Rethinking PLC’s for 2021
Submitted by: Angela Girgis Girgis Educational Consulting
Professional Learning Communities (PLC) have become a familiar and collective inquiry practice in most Indiana schools. As a former administrator, I found out first-hand how PLC’s had a pervasive and ongoing impact on my school’s structure and culture. I always appreciated the opportunities to drop in on grade level PLC’s and hear my staff analyzing student achievement, sharing successful practices, and setting goals for the next week. What I often noticed that went unnoticed was how the teachers unknowingly utilized adult social and emotional learning (SEL) competencies. Teachers’ social awareness was demonstrated by their sense of empathy for their students and their colleagues. Relationship skills were sometimes put to the test as teachers would disagree on the best evidence-based practice to implement for the next unit of study. Responsible decision making had to be agreed upon to empower and equip their students.
PLC’s are a strategic time for our educators now more than ever to foster a supportive environment to cultivate intentional, personal social and emotional well-being. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) suggests that schools are more effective at teaching and reinforcing SEL when the competencies are also cultivated in adults. Due to the Covid pandemic, PLC’s should now also serve as a time for respite and social and emotional learning opportunities for our educators. This scheduled time can allow for a safe environment for our teachers to engage in SEL competencies such as self-awareness. Self-awareness is one competency that identifies and recognizes emotions, personal strengths in oneself, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. Teachers need time to breathe intentionally. The burden is heavy, and many of our teachers are exhausted and overwhelmed. Stress affects teachers’ health and well-being, job satisfaction, job turnover, and student outcomes (Greenberg et al., 2016). Encouraging teachers to collaboratively address how they manage their stress, stay persistent, and motivated can provide much-needed support.
As an administrator, what can you do to nurture a work environment where your staff feels supported and empowered to address their SEL needs? Support and encourage that a portion of PLC time to be dedicated to adult SEL? Give your staff permission to engage in their own social and emotional well-being during this time. Teachers are often pleasers and overachievers and need to hear from their administrator that they have the support and approval to focus and reflect on self-care during their PLC time. Provide resources such as Mindful Teachers.org that addresses burn-out and exhaustion. Pose a SEL question for your teachers to reflect upon such as “Name an emotion you are feeling and why you may be feeling that way?” Don’t stop there, but continue to listen and provide support and information from your school counselor or community counseling supports to address these emotions. Isolation has become a devastating issue during this unprecedented time in our history. Create opportunities for your staff to come together, even if it is a scheduled Zoom or Google Meet. If a PLC time has already been carved out in your schedule, utilize this opportunity to work smarter, not harder. Teachers have a full plate, and adding more meetings can add even more stress.
For now, PLC’s might have to take on a different look as we finish out the school year. Whether in-person or virtually, teachers need time to practice self-care for their well-being.
By designating a portion of PLC collaboration time to address adult social and emotional self-care, administrators can demonstrate their gratitude and compassion, acknowledging that educators are also serving as frontline workers during this pandemic.