As part of the PLC leadership team at my school, we have been reading Learning by Doing by Richard & Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, & Thomas Many. Each time our group meets another chapter is presented and discussed. I chose Chapter 5- Building the Collaborative Culture of a Professional Learning Community. I could have chosen any chapter to review, but after scanning through the book I chose this chapter because as a specialist I frequently feel out of the loop. As the only full-time art teacher at my school, in my basement classroom with a busy schedule, it is easy to become disconnected from the rest of the school community. I rarely have time to co-plan with our part time art teacher, let alone meet weekly to discuss plans for student art assessment and intervention. Grade level teams meet at least weekly at our school and work collaboratively to meet the needs of all students, but since these grade-level meetings rely on the specials schedule, specialists are generally left out of the discussion.
I have been working this year to gather the specialists together to form a team with scheduled time to share information and co-plan, but that time has only been able to fit into the master schedule once a month, and it took quite a while to organize. We will have our first team meeting at the end of this month, which doesn’t allow much time for collaboration. Even though it is an improvement to have a schedule time to meet and share ideas, a specialists team meeting does not address the problem of never meeting with grade level teachers to co-plan.
As an art teacher I have my own standards and county-mandated curriculum to follow, so I have no shortage of material to cover, but I would love to be a more involved part of our school’s collaborative community. With our new school-wide, daily intervention and enrichment time, I can think of tons of ways to enrich the academic lives of my students by creating connections between their classroom curriculum and the world of art. Without a direct link to the grade level team planning, however, it is hard to make those meaningful connections outside of my own class schedule and set curriculum.
This chapter of the book examines possible team structures and scheduled collaboration time, and the issue of establishing meaningful connections through logical cross-curricular links was the part of the book that has struck me as most powerful so far. What a fantastic opportunity to share potential cross-curricular art enrichment opportunities. Being plugged into a grade-level team would give me a chance to collaborate to create extended art activities adding depth and personal meaning to my students’ experience of other subject areas. We are still at the beginning of this transformation into a professional learning community, but I hope to start establishing these connections now.
How many of you are active participants in your school’s professional learning community? How do you contribute to grade level planning? How do address student enrichment outside of your regularly scheduled class times & standard art curriculum?