This year, our school has established our first “official” Professional Learning Team (PLT). We set the groundwork last school year so we would be ready to hit the ground running as soon as school began this year. I plan to document our journey here. I realize that many schools already have PLTs (sometimes called PLCs) in place, but most of them tend to be at the elementary or middle school level. In my preparation for this year, I found that PLTs are not very common at the high school level. Maybe because it is harder to carve out time during the day when everyone can meet? I’m not sure, but that was the first thing we addressed when we made the commitment to establishing our PLT this year. Thankfully, we were able to partner with AMSTI (Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative) who provided substitutes for 4 days as well as the books for our book study. This was such a blessing!! We decided to meet 8 half days (4 each semester) instead of 4 full days.
Our PLT consisted of representatives from every core subject (the department heads), as well as teachers from the Career Tech department, and our Athletic department (including our head football coach). Such a variety of teachers!– Some experienced (30+ years), and some newbies (less than 3 years). I think this is going to provide some amazing experiences during our meetings 🙂
In planning for our first PLT meeting, my Principal and I met to brainstorm our thoughts on the book, the direction for the PLT, and the main things we want to accomplish for the whole year.. basically just making sure we share a common vision for our mission. After that, I proposed a basic agenda and we thought of activities that would help us build our team. We felt was imperative that our PLT members get to know each other and spend time bonding so that mutual trust would have a fertile ground to grow.
We began with a group activity that celebrated things we had in common, our “uniqueness” and identified what we expected from the session. This activity was so much fun! I learned so much about my co-workers that I really never knew 🙂 It was a good way to loosen everyone up a little lol.
Our second task was to agree upon the norms for the group…. In other words, how we want to do the business of learning together. I think this step is an important part of everyone sharing ownership in the PLT. It’s important to know and clarify expectations when you’re working in a group setting.
After the establishment of common expectations for our group, it was time to get down to the business of learning about Professional Learning Teams. One of our major driving forces in establishing a PLT at our school is to work towards a shift in the school culture to a more collaborative model. So, we explored key ideas associated with professional learning communities and how teams function effectively. We also informally assessed our school’s culture with a short survey. Then, we mapped our results. This will definitely be repeated at the last meeting so that we can visually see our progress towards a more collaborative culture!
Before we began the “book study” part where we examined the 4 principles explained in The Fred Factor , we watched the video clip from Angela Maiers “You Matter”
It was an excellent bridge into The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn. This was probably the most powerful part of our first session. Teachers shared personal stories and really opened up about how they thought we can work towards changing the culture of our school this year. It was amazing! It really makes you appreciate your co-workers when you hear some of their stories and personal thoughts. I think this was my favourite part of the day!
We concluded by watching Rita Pierson’s Ted Talks video “Every Kid Needs A Champion”. It is a MUST SEE for every educator! So powerful!
Overall, I think it was a very productive first session in the life of our PLT. We established the groundwork for what we expect from each other as well as what we expect to accomplish this year. Next time, my Principal and I will be “passing the torch” to two other team members to lead us. (I will still help with the planning and activity selection though 🙂 ) We think it this is an important part of making our PLT a safe learning environment for everyone… No one person is “in charge”… Everyone has an equally strong, important voice in everything we do. I think this is one of the best professional learning experiences I have had the opportunity to participate in and I think we all look forward to our next meeting 😉