Current/Recent Reading List

02 February 2007

Uh-Oh.

Principal Goldberg (who, btw, I love as a boss more and more all the time - so this pains me a little) is working on his Phd., and apparently he drank some sort of Kool-Aid during his last "cohort" session at one of our state universities. He returned talking about being a more "instructionally-focused" leader, and about reprioritizing "90% of the way I spend my time and energy" as the principal. One of the first things he was going to change, he said, was the way we run faculty meetings, and there was some mention of the faculty reading a book together (yikes).

Well, this was all very heady sounding, but also gauzy. So since hearing this I've been most curious to learn of something concrete that was going to result from his epiphany. Today we received a copy of a professional development newsletter article from our DPI entitled "Leadership and Professional Learning Communities". We were asked to read it before our next faculty meeting on the 14th (which I won't be able to attend, darn the luck).

I've read it twice, and I hate to go negatore, but I need to have fun every now and then, so here goes. Strike one is that, while one gets little sense as to what kind of monster is hiding behind the dense "professional" prose of the article, one definitely gets the sense there is such a beast. Strike two against the article is that by sentence three these Professional Learning Communities are thereafter referred to as PLC's. Acronyms = Evil, my friends. Add to this the recurrence of the following words througout the article: vision, mission, empowering, collaboration, data, data, data, and data. Corporate Speak = Evil's Twin Brother.

(As an aside, one wonders how Shakespeare and his acting companies ever made it without formulating a mission statement.)

And then, strike three is constituted by the sheer fatuity of sentences and phrases like: "Change in PLC is an interconnected process, weaving faculty and staff together by design in webs of teams."; "But when we draw on what Brown and Lauder (2001) call 'collective intelligence,' that is infinite rather than fixed, multi-faceted rather than singular, and that belongs to everyone... the capacity for learning and improvement is magnified many times over." (me - I left out a syntax error from that one!); "This leadership is a combination of facilitative, transformational, visionary, and instructional." (me - instructional what, exactly?); "Leaders who create PLCs know that there is an urgent need for immediate results, but authentic, lasting and widespread change is a journey."

There is more from the article I could mock, but let me save some powder for the report I get after the faculty meeting in a couple of weeks. It is still unclear what all this really means, but I can give you one last bad omen. The picture that accompanies the last page of the article shows six people, sitting around a desk, having a freakin' meeting.

No doubt it is a collaborative one.

5 comments:

middleagedhousewife said...

Are they sitting at a round table, in a circle? Have they each, in turn, stood and told something about themselves? Which one(s) of them are actually eager to start a PLC? Do the rest of those present realize they are slime b/c 1) they have no idea what a PLC is? and 2) they don't have the time nor the energy required to belong to one more community?
The older my sons get, the more I see of these teachers/admins. They spend so much time discussing teaching, designing teaching strategies, designing teaching villages - well, I would prefer they shut up and teach. Alas, their energies are spent. Those that know how, teach. Those that don't, design meeting strategies.
"Leaders who create PLCs know that there is an urgent need for immediate results, but authentic, lasting and widespread change is a journey." Translated - Yeah, we know you need help yesterday but this is gonna take a while. How long? We have no idea. If it looks like it's not working, well just keep going. Like we said, it could take a while. Oh, it might not work at all but by the time you figure that out, we'll have moved on to another design/facilitation/whatever.

Sign me 'Trying Hard to Get My Boys Educated'

School Master P said...

"Those that know how, teach. Those that don't, design meeting strategies."

That's wonderful - maybe quote of the year on education matters.

And you know, it's not like some ancient academic invented the "strategy" of a knowledgeable teacher instructing an un-knowledgeable student. This way of doing things is simply borne out of reality, for God's sake. At some point, a teacher (or parent, or priest, etc.) has to speak and demonstrate, and the kid on the other end has to listen and emulate. Can't get around it.

Anonymous said...

middleagedhousewife said...
They spend so much time discussing teaching, designing teaching strategies, designing teaching villages - well, I would prefer they shut up and teach. Alas, their energies are spent. Those that know how, teach. Those that don't, design meeting strategies.

Here's the thing. PLC isn't focused on any of the teaching items you mention above. It's focus is on learning. It provides strategies to put in place so that the focus of a school is on kids' learning not teachers teaching. Keep an open mind. Research is showing that these concepts are working for kids. Isn't that the most important thing here?

School Master P said...

Anonymous - since I don't have a clue at this point, could you give us a couple of details about how these PLC's work, from a practical standpoint? I've yet to hear any specifics beyond the jargon.

Aside from the bad vibes I got from the article I had to read, I have two other reasons for scepticism: 1) research in education, in my opinion, is a very slippery critter - you can find research to "prove" that most any approach to education works. 2) maybe I'm obtuse, but I simply fail to see how focusing on "learning" instead of "teaching" is anything more than a distinction without a difference. Again, at some point a teacher has to teach if he/she has knowledge and understanding that a student hasn't yet learned.

middleagedhousewife said...

Ok, I went here -
http://www.sedl.org/change/issues/issues61.html
and read through until my eyes watered. To me, it looks for all the world that someone has decided that 'old working model' just doesn't cut it anymore and they're suggesting a 'new and improved' way. This seems to happen about every few years or so and 'this time' it's for good, all new research says 'this time' we've got it right. Until the next new and improved, better than ever, handed down from G*d model comes in the mail.
Call it cherry picking if you will, it probably is, but this just screamed at me -
"Teachers find help, support, and trust as a result of developing warm relationships with each other."
That and the word 'vision' about a gazillion times. Poor Schoolboy.

Sign me - Stubbornly Hanging on to the Old School Ways