Putting the L back in PLC

Notes from the Classroom

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:

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 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.

How to Avoid the Educational Rut

Notes from the Classroom

Getting over the drudgery of winter can be tough; even if you’re lucky enough to have a classroom with windows, the view outside is grody (you heard me) and the sunlight feels almost colder than the fluorescence of the room lights. For me, the best cure (besides squinting) to get through the cold white season has always been to bury myself in one of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching:  


My PLC likes to busy itself updating, modifying, and re-imagining everything in our curriculum.  Yes, we do this yearly. For fun. And because it’s best practice.

The Risk of the Rut

Routine can be good–for kids and for teachers–but it can also become a rut really quickly. Ruts in education sometimes get so deep that it isn’t just our wheels getting stuck in them. They can get so deep that we can’t even see over the edges to look for other possibilities.

When you devote some of your time each week to innovative thinking, you find that being creative and exploring new possible content and activities for your class are pretty good substitutes for sunshine. I mean…except for all the things sunshine actually does.  

How to Avoid the Rut

Here’s how my PLC tends to spend the cold months:

  • Read like crazy. If you don’t already do independent reading in class, add it!  Discovering new books to share with your students is a fantastic way to refresh your own interests and connect with your readers.
  • Look for connections in the world–and stay connected to it. Nothing freshens up a stale unit like some current reading. What are your favorite websites for pleasure reading? For keeping up on the news? Pop culture?
  • Use Twitter. If you haven’t already connected with the infinite treasure trove of fellow educators and resources on this social platform, now’s the time to get your feet wet.  While the site can take a few days to get used to, you can explore completely passively, unlike on sites like Facebook where you have to “friend” other people just to see their thoughts.  
  • Write. It doesn’t matter what, just get back into the practice you spend so much time teaching your students! If you’re feeling ambitious, reach out to a favorite blog or organization and see if you could write a guest-post for them. Maybe keep a journal–or better yet, write the assignments you’re giving your kids right alongside them (sounds almost like a book title I’m rather fond of).  
  • Try something crazy. Give one day in your unit to the sort of lesson that only those maniacs on Pinterest would ever actually try doing in their classroom! Make up a game, get the kids moving, let them decide how to approach the next day’s discussion–break out of the routine and see if the energy doesn’t change.

Spring is coming soon enough, and once the air smells like blossoms and freedom, we start to think more about summer than about our unit plans. That’s okay–so do the kids. But it’s all the more reason to dedicate some time to re-energizing yourself with a bit of classroom innovation to distract everybody from that muddy, melty view out the classroom windows.

Michael ZieglerMichael Ziegler (@ZigThinks) is a Content Area Leader and teacher at Novi High School.  This is his 15th year in the classroom. He teaches 11th Grade English and IB Theory of Knowledge. He also coaches JV Girls Soccer and has spent time as a Creative Writing Club sponsor, Poetry Slam team coach, AdvancEd Chair, and Boys JV Soccer Coach. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan, majoring in English, and earned his Masters in Administration from Michigan State University.