Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Respect, we need it to achieve ~!

In the September 2011 issue of Educational Leadership, Marie Nathalie Beaudoin states: “Teachers who are stressed, unhappy, and unsupported by their peers are more inclined to treat their students with disrespect.” (p. 40) An educator’s feelings of inclusion or isolation are reflected in his treatment of students.

Some teachers use a designated lunch period to connect with others – often these center around unproductive comments about students, administrators, or other ills of school life. This has a 2-pronged effect:
  1) a teacher either participates to be 1 of the ‘gang’ and harbors negativity – stress, unhappiness
              2) a teacher removes himself from the situation and becomes isolated – stress, unhappiness
Either way, it’s a no-win situation. So, what does a teacher need to feel respected? 

If the teacher is respected, valued and supported, his students will be also.

Schools need to implement a culture of appreciation and support. Teachers need to learn from one another, seek out assistance, try new techniques, expand current practices and be actively engaged in pedagogy.
Administrators need to develop a current focus/topic for discussion for all staff members. Something as simple as a school-wide email sent with an ‘idea of the day’ or ‘quote of the day’ to get people talking to one another. 

Professional Learning Communities can be initiated – either by grade level, academic content area, experience level, related arts, specialists, interest areas….. There may be a group of people who are interested in Marzano’s High Yield Teaching Strategies. Get people talking about, thinking about, inquiring with others – applying it to their classrooms. Teachers will be empowered and feel respected and appreciated.

When teachers are respected by other teachers, relationships form – respected by administrators, relationships form – and teachers respect students. Only then will students achieve.

So, in this day how do we form PLCs without adding another hour to the day? Hmmmmmm….

It’s a Great Day!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Professional Development (PD) in the schools most often frustrates administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, and related service personnel. Administrators are frustrated because of budgetary constraints, staff attitudes and little lasting impact to what they find to be 'good' PD for their districts. Teachers are aggravated because they are not vested and feel devalued in the process as their needs and interests are not being met. They are achieving high scores on Word with Friends, but nothing to truly impact their teaching. Paraprofessionals, a group most interested in getting new information, is the group most neglected and considered last in planning. Related service people (SLP, OT, PT, APE, etc.) are mandated to attend PD having no relevance to their responsibilties nor expertise. It is a wonder that good PD even occurs, does it occur?

The best PD for educators is one that is relevant, timely, needed, and impacting. PD that allows participants to be valued, vested and supported. Current PD modules are primarily a point and shoot PD; have the participants take a pretest, watch a video, and take a post-test. This makes is easy for administrators as they can essentially check off who has completed what and move on. BUT, what do the participants get - little, other than the check in their file. Other districts use the guest speaker approach - he/she comes in and does a song and dance routine, a canned presentation, with little short or long term impact - not a lot of bang for the buck.

Recent literature supports the development of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). PLCs encourage participant buy-in, a supportive learning environment, individual and collective learning. The strength of PLCs lie in the necessary group interaction. Many schools have formed PLCs around a shared text, topic, or inquiry; some have met success. Problems arise in trying to schedule a mutually convenient time that becomes a shared, committed priority. People today are "stretched" - family, work, regular life - don't forget you need to 'do it all to have it all' and one more responsibility might just send you over the edge. I know it would me. So, what's a district to do? How can they provide the appropriate and required PD?

Hmmmmmmmmm, that's the magic bullet question, more, next time...........................

It’s a Great Day!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Brief PD History

The ideas behind professional development for educators is almost as old as public schools themselves.  Often, PD has a deserved reputation of being expensive, vague, and ineffective.  The basic workshop approach was often perceived as a day away from students with little to show for it afterward but doodles on the handouts.

But things began to change in the 1990s.  Public education began to see the development of "inquiry teams."   Generally, all the third grade teachers would get together before school, plan a less or two, maybe read a chapter in a book, give students an assessment, then analyze the data.  Many districts have embraced this approach because it's cheap and is district-specific.  Even so, there is research that says even this approach isn't terribly effective.

