Saturday, March 2, 2019

Tight and Loose

“I work for the school. I don’t work for myself, so be clear about what I have to do and I will do it,” said a teacher at breakfast. This teacher’s table conversation struck a chord with the rest of us. We talked about all of the things teachers feel they are expected to do— from concept-based planning to PLCs,

Some schools define their values or core practices in terms of nonnegotiables. In the high school at  Singapore American School, we talk about policies or practices that we are "tight" on. Being tight on means a practice is non-negotiable. When a practice is "loose," teachers or teams have autonomy.  Across divisions (elementary, middle and high school), we are tight on working collaboratively in PLCs.

Just as learners in our classrooms differ, so do PLCs.  Groups form and reform each year as faculty change positions, leave or land in Singapore. Each PLC may be in a different place in regard to how they use or approach the Dufour's four essential questions:
  1. What do we want students to know and be able to do? 
  2. How will we know each student has learned it? 
  3. How will we respond when some students don't learn it? 
  4. How will we extend learning for students who demonstrate mastery.
Everyone is expected to collaborate.

Helen Dewaard's sketchnote of the Seven Norms of Collaboration hangs in most elementary and middle school classrooms and offices. The language lives in the high school, the posters or sketchnotes not so much.

Standards vs. Standardization
  • Our learning targets within a course are the same. How we get to them may be different.
  • Our grade books within a course will match in terms of categories and weights which determine final grades. How we  record formative steps to give feedback to learners and parents may differ.
  • How we summatively assess our shared learning targets will match in terms of rubrics used. The product or format of a learner's assessment may vary from class to class or student to student.


  1. We are tight on county-wide Common Assessments, medium tight on sticking together on same units/ plans, but loose on how each teacher goes about teaching. We have many informal PLCs on the playground, formal meetings once a week.

  2. I like the language! The whys of PLCs and the what’s matter.Good insight!

  3. I can’t say we’re tight on anything at my school these days. However, the three of us who teach speech are tight in terms of our collaboration w/ in our building and w/ a colleague st another school. We’re working to bring other speech teachers into our collaborative group. We’re also tight in terms of our grade weights. But in English things go a bit sideways. We have common writing tasks, but we don’t discuss grade weights. Theoretically, we use Dufour, but I couldn’t say outside speech how that works in anyone’s classroom.