It's not quite November, but I'm already feeling thankful.
I had an opportunity to attend an all day learning experience on Friday that got me thinking about the kind of teachers I am fortunate to learn beside. We had the best day digging into the PLC process with Thomas Many, author of Learning by Doing and Leverage. As I reflect on what made the day so powerful, it all comes back to what these three teachers bring to the table every time we collaborate.
These teachers are learners. The PLC process is new for us this year, and they are comfortable jumping in to figure it out, and then jumping out to reflect on how it's going. They seek out thought partners in this work. They don't get overwhelmed, because they don't expect to be perfect at it yet. They expect learning to be messy (but totally worth it).
These teachers aren't afraid to share what isn't working. As we contrasted Thomas Many's version of intervention with our own RtI process, to say we experienced some cognitive dissonance would be putting it mildly. Teachers asked some hard questions and shared some honest reflections on where we are in this process. Instead of taking us someplace negative, making the vulnerabilities visible led to deeper questions and collaboration from the group. It felt safe to explore what was difficult, instead of feeling pressured to prove we could solve it. In fact, I might argue that being openly vulnerable enabled us to see (and be ready for) next steps that we might not have seen (or been ready for) without the reflective conversation.
The high level of collaboration on Friday was also a direct result of how connected our work is on a regular basis in the building. Because the special education teacher and I are part of their respective PLCs and/or RtI Planning time (plus coaching cycles and in-classroom time), we could connect our learning to specific examples from our recent work. Being able to say, "So last week when we. . ." or "Do you remember in that RtI meeting when. . ." was so affirming. We have begun to deprivatize practice in a way that facilitates deeper dialogue around our instruction. So when we engage in learning together, we can make sure it gets specific enough to lead to real growth.
Openness to Shift
My brain hurt by the end of the session--in the best possible way. And judging by the BMIRS flashing around the table all day, I was not the only one who experienced cognitive shift. Getting energized when you figure out something new--even if that something new rocks the foundation of what you thought you knew--that is an exceptional quality that all three of these teachers share.
This is the part of education that I love. The moments when you look around and appreciate what a gift it is to be a part of a learning community--whether we're talking about kids or adults. If we want to build learning communities with students, we must spend equal time and care building them with adults. Friday was my most recent "data point" that we're on the right track.
As a teacher or coach, what are the signs that your professional community is continuing to grow?