And still there are gaps.

Very little district-devised district-wide PD has anything to do with a good portion of the teaching staff.  For example, the Art, Music, and PE teachers aren't invested in academic learning in the same ways that content-area teachers are.  And special educators are marginalized too.  Those folks really need PD designed specifically for them; something that many districts just don't have the time, expertise, or energy to create. Most often schools assign paraprofessionals to support students with disabilities, most of whom do not hold college degrees, have little to no experience with students with disabilities are often thrown to the wolves without much training at all, even though parapros crave responsible and effective training. What is intended as assistance to the teaching staff actually becomes a hindrance, and the people who are hurt the most are our students.

As we work toward developing 21st Century Skills in our students, educators who value life-long learning, work to find new and improved ways to support teachers in their need for ongoing, effective, and valuable professional development. 

We need to put the days of ticket-punch training behind us.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Shawn and I had often talked of working together professionally and our personal circumstances have now given us the opportunity to help teachers teach, a goal and interest we'd shared for years.  We shared the challenges, frustrations, joys, and successes of working through our doc program together.

I'd worked as an speech/language pathologist for over 20 years.  I'd taught gifted students and junior high schoolers under my other teaching licenses.  I'd worked in both public and private schools.  I'd written hundreds of IEPs and led as many meetings.  And somehow, I'd become the go-to person for all things Special Ed in my building, even though I wasn't the supervisor. 

I am grateful that my superiors recognized and valued my expertise.  I was given the opportunity to develop and lead trainings on writing IEPs, using visual supports with students with disabilities, increasing parent involvement, and differentiation for both gifted and children with disabilities. As I finished my terminal degree, my university awarded me an adjunct teaching position for graduate students which I still enjoy. 

So this was an easy decision.  Through PLC Consultants, I've been able to realize my dream of supporting teachers and paraprofessional in real, tangible ways.  Shawn and I developed learning modules that are so much more than canned presentations where you watch a video and take a quiz and post a quick comment on some discussion board. 

We decided that reframing Professional Learning Communities through the lens of technology would afford educators the opportunity to interact with their colleagues in their own work setting in new and meaningful ways.  We developed strategies for Professional Investigations that nurture collaboration, innovation, and mutual support and accountability.  And so, PLC Consultants was born.

As we continue to refine our website and our learning modules, please accept my personal invitation to take a look for for yourself.  We'll continue to write about the value of PLCs here as well.  We encourage you to share your comments with us too.

Stay tuned for more.

Friday, September 2, 2011

My turn...

Yes, Pam and I have discussed ways to improve education by validating, supporting, and encouraging teachers as they impact all students. Often students with exceptional learning needs (ELN, gifted to identified disabilities) are placed in the general education environment; this impacts EVERYONE! The vast majority of general educators were not required to take coursework in their teacher preparation program to educate all children; they were instructed how to teach to "the middle", the average student.

Just what is the average student? I do not think I have ever met one. Just talk to parents, you will discover that each child has some unique quality and need about them that truly is not addressed in "the middle" where most of our educators are trained to teach.

Additionally, many general education teachers do not view students with ELN as their responsibility, they "belong" to the teacher down the hall in the resource room. This is likely out of fear, inexperience, and lack of knowledge and support rather than the teacher not wanting to work with the students. Our goal is to provide teachers with the knowledge and skill set to step out of their average student comfort zones and initiate real changes in their daily teaching.

It’s a Great Day!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What are Professional Learning Communities?

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are well-researched in current literature and their value is undisputed. PLCs can address the standards and accountability concerns found in the No Child Left Behind Act. Educators seek autonomy in their daily work but it has often undermined collaboration and created a competitive environment. In contrast, educators who are part of a PLC can affirm autonomy, collaboration, and mutual accountability (Muirhead, 2009).

Additionally, PLCs offer a format that provides educators with the opportunity to share with others the most important skills and knowledge that students require to be successful. Educators within a PLC can focus on collective knowledge that occurs within a cohesive group with an ethic of interpersonal caring.