Laura Servage asks the question that is at the core of my reflection: “In a time-pressured and accountability oriented political climate, how can we justify collaborative time that is not directly focused on specific changes to classroom practices?”
Just hearing the term “PLC” results in a gag reflex. Another example of a top down pedagogical idea that is imposed on teachers already struggling with a heavy workload and too little time.
Here’s what I agree with:
- Action and reflection are intertwined and continuously inform each other.
- Hasty and formalized mission statements, goals and/or values are elicited from staff in the interests of getting to the real business of staff meetings or pro-days. The result is something that has no personal resonance for anyone. Just another thing to be done.
- The sense of purpose etc. has to come from staff and needs to evolve from a need, tension felt in the classroom., a basis for inquiry, a search (neverending) for resolution to a problem or concern.
The question I have is about the time needed to pursue these inquiries. WHere does it come from?
This idea relates to my practice because I believe that all of us, as teachers and professionals, need to look outside of our small rooms for support and information that will improve our practice. Discussion and collaboration with other professionals is incredibly valuable (but not valuable enough for administrators or school boards to support by providing time, just to impose). The time I make and pay for in attending this course is testament to my belief in the importance of collaboration. I believe that the discourse we have on Tuesdays is helping me to assimilate ideas that will improve my practice.
Solutions: Whatever label is put on collaborative time, there seemed to be a consensus that time, regular and within the school week, is required in order for colleagues to have regular conversations. Time is required for conversations to evolve, go deeper in a search for answers to bigger questions, questions that are generated by teachers. Time needs to be built in to the teacher’s week, not added on to an already insurmountable load.
Conversations that are meaningful and intentional would take place in an environment where open dialogue is valued and promoted. Administrators need to support, not interfere or direct the conversations.
Not working: Currently,time with colleagues is spent disseminating information rather than discussing issues and ideas or developing solutions. It is a game of trivial pursuit, where the focus is on how fast one can leave the meeting. There is a sense of mistrust, where the focus is on accountability and quantitative data production rather than meaningful, deep engagement. Without a tangible product, can we really be earning our salaries?
As teachers, we allow ourselves to be controlled by outside forces rather than taking a leadership role. We comply and follow rather than take a role in directing the our path.
When I first started thinking about my inquiry, I was concerned with the health and well-being of teachers but dismissed it as less important than a more student-focused inquiry. Now, I feel that the conversations I have with my cohort each week is important for improving my sanity as well as my practice.
Currently, conversations with my colleagues at work are not about what our student’s are learning, or why we do what we do. We don’t discuss (or not often) the rationale behind our practice. When I hear PLC’s discussed or being presented at staff meetings, I dig my heels in , not because it is a bad idea but because I am being told to do something. AGAIN! I am sure I am not the only one, which is why they haven’t really flown in my district (at least, not among my colleagues).
Can I make this happen in my school? Not without the support of my admin team and my colleagues (and myself).