Professional Learning Communities: Breaking Them Down into Ps & Ls & Cs

April 30, 2015

This morning I had the wonderful opportunity to work and think with Dylan William around professional learning communities and formative assessment. There were a lot of things that struck home for me, but one was the way he broke down the term “Professional Learning Community.”

He shared how a PLC needs to be Professional – meaning that teachers are working together to improve, not that they are bad, but in order to become better. They need to be accountable to themselves as a community of peers in order to improve the learning of students. They become critical friends working together in a collaborative laboratory where we question, think, experiment, test, assess, and reflect. It involves a plan of action and peer-feedback, and looking at the problem as a team.

In his mind, a PLC needs to be focused on Learning – meaning not just teacher learning, but that we are focused on the improvement of student outcomes around learning, and that they are able to have evidence that this is taking place (or not) and why. In the end, it is not all about what did they learn, but what are we doing for those who did not learn, and how do we improve it for all.

Lastly, PLCs are Communities – meaning that teachers are engaged in a joint enterprise and are working together collaboratively; they have mutual engagement in the issues they are working together on, in order to become better educators.

One of the facts that he shared was that strangers can predict your IQ better then you can… I think this is a great example of our own perception levels in self-evaluation and why we must work together, as we all have times when we think we know what we’re doing or think our messaging is clear, but… As a principal, that happens to me often, and I utilize others to help me take a clear look at if I am being effective and how to I could improve.

One of the biggest points I took was that PLCs are not a teacher meeting. PLCs are not a team-planning meeting. They are not figuring out what you are doing next week or doing field trip forms or other minutia.

They are about helping ourselves and each other to become better at engineering student learning.

It would be interesting to ask the question of a large number of teachers: “Are you an above average teacher?” I don’t know of any teachers who would not agree… So, how do we help each other to become above above average educators? (AAA Educators?)

We are all emerging, and once we accept this, we will be on the road to excellent learning! Show me an amazing teacher, and you will show me an amazing learner… 🙂

Work hard and learn tons!



The “Orff the Wall!” Performance In One Word…

April 15, 2015


Carl Orff (1895-1982) composed one of my favorite pieces of music, Carmina Burana. He was also an educator in the sense that he created a philosophy and approach toward music education. His thinking was that students needed to experience music, through movement, dance, physical interaction, instrumental, and choral methods. Putting it all together gave students much deeper understanding of the music that they were learning before jumping completely into theory. Music is something kids need to experience. (This is my own take on it, so I apologize if anything is off…)

Our school was part of the “Orff the Wall” concert on Monday evening at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary. The performances were absolutely amazing by each school, as well as the huge numbers where all the students banded together to do the big introduction and finale. It made me amazingly proud to see our students engaging in music in ways that I just never had the opportunity for. Wow, do I wish I could have connected with music in similar ways when I was young!

Belvedere Parkway students performed a song called “Lullaby,” where they were using instruments, dance, body percussion, movement, and singing to create a dynamic performance that even included props and birdcalls. The work that these kids have been putting in since January paid off completely. The engagement that we could see and the excitement that they exuded demonstrated a different connection with music instruction compared to when I grew up, as I remember music being something where you do what you’re told rather than demonstrate a passion for.

Now, in my very old age, I am very passionate about music but just never had developed a practical or theoretical background from when I was younger. Now, I so wish I had learned an instrument and learned more about music, so that I could be on par with these amazing kids, who I hope will continue to pursue their music education in the future! With music teachers like we saw on Monday, I am sure this would have good odds!

To all the performers and teachers who were involved in the Orff the Wall performance, I was so proud of your work and I was proud of our work in the CBE to show what happens when true engagement takes place in learning! Phenomenal work, all!

Work hard, learn tons!

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