Planting and nurturing a healthy professional learning community requires that every teacher (and employee) in a building arrive at three conclusions:
- I am a professional. My mission is to ensure learning at high levels for every student, measurable by objective evidence.
- I learn and I help others learn. My students learn more when I collaborate and learn with other teachers, sharing strategies and comparing evidence.
- My school is a community, greater than the sum of its parts. It is built out of collaborative teams and disciplined professionals that share and learn from their failures and successes.
It’s not enough to adopt two out of the three conclusions. It’s all or nothing.
Because these conclusions aren’t just benign, buzzword statements, adoption can be pretty arduous. Teachers need time and patience to hash through the implications of these terms with other teachers.
Teachers need time to air their concerns, fears, and insecurities before they really assimilate these beliefs.
Teachers need time to struggle and even fight through the process of letting go of longer-standing beliefs that conflict with these conclusions, without feeling like they’re forfeiting their souls and their individuality.
For leaders, the whole process is less like building a tract house, and more like planting and growing a forest. It takes strategy and experience, nurturing and pruning, and time.