Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Share Your Why in PLCs

It's hard to say what I've appreciated the most about my new school's on boarding process: the settling in week at a beautiful hotel, the new teacher introduction to Singapore American School week or the vulnerable and honest communication from administrators and PLC team members as we get started planning the work of the first weeks of school this week. It's the start of  week three, pre-planning for the whole faculty. We've had two days of speeches and meetings and today we have a break for Singapore's National Day. It's a national holiday here, so schools and many businesses are closed. I am grateful for the time to take in and process what I've learned so far. Topping that list is working in teams and  PLCs.

Singapore American School is tight on PLCs. Teachers meet weekly, on Wednesdays and Fridays, in two different PLC groups. Yesterday we talked about PLC culture and expections. We played PLC Chutes and Ladders and discussed several toxic PLC scenarios that were achingly familiar.

(Chutes image, rogue slide)

I am in the ninth grade English PLC and in the Catalyst PLC. More on Catalyst later. In essence it is kid-driven inquiry that is literalky out of this world in some cases. Last year kids designed an experiment, sent it to THE space station, astronauts ran it and beamed the data back. I will co-teach one section of Catalyst the first semester.
My PLCs are high functioning and healthy. And one reason that must be is because administrators have modeled and modeled so much of what teachers are expected to do.

For example, start with story. Build relationships. That began at the aurport upon arrival and continues. Here's a snapshot of stories shared around the table of incoming high school teachers. You know who shared his why and how first? The principal. You know who shared second and third? The deputy principals. Then each new teacher shared.

(Story notes image)

 That relationship building continued in PLCs this week. Each began with members telling stories about theirnexperiences. We thought about questions such as: How did you get here? Why do you teach? We told our stories. With each telling we learned something new about each other. That bond building took much of our first ninety minute meeting. Men and women around the table spoke from vulnerable places and we affirmed and listened and connected, some cried.

Affect, emotional weight matters to memory and meaning making. That resonates with me this week.

Monday is coming. Kids will arrive. I know my room will be ready. But it isn't yet. I know I will have syllabi for my three courses posted and a stable log in and name games and a plan. But those things are not firmly in place yet.  The PLCs here have course materials that have been developed across years. Courses have institional memory and longevity here.

The principal said recently that the PLC process can be tough for teachers who come here at the top if their game. It can be tough because this is absolutely not a "do whatever you want" sort of school.  PLCs work togetjer to plan, create, assess, analyze and decide on next teaching mives. The intervene and extend when it comes to learning too. When teachers are told their grading categories must match in the digital grade book- they must. Instructional decisions are made by PLCs as a group that is a hard (tight) expectation and administrators are clear about that even before you are hired. If you go rogue, you go home.

There is tremendous innovation here in PLCs and across the campus in a myriad of ways. I am honored to be a part of it. I know I will learn a lot from the established curricula, and I love that this school and these people speak my language around topics like independent reading, assessment and grading. #This is Singapore day sixteen.

[I am working in my cell phone without WiFi and will have to upload pictures later. Post in orogress.]


  1. This sounds amazing! I hope that you continue to write and share about this experience as it's just so much different than what we are used to! I appreciate your slice today and look forward to more! :)

  2. What a great opportunity to learn and grow and feel supported!