I remember my first Solution Tree conference like it was yesterday. My principal invited my colleagues and me to Oklahoma over the summer break to hear the greats: Rick and Rebecca DuFour, Tim Brown, Mike Mattos. To be honest, the concept of professional learning communities was new to me but within an hour, I was a believer. And just like that, my whole perspective on assessments, student data, and collaboration shifted. Riding high on all the energy and concepts I had been introduced to at the conference, I was determined to return to my classroom and change the way I evaluated student assessment data to differentiate instruction.
Fast forward a month and it was back to school. Excited for a new set of students to arrive, I was determined to put my thoughts into actions. My principal launched the Great PLC Initiative and at the beginning, all was good. Our teams met faithfully to look at how we were assessing, what we were assessing, and how our students were performing. But anyone who has been a part of a PLC knows it takes continuous work and effort. For PLCs to be successful, you must constantly be asking yourself, “What do my students know?” At that time the best way I could accomplish tracking the data was in an excel spreadsheet. As the team lead, I would take my and my colleagues’ students’ answers and manually track the mastery levels. Mind you, I was four years out of college, in my first teaching job. I wasn’t married and didn’t have a family or other personal commitments, so the extra work didn’t seem so bad. I was excited and eager. Parents were thrilled when we spoke about our PLC commitment to their children. If you have ever worked as an educator this will come as no surprise, but each year other initiatives were introduced and PLCs turned into: that thing we know we could/should do better but other priorities came up.
How did I, the “Kool-Aid drinker of PLCs,” forget why I once believed so heavily in this concept? How did our initiative get so far off track?
After eight incredible years in the classroom, a move to the big city left me searching for new opportunities. <Insert Mastery Manager>. At my job interview, I learned there was a product that would take all the manual labor out of PLCs. A tool that would instantly tell me how many of my students mastered a learning standard. At that moment I knew that was the missing piece. Instead of spending PLC time sifting through papers or spinning up countless spreadsheets, teachers could be creating interventions on how to address missed concepts. A tool that offers immediate data to lighten teachers’ workloads is something that I knew, firsthand, could make a significant difference in keeping PLCs on track. This new step in my education career has been beyond rewarding. I get to work with schools and teachers across the country and see how Mastery Manager helps address their needs and keep their PLCs on track and consistent.
I would love to hear where you are in the PLC process. Are you the PLC leader on your team? What do you find to be the most beneficial piece of your meetings? What do you find most challenging?