The holidays are a time for me to catch up with family and friends. I had a chance to meet with some former colleagues, and as much as I try not to talk shop, it always ends up creeping in. We began discussing the usual admin stuff, and then a conversation about Personal Learning Communities (PLC’s) arose. The practice has been in place for most of New Jersey for around eight years. The colleague was rather miffed at fellow colleague responses to say the least.
One of the many pitfalls of being in a small school is the lack of time, lack of interest (due to previous administrators trying to implement it incorrectly), or collaboration; not because folks don’t want to, but there is no other person to do it with in the same field (i.e. one art teacher, one 4th grade teacher, etc.). Being on your own island all day is tough, but it does not have to be so hard to the point of isolating everyone else. Thankfully, the internet and the explosion of Personal Learning Networks has allowed those in singleton situations to connect, learn, and grow. The roadblock in this case was very clear – not wanting to do it.
The colleague tried to revise my previous program and attempted to establish some PLC action. It didn’t have to be followed to the T, but a modicum of dialogue was the only item wanted. If the PLC was established – to talk even bi-weekly for a few minutes to simply go over some vertical articulation – it would be beneficial for every learner in the school. The colleague has spent at least two months exposing and adjusting students to the common core standards, something that the students have not even seen before because that teacher does not even understand what common core is nor is going to even try to. The colleague wants
Instead, the old-school with the ‘we’re not changing mindset ‘ interpreted the comment as “the teacher is not doing the job” and got all offended. Sadly, I’m not surprised.
This was the same building where I had the opportunity to collaborate with education specialists from the NJDOE. These are full-time curriculum people, well versed in today’s educational practices and what kids need and how they learn today. Invited them in for ELA and Math. We orchestrated a full day to review model curriculum and see where it goes. I started off the meeting and had to leave to take care of administrative duties. The moment I left, the gripe session started. And it wasn’t a 15-minute session (which is in every place) – for almost TWO HOURS – by the same person. Every idea was shot down; every suggestion or tip was met with an eye roll. The worst part – there is no other place to put this teacher because it’s a small school. Fast forward to a week later, the curriculum specialist came back to me, with her supervisor, to tell me that she could not work with the team because of the one teacher’s domination of negativity. I can’t imagine hearing anything worse than that.
I have mentioned in previous blog posts about “horse trading” and burying the useless. It’s very hard to do in a small school – especially when you already have a bunch of folks already buried in one place.
Back to the conversation at hand – the colleague was very sad due to the lack of cooperation and collaboration. The colleague wants to get better and be the best of the students – not count down the watch until retirement. My advice was simple: stay on the path, chin up, and keep doing what’s best for kids. Your hard work shines with those that mean the most — our learners. Until then, thanks for knowing that the PLC is a part of our educational nomenclature, not just a fad.