Sunday, May 31, 2015

Who's in Your Boat? Working Together as a Professional Learning Community

I really like this cartoon.  It clearly illustrates dysfunctional teams--members don't realize that for their organization to be effective, all members need to pitch in, problem solve, and work together.

One very effective way that our school system makes sure we are working together as a team is by forming Professional Learning Communities (PLC).  I belong to two different PLCs---the special education PLC in my school composed of resource teachers, therapists, and system level teachers.  I also belong to a PLC composed of all of the speech-language pathologists in the district. The concept behind professional learning communities is great---implementation takes work.

When I look around my school, it's clear to me which teams are working together to keep their boat afloat.  Those are the teams that divide the workload, share lesson plans, share materials, and meet regularly.  They problem solve together about challenging children, and when a teacher needs help, these teams actually share their assistants.  A good PLC has a organized dedicated leader who other team members respect, and the leader, in turn, respects the members of the PLC.  Without naming specific names, the second grade PLC in my school is wonderful, and if I had a child of that age, I would feel comfortable with him or her in any of the classrooms.

Another team that is functioning in an awesome way is our SLP team---We have regular meetings, and attempt to stay 'on the same page' in terms of placing students in speech, writing similar IEP goals, using research based practice, and problem-solving.  Often a speech pathologist from one school will help out someone at another with assessments and therapy.  Materials are shared, and advice given freely.  Members congratulate others on their successes, and there are always shoulders to cry on during sad times.  All of this takes place under our lead, who also shares the caseload.  As each year goes on, this PLC becomes stronger and more effective.

The point is, if you feel lost and alone in your job, hook up with professionals who are literally  'in your boat' (working in your organization).  Find times to meet and problem solve.  Share time, materials, and advice.  Set goals. Work on some common professional development together.  Our SLP group does this, and the results have been amazing!

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