PLC–this acronym is known (and often not loved) by educators far and wide. For most, PLC time is a once-a-week meeting with their subject area or grade level that usually becomes consumed with to-do’s and data; very little professional learning is actually happening during these times.
As a result, teachers often walk away feeling like they have more to do and less time in which to do it.
So where does learning come in? This can happen during professional development offered by the district, through book studies at the department or building level, or through teachers’ attending conferences or trainings on their own. But this usually takes away the community aspect of PLCs. We all know how important it is to think and toss around ideas with other educators; it is this process that truly makes us grow.
This year I am in a new position and while we have a PLC time every week, I find that our time does not always lend itself to study and discussion. What I have noticed is that, to fill the gap, I find myself spending more time reading online, following twitter feeds and blogs, and engaging in both face-to-face and virtual dialogue with others to push my thinking. Even though I am just getting started, I am creating my own PLC and I love it.
Building a Community with Twitter
Twitter is an amazing resource to get you going on creating your own PLC. Be intentional. Find someone that you admire in education–from educators to researchers to authors such as:
- Ron Ritchhart (@RonRitchhart)
- Howard Gardner (@DrHowardGardner)
- TED Talks (@TEDtalks)
- John Schu (@MrSchuReads)
- Natalie Lloyd (@_natalielloyd)
With these feeds, you’ll find links to blogs, resources, and articles to stimulate your thinking and connect you to like-minded educators. This is also a great way to find materials to take back to your team to begin to create the PLC that you would like to have. I only use my Twitter account for professional content, so I only follow people or groups that are going to enrich my feed.
Finding the Time with Twitter
On top of everything else, it can be hard to think about work when you are not working. (Actually, work is pretty much all teachers think about when they are not at school!) I know that I will spend time on social media when I have a few minutes of downtime in the evening. There are usually posts on Facebook that I might save for later that are related to school, but when I click over to Twitter, I get posts of substance that elevate my thinking.
These Twitter posts lead me down paths to resources that I can apply to my practice and share. The beautiful thing about this is that it doesn’t take up hours. I suppose it could, but given the concise nature of Twitter, I have a pretty good idea right off if I’m going to click more or not.
But what about People?
While all of this is great, I have still found that the best collaboration and growth comes from face-to-face interactions. I have been able to work this year with our subject area coordinator for Social Studies and Science, and we have shared incredibly rich conversations and thinking. I attended Design for Deep Thinking at the Whole Mind Design Studio with a teacher from our junior high school, for instance; the event broadened my understanding of her work and the implications for our work at the elementary level.
If there are people in your district whom you respect, want to learn more about, or who make you think “Yes!” when you hear them speak at meetings, reach out. Make connections. You will grow and be happier. I promise.
Beth Rogers (@bethann1468) has taught in the elementary setting for the past 11 years. During this time, she earned her Master’s in Educational Technology from Michigan State University. This year, she is in a new position: Instructional Technologist K-12. This gives her the unique opportunity to work with teachers and students, district wide, to incorporate technology into their teaching and learning, in ways that engage, enhance, and extend the learning. She has already already begun to work with multiple classrooms to engage students in blogging, and to help teachers understand the power of this platform. At home, she lives with her husband, sons, and an anxiety-ridden German Shepherd who requires inordinate amounts of time and attention.