I was recently reminded of the importance of collaborative leadership when I had the chance to work with a very novice high school team of teachers. The campus has the expectation that PLCs should meet regularly and be focused on student data and planning for instruction. However, this team really had no idea how to “be a PLC” and despite the directives coming down to them to function as a PLC, they were lost in how to do it. They desperately wanted to do what administration was asking them to do in their PLC meetings but there was little teacher buy-in and most of the meetings were unproductive and frustrating for the teachers in the team.
I had the opportunity to come in, alongside them, and help them to reflect on the PLC process but also on what they needed as a team of professionals in order to do the work before them and to trust each other as they embraced collaboration. In my work with the teachers, I recalled some advice from Michael Fullan in his book The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact. His book speaks to the importance of educational leaders, especially at the campus level, embracing the role of “instructional leader” and rolling up their sleeves to join their teachers in developing the professional capital of everyone in the team (and on the campus).
Principals and other campus leaders would do well to keep these key points of instructional leadership at the center of their work when they embark on developing the PLC culture on their campus.
- Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and dig in to be part of the PLCs on your campus. It’s not enough to just issue the directive to “be a PLC”. Our teachers want to see us in the trenches with them, helping to solve the challenges of the day, thinking of next steps, and relating to the daily struggles and successes they face.
- Don’t be afraid to put data aside and spend time focusing on the actions, the procedures, the protocols, and the structures that will develop a culture of collaboration and a shared interests. These considerations help to shape the culture of the PLC and allows for everyone to contribute and improve their own talents in the classroom and with the team.
- Be engaged with your PLC teams. Only through being present and engaged in the PLC meetings will leaders be able to understand the corporate needs of the team as well as the individual needs of certain teachers. Learn alongside your teachers and find out what works and what doesn’t. This will lead to better defined professional development opportunities, both for the team and the campus, as the leaders connect need with resources available.
Campus leaders can’t leave the important work of PLCs to mandates and directives. True instructional leaders move towards the roar and seek out opportunities to come alongside their teacher teams and engage in the process of developing the human, social, and decisional capital present on the campus.