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02 March 2008

PLC's? Puh-leaze! (Part III)

Though in practice I think PLC's can be promising, helpful, and flexible enough to fit local, particular needs (something most educational trends, coming from on high, fail at miserably), irritants still abound in PLC-land (natch). The two most problematic irritants are that 1) PLC people like to talk way too much about PLC's, and do so in a hubristic "we can save the whole world" tone, and 2) there is already an unhealthy amount of crap jargon that has grown out of PLC-ism (something probably related to irritant #1). Here is a sample:

1)"PLC's concentrate on students learning, not on teachers teaching": This is the philosophical pearl of PLC-ism, a mantra insisted upon as profound wisdom. Translation: some teachers get up and go through their motions, and don't care whether their students are getting it or not. Well, o.k., we all have known teachers like this, but the point is that these were/are bad teachers. Good teachers have always been concerned about whether or not their kids were learning. I find this mantra daft, and the point it is making only profound in that it is profoundly obvious.

2)"Each PLC should set a standard of norms for each meeting": Norms? Norms? Sounds like we are on Cheers. Whatever happened to the word rules? I know, too masculine and heirarchical... Anyway, translation: People in PLC meetings should act like adults.

3) "PLC's help identify specific, attainable learner objectives": In many ways No Child Left Behind is the co-author of little nuggets like this one. Translation: Let's figure out what even below-average students can learn, and establish that as our goal. As for upper level students, well you're on your own kiddos.

4) "PLC's use collaborative teams and collective inquiry to achieve school goals": Yes, there are a lot of scary words that begin with "c" in PLC-land. Unkind Translation: Communism was a failure but the old lefty's among us still need a place to use the word "collective". Or, Kind Translation: If we work together a little more, we might be able to make the school a better place. If you aren't interested, the Borg will probably assimilate you anyway.

Well, there is a brief tour for you. My final, omniscient pronouncement is that PLC's can be good for a school if they are taken seriously, but not too seriously. I think most people like the idea of working more closely with their colleagues in a productive way. However, no one wants to be thought of as merely a faceless part of the team. Value me as an individual, and I'll value my contributions to the effort.

For God's sake, though, lose the jargon!

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