Goal 5: Teachers are members of learning communities.
Exhibit P: Directive Tutoring within a PLC
Exhibit Q: Introductory Letter
Exhibit R: Sample Email to Parent
Theorists: DuFour, Eaker, Bransford
Courses: EDUC 560
I define a learning community in two different ways. First, a professional learning community as defined by Richard Dufour, “In a professional learning community, educators create an environment that fosters mutual cooperation, emotional support, and personal growth as they work together to achieve what they cannot accomplish alone. (DuFour, 1998, p.xii)” Second, the common sense idea that a school and community should function together as a cooperative group who work together for the needs of our youth and students. Both are really the same thing, one is formalized method and the other just a caring and compassionate attitude of community.
The school district, in which I teach, Monroe City R-1 High School, is a Professional Learning Community. I researched our movement toward this goal and wrote about my findings while enrolled in EDUC 560 Theories of Learning (see Directive Tutoring within a Professional Learning Community). We have since hired a new principal and with a new administrator comes new goals and theories. However, the faculty and staff are still very much functioning as a learning community who cooperate and support the needs of each of our students whether directly in your classroom or not.
As Richard Eaker states, “A PLC is characterized by a culture of collaboration—collaborative teams planning together, analyzing results, and seeking ways to improve. Ideally, improvement doesn’t just happen in the classroom; it should happen throughout the school and district” (Eaker, 2008).
Communication with parents is a part of the job that I hear some new teachers dreading. At the beginning of my first year, I was a little worried that I too would fear parental communication for fear it would take a negative turn. I began the year by sending out an introductory letter to all the parents and guardians of my students. I felt they should all be informed about who I was, what my education background was and what I hoped to accomplish in the classroom. About two weeks into the semester, I had already revealed which students may be disciplinary problems throughout the year. I remembered the advice of a professor who exclaimed you never want to have a situation where a parent is surprised by information. I thought it best to let a few parents know that I was seeing the beginnings of possible discipline problems with their sons and daughters. I communicated with them casually, via email and received very supportive emails in return. They all expressed to please let them know if I continue to have problems and they would have a talk with the students at home.
Progress reports are generated every three weeks in our district to help keep students and parents informed of academic and behavioral progress. In the few years since my maiden voyage as a teacher I have had a handful of times when students have held a percentage, which was far below average or have been a behavior problem in the classroom. I have contacted the parents, some by email (see example email to parent) and others by telephone. I have expressed my concern and assured them that there was plenty of time left in the quarter if we nip the problem right away. All of the parents were very supportive and most of the students improved over the next few weeks. In our district, we schedule conferences with those parents whom we feel we need to speak with. We are also available for an evening and the following morning for walk-in conferences. I scheduled times with many parents over the years. All of the parents have been extremely supportive and very impressed with what their children were learning in my classroom. My short amount of experience has already taught me that a well-informed parent is far easier to work with than one with whom you’ve never been in contact. During my conference times, my building principal usually stops in at the end of the evening to discuss how the conferences went and if I may need any assistance.
Another way in which our district functions as a learning community is with the visibility and support of our superintendent. Much to my delight, it turns out he is also extremely supportive of fine arts. We visit now and then about possibilities for growth in the visual and performing arts and I have found we both share the same passion for providing fine art and cultural experiences for our students in this rural area.
We are all part of a learning community. John Bransford states, “We use the term community-centered to refer to several aspects of community, including the classroom as a community, the school as a community, and the degree to which students, teachers, and administers feel connected to the larger community of homes, business, states, the nation, and even the world (Bransford, 2000, pp. 144-145).” I feel lucky to teach in such a warm, welcoming and supportive district with colleagues, administration and parents who really care about the well-being of the students. Monroe City being my hometown, I don’t foresee myself moving from the district and hope for a long and happy career teaching art in Monroe City.
Bransford, J. (2000). How people learn; brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington
D.C., National Academy Press.
DuFour, R., Eaker, R. (1998). Professional learning communities at work: Best practice
for enhancing student achievement. Reston, VA: Association for supervision and curriculum development.
DuFour, R. (2006). What is a professional learning community?. Something better,
Fall 2006, pages 19-21.
Eaker, R. (2008). The role of support staff in a professional learning community.
November 11, 2008. http://www.allthingsplc.info/