Saturday, September 11, 2010


Over the past year I've been in Switzerland I've relied so much on my PLN - the network of educators around the world who have been a daily inspiration to me through their comments and links on Twitter and the blog posts they have written.  Out of my whole PLN I have probably only met about 1/5th of them face to face and the rest I "know" online.  This network is truly mine - they are the people I have chosen to follow and connect with, the educators from around the world who seem to share the same philosophy and goals for education that I do.

But now I realise that is probably not enough.  It's great to be able to choose the people that I interact and learn with on a daily basis - but I am also part of a community:  the teachers I work with, the ones I do see face to face every day.  Whether or not I have chosen these people, the fact remains that they are my colleagues and it is my responsibility to connect and collaborate with them so that the educational needs of our students are being met in the best possible way.  While last year I focused on building my personal learning NETWORK, this year I feel I need to develop my professional learning COMMUNITY.

I've been thinking about this and asking myself why it seems so much harder to develop a community than a network.  I think in part it is because as teachers we do not always agree on the best way forward especially when, despite all our efforts, we have students who still experience difficulties with learning.  Sometimes we feel that admitting this in our teams is a sign of weakness, an admission of failure, which can lead to a feeling of inadequacy when others in the team don't seem to be having similar problems - maybe it's better just to stay quiet and hope nobody notices.  Because we are under pressure of time - our units of inquiry begin and end on certain dates, summative assessments have to be completed and so on - we are often under pressure to finish and move on.  In our teams there is no consensus as to what to do with the students who need more time, who have not yet mastered a particular skill or demonstrated their understanding of the central idea of a unit of inquiry.  Should we give more time to assist those students, even though most students have already mastered the concepts, or should we push on and let the struggling students fall even further behind?  In order to build a real professional learning community we need to work together on tough questions like this, to question what we are doing, to analyze and improve our classroom practice at the formative assessment stage when we can ask whether all our students are learning what they need to learn, rather than at the summative assessment stage where we find out which students did not.  We need to have dialogue not just about planning the units of inquiry, but about implementing what we have planned - to discuss what we are actually teaching and what the students are actually learning, and how we will know when each student has actually learned it - and also what to do if they haven't.

Where there's a will there's a way.  I think the will is there to work closer as a professional learning community.  What we need to do now is to find the way to actually do it.

Image Credit:  Web 2.0 Party by Fritz Ahlefeldt-Laurvig


  1. Good luck Maggie! The in person communities can often be more difficult not only because of the differing opinions, but also because you don't interact with them on your terms. I think you will be enriched by the experience in different ways than you imagine. I would love to be one of the PLN you meet in person one day!

  2. Maggie, very inspiring, and I have been finding myself wanting to build a community as well. My recent attempt to start working closely with people to develop our understanding of the PYP, through blogging together, has been surprisingly great. Especially since someone from my school started to comment all the time, and has now joined our blog as a contributer. I don't know if this will work for everyone (what does though?), but hopefully in the future we will get to share our learning and approach with the whole staff, and some might be interested to get on board.

  3. I taught before Twitter enabled me to build a wonderful global PLN. I was fortunate when I first started teaching in 1969 to encounter three other teachers who helped me and became my PLC. Forty one years later I had dinner with two of those same three teachers. We have become life-long friends. You can find other teachers and build a wonderful connection. My PLN-PLC page:

  4. Community is our school-wide theme this year. I hope to follow your journey as I take my own.