How do we as educators do everything we need to do in a given day? Better yet, how do we do it all as well as we need? It is a difficult task, and I do not believe there is a magic answer. There’s no way to get it all done in a single day. I’ve found that a great challenge in schools today is finding enough time to collaborate effectively. I should not just say today, as this has been a problem for quite sometime. When I was in the classroom, I often felt like we lacked planning time. I frequently thought I was flying solo on jet soaring at a million miles an hour. At that time in my career, my current school did not function as professional learning community; nor did we collaborate in meaningful ways that supported learning and growing of teachers. Our meetings were built around an agenda that served the purpose of announcing dates and information on upcoming events. After the meetings, we went back to our classrooms to prepare for the next week and then graded a mound of papers. My first year as a reading coach, my new principal began the transition of our campus to a professional learning community, or PLC. It has been an arduous process but not without great gains and benefits for our students and staff. For three years now, our school has been focused on living as a community of learners. Using the DuFour-Eaker model of PLCs, we have slowly morphed into a different institution keeping ALL students at the forefront of our focus. We have sent more than 60% of our staff to Solution Tree’s PLC summer institution, which has been beneficial for our campus. As a real-life, living, walking, and breathing PLC campus, we have totally changed our perception on learning while revamping the ways we practice and meet together. During our weekly collaboration meetings, teams dive into an intensive analysis of student data. The data is the key that drives our instruction and decisions about students. These meetings are vital for the continuing success of our organization. However, even with built in weekly time and using a great model for collaboration, we always need more time to gain more insight.
Like I stated earlier, there is not a magic answer to how to gain more time. So, what if we challenged ourselves to think a little differently than we have in the past? Is there a way to collaborate differently? Sure there is!!! It is right at your fingertips- computers, smart phones, iPads etc. What if the whole educational world was your PLC, which the virtual world calls a professional learning network (PLN)? Thousands of people are on the professional development front 24/7 using digital sites. My favorites are Twitter and Google, but there are others that function quite similarly. Team meetings are a critical part of the collaborative process. Now, as an assistant principal, I still highly value the face-to-face meetings with colleagues; however, I can tell that we must realize and take advantage of the digitized mediums we have available to us. When educators get outside the four walls of a school and participate in digital chats and feed, they will gain a network with access to more knowledge and wisdom than one could ever acquire from just a weekly meeting inside a classroom. Can you envision how regular participation in digitized learning could take a regular PLC meeting to an augmented state of learning if all its members are participating in PD like PLN Twitter chats simultaneously? Can you imagine how it might enhance the face-to-face conversations? For so many of us Generation X citizens, that is not an easy task but one that is becoming necessary. As our Generation Y colleagues enter the workforce, they will rely heavily on their tech savvy skills to engage themselves and their students in learning. I cannot blame them since this is their world and it is how they thrive.
Okay, so maybe this does not solve our time issue so much. We cannot find more time to add to our day when we’re only given twenty-four hours. But… what if we helped each other in such a collaborative way that we are working smarter with the 24 hours we are given? We all have something to offer one another. Connected learning using social and digitized media is an underestimated and underused resource for educators. Teaching and learning is never-ending, and it most certainly cannot happen just once a week to bring home optimal results. As educators, we do not have to fly solo anymore. We have so much to learn from the vast amount of resources in our networking system. Your time may be limited but your networking resources are not!
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