Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are crucial for advancing student learning. However, many teachers in rural schools are the only one in their grade level or subject area. This can make collaboration through a PLC extremely difficult.
Since 462 out of the 1,210 school districts in Texas are considered rural school districts by TEA, think of all the amazing collaboration that could happen if rural educators had a connected network. With a little creativity, you can make this happen by creating a co-op style PLC where teachers from neighboring rural districts regularly meet together.
Here are 5 steps to build a PLC co-op in your rural school:
- Step 1- Decide on Attendees
- Step 2- Choose a Platform
- Step 3- Set an Agenda
- Step 4- Schedule a Regular Meeting Time
- Step 5- Create Norms
Step 1- Decide on Attendees
The first step in planning a co-op style PLC is to reach out to contacts in other rural school districts who might be interested in forming a PLC. Decide whether it would be more beneficial to meet in vertical teams by subject or by grade level. It could be a good idea to include an assistant principal or instructional coach to help facilitate the discussion.
Step 2- Choose a Platform
The next step is deciding whether to meet up in-person or virtually. Since the closest district could be an hour away for many rural schools, in-person PLCs might not be an option. However, with so many great digital platforms out there, collaborating with other teachers is easier that ever! Platforms like Zoom or Google Hangouts are great options for having a video conference.
Step 3- Set an Agenda
In order to make the PLC run smoothly, make sure all participants understand the goal of the PLC. Will this be a time to discuss helpful mentor texts in an ELAR classroom? Is it focused on sharing resources that can be used in Math centers? What about sharing writing RTI strategies for struggling students? Make sure you have a set agenda so that the conversation does not digress from the original goal.
Step 4- Schedule a Regular Meeting Time
In order to truly build a professional learning community, you need to meet regularly with the same group. Depending on everyone’s schedule, the PLC might be bi-weekly, once a month, or even once a quarter. Obviously, the more opportunity the group has to meet, the better. But make sure to set realistic expectations. Since every school has a unique schedule, an after school PLC might be the easiest option.
Step 5- Create Norms
The final step in starting a successful PLC co-op is to create norms that all group members agree to abide by. Perhaps you all decide that everyone needs to be on time and should alert all members if they cannot attend the PLC meeting. Maybe it is necessary to include that members should refrain from texting or emailing during the PLC. Whatever you decide as a group, be sure to begin every meeting by reviewing the norms.
To learn other solutions to common rural school challenges, download our FREE Rural Schools Checklist!