May 04

PLC Work Takes Time


Image from Raymond Teodo.

Our middle school’s second year participating in a WA STEM PD grant project is coming to an end. One thing I can see clearly is the time it takes to do PLC work right.

Our plan has been to engage in professional development together in our teacher teams. PLC teams in schools are the best way to serve the needs of that school’s students. We use a protocol for our PLC work called the Professional Teaching and Learning Cycle (PTLC). Using that protocol teacher PLC teams find a student learning need in their school, plan a lesson to address the need, and observe the lesson while looking at student work samples to adjust the lesson to better meet the student’s needs. (Here’s the guide we use for the PTLC protocol.)

It takes time to meet with your PLC to find an area to investigate and improve. A teacher, or teachers, then need to teach the lesson and somehow record it (we got a Swivl Base through the WA STEM PD grant and it has been fantastic). The teacher or teachers who teach the lesson collect samples of student work then the PLC team meets again to analyze the student work. Recording the lesson helps the PLC team see what the students were learning and doing to generate the work samples the PLC team will analyze. We use another protocol to sort the student work into high (they got it), medium (almost getting it) and low (didn’t get it) piles. The PLC team then discusses how they each sorted the work samples. Rich discussions come from seeing how each teacher sorted the work samples!

Finally, the PLC team works to adjust the lesson to help students learn better.

Last year and this year our goal was to complete one entire cycle with our departmental teams and one entire cycle with our grade level teams. A great goal and very worthwhile work. In departmental teams we could focus on our subject area with all our students sixth through eighth grade, while in grade level teams we could focus on our shared students through our different subjects. We conducted the first cycle from October to January and the second cycle from February to June. Last year we started with grade level PLC teams and ended with departmental teams and this year we started with departmental teams and ended with grade level teams.

One major different between the first cycle, October to January, is that we get early release days that our principal was able to give us to do our PLC work. From February to June, for our second cycle, there were no available early release days. In order to do our PLC work we have to find time to meet on our own. With work, life, and teachers that also coach, finding time to do this PLC work is DARN DIFFICULT.

So what have we seen both years of working in this project? We complete our first cycle successfully. The second cycle doesn’t always get completed. And it’s not because of the PLC team because this year we ended with the PLC team that successfully completed a cycle last year.

Conclusion? While we know that it takes time for teachers to do PLC work in schools, that time needs to be built in to our workload. Expecting teachers to meet on their own time doesn’t work (see my last post on salary vs hourly wages). I envy schools that get an early release or late start work day once a week to do this kind of work. I know it’s less than convenient for parents but since it benefits their children it is worth it.


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May 03

Salary versus Hourly Wages

Image from Evan Jackson.

Image from Evan Jackson.

I’ve heard this argument before. Teachers shouldn’t complain about having to work extra hours to get their work done. Other professionals get paid to get their job done whether they work a 60 hour week or a 100 hour week. Some of them work endless hours when getting a project done.

So why do teachers complain when they are asked to work extra hours to get their job done?

When I first started teaching I thought of myself as a salaried employee. I was fine working for a few hours after the kids went home and coming in on weekends to prepare and grade. After all, I thought, I’m getting paid a salary to do my job.

It wasn’t until I got involved with my local union and pad close attention to my pay stubs that I saw how we were treated like hourly employees instead of salary employees. If we think of ourselves as hourly employees then putting in overtime requires overtime pay. Any hourly wage person knows that and overtime pay is usually pretty darn good (except for teachers that is!). I remember one year when one of our school board members finally understood what we were asking for when we used the term overtime pay. He finally got why we wanted to negotiate for more pay.

As a teacher, an educator, a professional, I can easily get behind being a salaried employee. I can easily get behind putting in as much work as I need to do to get my job done. But here’s the catch, my salary has to be enough to actually make a living. Yes, I can honestly say that what I get paid now is not enough to make a living to support my family. Part of that comes from having taken quite a bunch of pay cuts coupled with increasing health care costs. I actually took home less money every year for six years straight! That took its toll and our debt surmounted. Catching up is difficult.

Had I been making a decent salary, we might have made it through those tough times. Either way, if I made enough so that putting food on my table, being able to buy clothes when we need them, fixing and fueling our automobile, paying bills and a mortgage, AND having healthcare was not an issue, then I could focus 100% on my job. It’s when your monthly check is not enough that a teacher has to look for extra work. So when my job takes more of my time than I can afford I absolutely want to be paid for it! These times are tough and as a professional we want to make a professional’s wage.

I don’t think that is asking for too much for what we teachers do.

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May 02

6th Grader Blogs About the Ills of Money!

One of our 6th graders published a blog post for our World Solutions Blog about the problems caused by our obsession with MONEY!

If you have the time, please leave her a comment and/or share her post with your social networks!

Thank you!

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May 01

Diigo Links (weekly)

Here are this week’s great finds! Lots of great stuff here:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Apr 29

6th Grader’s Bullying Video

I have a 6th grader who wanted to post something different to our World Solutions blog. She wanted to tell a short story of bullying. She focused on kids who are bullied just for being who they are and how wrong that is. Head on over to our World Solutions Blog and watch her short video.

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Apr 24

Diigo Links (weekly)

Here are this week’s awesome resources I’ve curated! Check them out:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Apr 22

Diigo Links (weekly)

Check out all the great stuff I found this week!

tags: value observation teacher pd plc

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Apr 12

Text is Boss!

by Max Gaines,

by Max Gaines

My third post in a series of posts I’m writing for the WA State Teacher Leader group CORELaborate is live! This post shares what I’ve learned about the 2nd shift of the common core, that students need to engage in, “reading, writing and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational,” check it out here.

To catch the first two posts I wrote on the common core shifts, go here. The first two posts deal with the 1st shift of the common core where students are expected to have, “regular practice with complex text and its academic language.”

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Apr 11

Food Miles 6th grade Blog Post

Food Miles? What is food miles, you ask? Check out this 6th grader’s summary of an awesome activity we did in class to raise student awareness of food traveling to get to your plates!


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Apr 10

Diigo Links (weekly)

Here are the resources I’ve found this past week:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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