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Creating a Community for

Administrators

 

BY DAN WECKSTEIN AND KIM HEWITT

So you’re ready to create an administrative professional learning community in your school district, but you’re unsure how to get started. Here’s how to jump-start your process.

KEEP YOUR PLC GROUP SMALL. Put together a diverse group of five to seven colleagues. In a small district, this may be your entire administrative team. In a larger district, you may form a team of administrators of buildings feeding a specific high school or a group of elementary principals with diverse educational backgrounds or philosophies.

CONSIDER WHETHER YOUR SUPERINTENDENT SHOULD PARTICIPATE IN THE PLC. PLCs are best when they are collaboratively, rather than authoritatively, facilitated, so it is best if your superintendent does not head the administrative PLC. When a superintendent participates, it changes the dynamics; however, a superintendent’s role does communicate the importance of PLC participation and provides gravitas to the group’s work.

CAREFULLY SELECT YOUR FOCUS. Base this focus on your building and district goals, especially those common across all buildings and departments. Participating in a PLC for the sake of participating in a PLC will be much less effective than participating in a PLC that is part of a broader, meaningful and common purpose.

SELECT A BOOK, VIDEO OR OTHER RESOURCE THAT WILL SERVE AS THE CORE TEXT FOR THE YEAR. This will serve as the centripetal force driving the predetermined focus. A core text will help to center the PLC and provide a common platform from which to grow as leaders.

FOR EACH MEETING, IDENTIFY A FACILITATOR AND ROTATE THE DUTIES. Identify the book-study discussion leader, as well as the facilitator of other processes that you may use. Shared group leadership encourages members of your PLC to be engaged as learners and leaders. Furthermore, activities that stimulate thinking, digesting and reflecting on what you have read promote discussion on how to apply the knowledge to your school or department.

ROTATE THE MEETING LOCATION AND HOSTING DUTIES. Select a different location for each monthly meeting and require the host principal or director to provide refreshments. Those who eat together, bond together. Rotating locations also gives administrators the opportunity to do walk-throughs in buildings other than their own.

SCHEDULE AND OUTLINE THE MEETINGS BEFORE THE SCHOOL YEAR BEGINS. Provide each member of the PLC with a laminated bookmark with details of each meeting. The bookmark should list the date and time (a standing time for each meeting provides consistency), location and assigned facilitation duties. List any assignment that may be required for each meeting — specific chapters to be read, data to gather, etc. Select learning activities for your PLC (e.g., critical friends, artifact sharing, walk-throughs).

PRIORITIZE ATTENDANCE AT THE SCHEDULED MEETINGS. Always remember how valuable administrative professional development can be, especially when you are spending quality time with your own colleagues. You will always have urgent issues that must be addressed in your own building, but rest assured — those urgencies will be waiting for you upon your return.

APPLY WHAT YOU LEARN. When you return to your building or the central office and after handling the urgent issues you left behind, put into practice some of your new know-how. At that moment, you will fully understand the true power of your administrative professional learning community.

WEED BEFORE YOU BEGIN. We recommend weeding before planting a PLC. Find a way to pull out or cut meeting time from somewhere before initiating your PLC. For example, reduce instructional team/cabinet meeting time by putting information items into an e-mail sent to administrators several days prior to the meeting.

INTENTIONALLY BUILD TRUST. While the PLC itself will build trust and interdependence among your administrative team, consider fertilizing your budding PLC by focusing directly on team building.

 

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