As a teacher, sometimes you learn the most from the teacher across the hall. You share materials, discuss ways to handle that tricky student, come up with new lessons together, analyze data, or just commiserate about a hard day.
However, teaching can also be a very isolating profession. The feeling of isolation may occur because you’re working in a home setting, or you’re the only one teaching your subject or grade level, or because your schedule with students is so busy that there’s no time to interact with other teachers. Perhaps professional development opportunities are too expensive or too far away. Whatever the reason, a lack of support within a building or system can be frustrating.
So how can teachers, coaches, and leaders connect with and learn from one another? One of the many ways is with Professional Learning Communities.
In a traditional community of practice, learning occurs when a group of people have common goals. Many educators have established Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) within their schools to share knowledge and promote learning, helping teachers define their classroom goals. The format of the PLC promotes self-reflection that empowers each teacher to grow and learn from their peers. Rather than providing one-time professional development opportunities, the focus of a PLC is ongoing growth.
However, many find themselves without the benefit of a traditional PLC. This is where an online community can offer something unique. Instead of meeting during planning time or before school, educators can find what they need, when they need it.
In an online community like the CLASS Learning Community (CLC), learning is an ongoing process in which educators from different locations, grade levels, and backgrounds can work collaboratively toward a shared goal. In the case of the CLC, that shared goal is improving teacher-student interactions.
An online PLC can be a place to ask questions, offer and receive support, view resources, get ideas, and share successes. Ideally, teachers bring ideas learned in an online PLC back to school to share with their colleagues, apply in their classrooms, and adapt for their individual students.
Here are just a few things our Community members said about the CLASS Learning Community:
“I appreciate the clarification and answers to questions of others in the field! I also appreciate how people share their resources. It's great to not have to reinvent the wheel.”
“The community has been a great resource for me to learn from others and see that I may not be the only one experiencing certain challenges.”
“Amazing to see everyone's different perspectives. Love the discussion threads.”
“I have enjoyed reading about challenges and how members are so supportive with sharing ideas and suggestions. I do make this site a go-to site on a regular basis!”
As an educator, you are also a lifelong learner. Do you have a professional learning community? Are you part of our CLASS Learning Community?
So, it’s June and you have just wrapped up the year with your students. They have made tremendous progress over the course of the year. The routine of the day flows naturally, the expectations about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior is fairly clear to all of them (and to you), and you leave the school year feeling confident that they are ready for the new challenges that lie ahead. You go into the summer months looking forward to a much needed break, but also looking forward to your new group of students in the fall.
As a Certified CLASS Affiliate Trainer, I enjoy reading the discussion posts and responses in the CLASS Learning Community. It gives me further insight into the areas that teachers have questions about, and the responses and techniques that members of the community are sharing with others. Usually I just sit back, read along, and take it all in.
Then recently someone posted, “I'd love some great examples of what Quality of Feedback looks like when you're working with less verbal children. For instance... creating an effective feedback loop off of what a child does more so than what he or she says.”
Many teachers will agree that their first year of teaching can be one of the most grueling, challenging, and stressful experiences for them as they take on the task of educating our youth. In my first year of teaching, I was not familiar with the CLASS tool and its impact in the classroom. I was not aware of the dimensions, indicators, and the tremendous power of interactions. Looking back, I recognize the many ways the CLASS tool was reflected in my classroom, but I also see the value in how familiarity with the CLASS tool could have benefitted my classroom. Although many external forces impacted my role as a high school Spanish teacher, the CLASS tool’s invaluable purpose could have made a profound impact on my first year teaching.