In my opinion, no educator has had a more transformative impact on education than Dr. Richard DuFour since Benjamin Bloom. In the 1950s and 1960s, Benjamin Bloom developed his taxonomy of learning and the foundational practices of response to intervention. Bloom’s contributions were transformative, reshaping what rigor should look like in classrooms and demonstrating that learning for all was possible when schools developed and implemented systems of supports to meet the anticipatable needs of all students.
We are blessed to have incredible experts, researchers, and educators serving in and contributing to our profession; and yet, in my opinion, the contributions of Dr. DuFour truly transformed the way schools operate and the way teachers work. Whereas other educators in the past half-century have greatly contributed to the improved quality of the work we do, PLCs at Work have redefined the nature of the work itself.
Think about it. We’ve gone from loosely connected silos of independent contractors to PLCs – the principles of team-based collaboration and an outcome-driven ethos– being the most widely known and employed sets of behaviors that guide educators work.
Education is the most important profession in the world. Individuals from no other profession will impact a greater percentage of people within a society than educators. You may offer up medical professionals as significantly impactful, and thank goodness for our health care system; but educators see the most impressionable and vulnerable members of our society 180 days a year for at least 19 years.
The job of educating children is critically important, literally a matter of life and death – the more educated an individual, the longer their life span and the greater their quality of life. And, the job of educating children with a myriad of needs is incredible difficult; we simply cannot do it alone.
When I began teaching, the notion that my classroom was distinct from other classrooms was accepted as fact. While we may have attended professional development together and use the same textbook, the privilege of the autonomy of the teacher in the classroom was unquestioned.
When I became a principal, the teachers within each grade level emphasized different priorities, taught in various sequences, and assessed in different ways, even expecting different levels of mastery. Collaboration and collective responsibility just wasn’t possible because we did things so differently. I encountered the same situations within the schools I served when I moved to the district office in a large urban school district in another state.
I still hear sentiments such as, “I can’t collaborate because my teaching style is different than yours,” or “I can’t collaborate because I have more (or fewer) gifted (or at-risk) students in my class,” or “I can’t collaborate because I’m farther ahead (or behind) than you.” We can do better; students deserve it.
In the very recent past, and to this day in some school systems, the notion that all students can learn at high levels is still doubted or qualified; the bell curve is still accepted as a normal and expected outcome. And, even if we wanted to collaborate, the obstacles of insufficient amounts of time, insufficient qualities of guidance, and insufficient leadership and accountability allow for PLCs at Work to be a rare occurrence. We can do better; students deserve it.
And while teacher meetings are more frequent, collaboration lite is not enough. Planning together and getting along isn’t enough. Communicating with one another about our work and coordinating efforts isn’t enough. PLC’ing isn’t limited to meeting together regularly. When fully embraced, PLCs at Work shape every aspect of a school and district’s work.