on student learning. Including, "What kind of school would we consider good enough for our own children?" and "What would a PLC look like if we really meant it when we said we are committed to ensuring the learning of each of our students?" Then listen to learn to how "to support and monitor the critical work of teacher teams" (back cover) in every team and in every classroom in our school.