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Use Your PLC to Its Full Potential!
posted by: Melissa | March 29, 2013, 06:07 PM   

It's my sincere hope that every AAE member is involved in some sort of professional learning community (PLC). Without a doubt, this form of professional development is proven to be one of the most effective with one of the longest reaching impacts for teachers and students.

It is far too easy, however, to sit back and fall into a feeling of complacency to never use their PLC to its full potential. There are a few things that teacher's should remember in order to get the most out of their own PLC.

Be Focused.
Especially in an online community, know what you want to get out of your PLC. This does not have to be the same thing every day or every meeting, but if you go in without an outcome in mind, there's a chance that the PLC will devolve into meaningless chat. The teachers involved need to decide ahead of time what they will be working on, whether that is assessments, writing curriculum, or dealing with discipline hits. If you're using an online PLC, knowing what you're after will keep you from wasting your time visiting sites that have no relation to what you need or getting dragged into Twitter chats that have no relevance for you. Once you have a goal in mind, stick to it. Don't let the conversation be dragged off into other areas.

Choose the right time and place.
This is important for both in-person and online PLCs. Don't try to squeeze your PLC time into a 15 minute lunch break. Having time set aside during the day long enough that you can focus and not be worried about what you have to do to get ready for the next class is essential. Try to pick the same time each week to leverage your PLC and connect with peers. Choose a place that will be free from distractions, where students will be unlikely to barge in, or where your children won't interrupt. This is one advantage that online PLCs have to in-school PLCs. Since you don't need to meet with your network in person, you can choose times late in the evening or on the weekend when you're assured to get some peace.

When in doubt, use data.
In an age where New York City leverages data mining to find health code violations, educators are still wary of relying on it too much. Fortunately, there's a wealth of information out there. Not just on our students but on what teaching strategies work or how best to word questions. Good PLCs don't shy away from data, they embrace it and use each other to help interpret and implement the information that they find.

Be willing to change.
One of the hardest things facing any educator is the idea that their personal teaching style is king, or that the way they've always done things is the best way to do them. They key to a PLC is collaboration, and teachers have to be willing to recognize that they don't have all the answers or that a coworker is better able to do something then they are.

Remember, PLCs have the potential to have an enormous impact on your professional development. If you take the process seriously, you will develop in your craft, collaborate with other educators, and pass along your expertise to your students.

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