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?
Can we talk about structure? When CLASS entered my life, I was 20 years into my career in the field of early childhood education. What I remember most about that initial training, besides the nervousness about an impending reliability test, was a sense of relief. Structure, including State and program standards, curriculum, materials in the classroom, and approaches to childcare and pedagogy, had dominated my working hours. CLASS was a lot to learn, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air. Observing with CLASS meant I could set aside my obsession with all things structural – which encompassed my thoughts every time I walked into an early childhood classroom.
Decades of evidence indicate that high-quality early childhood education positively affects children. Yet studies reveal that too few programs implement high-quality programming. To date, improvement efforts have primarily focused on what occurs within the classroom. The Ounce of Prevention Fund (Ounce), in partnership with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (UChicago Consortium), strives to broaden the focus of improvement efforts beyond the classroom to organizational conditions that support teachers and the relationships among staff, children, and families.