My name is Margo Stites. I teach ELA at North Scott High School, and I’d like to describe a “success story”, or, rather, a successful experience my co-worker and I have had this year. Last fall, Joanie Demmer-Freeman and I, along with Michelle Murray (from our teacher leadership team) and Kathy Learn (from the AEA) formed a PLC to work on units for tenth grade English. Helen Brennan (from the AEA) joined us second semester.
At first, I was skeptical about the usefulness of a PLC. After all, Joanie and I are experienced teachers and we felt that we were all ready teaching the ELA Common Core standards and doing a pretty good job of it. I didn’t see how going to another meeting every week was going to impact the students in my classroom. However, I was willing to give it a chance, if for no other reason than to be a “team player”. It didn’t take long for me to understand that our PLC is not just another meeting.
At our PLC this year, we have focused primarily on each individual unit, breaking down the standards, and figuring out learning targets for the students. It is this last part that Joanie and I have found to be particularly enlightening. Yes, we were right – we have been teaching the ELA standards and doing a “pretty good” job of it. But in the process of really focusing on learning targets, we were forced to take an objective view of how we teach different standards. For example, what, exactly, is the thought process to “determine the central idea of a text”? In some cases, we found that we were taking steps out of order, or skipping them altogether, assuming that students could make the same leaps in thought that we do. Through our PLC, we have looked at how we are teaching from a new perspective. This has been quite useful, and I think will have a positive impact on student learning.
From the very beginning, Kathy Learn has been a joy to work with. She has guided us, cajoled us, advocated for us, and generously shared her time, expertise and resources with us. She has never made us feel like we were the lesser partners. Instead, we have truly been a team – all equal contributors, all equally respected and heard. Because of this, I feel, and I think my PLC partners would agree, that ours has been a success story, and I am sure that as the work continues, it will build on that success.