We couldn't help it. We held out long enough. Over this past winter break, my husband and I decided it was time to pay the extra $4.99/month to Apple and hop aboard the Ted Lasso train. And if we're being honest (which we are)--it has yet to disappoint.
Because I'm an English teacher at heart, my mind is usually seeking out connections and meaning between and among stories and our own experiences in life. So of course I'm going to project my own experiences of instructional leadership and coaching onto a show that is all about an open-hearted, vulnerable, humble coach. And if you're a teacher/school leader, and you've watched Ted Lasso, I'd be willing to wager you've also done the same.
Therefore, in the spirit of, "It's the beginning of February 2022, and we could all use a few more loveable coaches in our lives," I offer:
A PLC is a community of PEOPLE, which is why we always say the first step is realizing this is all about people, not programs. But here's the thing: when people care, they bring their emotions (and caring) to the table. Be ready to show up with an open heart (and hands)!
Yup, yup, yup. True, we are all unique, wonderfully made individuals who have a needed perspective to offer. AND, the way we make the magic happen is by working together as a team. You might be 1 in a PLC of 2 or 3 or 6 (but hopefully you're not 11!) and your voice should be heard. Just remember that ultimately, you are a community...a team.
Sometimes I get side-eyed glances from the admin team when I tell them that I've coached more than a few teachers in tears after a PLC meeting. The tough conversations aren't actually bad. Conflict isn't actually bad. Disagreement can be good! There's no growth without a bit of discomfort, so embrace the 'bad' as a good step towards collaboration.
Why are PLCs and teacher teams so important? Because they provide the absolute best, most influential growth opportunities for each of us to learn and grow into the best version of our teacher-selves that we can be. Together, impossible problems can be solved, and teachers can grow through the process.
Unfortunately, because PLCs are typically centered on data conversations, pressure can build, and build, and build. The real measurement of a thriving PLC is not merely student achievement data--it's also teacher growth data...er, whatever that means. When we grow as professionals and improve our craft, students gain a more engaging, authentic experience that translates to more impactful learning!
The whole point of a PLC is to work together to identify a challenge, problem, obstacle, need. We don't work in teams to talk about how great everything is--we actually work in teams because we need each other to help solve a problem. Problems are uncomfortable, so view that discomfort as a sign that you're doing it right!
Every now and then, a team member will switch into their fight or flight mode, or as Ted would say: Panic or Snooze. When we get defensive, we might panic and lash out, or, some of us might disengage and shut down. Either way, vulnerable teams know that they need to work through the discomfort to focus on student needs versus their own.
Stay curious, stay curious, stay curious. If we all had the answers, we wouldn't need each other. Ask good questions, listen with curiosity. Avoid judgment. Say things like, "Tell me more" and "Would you show us?" Inviting ideas into the conversation helps us feel safe, needed, and valued.
Nor should you bring an umbrella to a PLC. This is a time for open idea-sharing, and the best PLC members come with an open mind (and ear) for new strategies and techniques. Teams who brainstorm together practice the art of problem-solving in safe, predictable patterns.
I'm really a firm believer that in order to be strong teammates, we need to have open hearts and love towards one another. Sometimes that love and respect takes time to develop, so if you're a newish team--give yourselves time. But also, practice patience towards your teammates. Assume positive intent. Listen with curiosity. Share your true thoughts and feelings, even when it feels a teensy bit risky.