Throughout an academic year, an instructional coach can find themselves going through cycles when working within professional learning communities (PLCs).  When you reflect on the function of your PLC group, it is easy to see how the PLC could loose focus on the main goals.  If the facilitator of the PLC doesn’t recognize the need for re-calibration early enough even the most dedicated group of educators could become completely derailed and discouraged.  As a result of experiencing PLC train wrecks as well as PLC success stories, I developed the following short refocusing exercise for the instructional coach or PLC facilitator to implement with a team of teachers.  Every team has different dynamics, but usually, around mid-year, a very observant instructional coach could begin to notice the signs that suggest it is time for a PLC Refocus.  This is simple in concept, but it requires skillful execution.  If the timing is right and the approach is non-judgmental the PLC could benefit greatly.  Give it a try, and share your results.

PLC Refocus Framework

Focus on Learning Focus on Collaboration Focus on Results Focus on Support
1. How are our actions reflecting that our focus is on student learning! 1. What are our team’s unique strengths and weaknesses? 1. How do you know that collaborative planning times are effective? 1. Specifically, how can external people and resources provide more support towards our efforts?
2. What tools do you use to reveal student understanding?  How do the results impact our collaboration? 2. How are we holding one another accountable for behaviors and actions? 2. What evidence do you see as a result of our collaborative planning?  Is there a significant change or are we doing what we have always done? 2. How could an instructional coaching impact our team?
3. As a group what obstacles are holding us back from establishing more productive collaborative planning time?

Revisiting PLC Norms
Present each question to the entire team for collaboration and ask them to share their thoughts one question at a time.  Ask clarifying questions like those below to simplify the group’s responses and collect their final answers.

  1. What will you say and do when you disagree?
  2. What will you say and do when you are not comfortable with a concept or teaching strategy?
  3. What will you say and do when a colleague achieves a goal?
  4. What will you say and do when a colleague doesn’t follow the PLC Norms?

Are you the type of teacher who looks forward to summer professional development, or are you trying to avoid anything related to learning until you absolutely have to go to a training seminar? Chances are you are somewhere in the middle. If you find yourself looking for a relaxing yet meaningful way to grow professionally this summer, try these quick and easy activities

Write a book or article review
How often do you get the chance to really get engulfed in academic reading?  If you have ever had the urge to get to the heart of a troubling issue in education or simply have wanted to learn something new about your craft, the summer break is the perfect time to dive right in.  Even during the summer, our lives can be busy, but without the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day classroom and school activities, we can really take the time to dissect an academic topic at your leisure.  Make a list of the educational topics that pique your interest or get you on a soapbox the quickest.  Then, search for relevant journals, books, or research articles, and strive to make the complex plain.   Analyze the reading as though you were going to be responsible for supporting a new teacher on that topic.  Before long, you will discover just how much you can grow professionally from simply researching topics of your choice during the summer break.