Authored by Kathryn Manning, K-12 SIG Leader
How to Start your Own PLC…with another district
For small-incidence districts where you may be the sole ELL teacher or go a whole week without seeing your fellow ELL team members, collaborating with ELL teams outside of your district may provide a fresh new perspective and spark ideas for how to improve your setting’s LIEP model.
Step 1: Identify a District to Partner with
When it comes to attending conferences, part of the excitement after hearing the keynote speaker’s presentation and perusing vendors is reuniting and catching up with that conference buddy you always run into at VATESOL conferences. What if you didn’t have to wait until the next conference to catch up and could instead create something new and exciting now?
After attending a consortium conference last fall, I reached out to another district’s team that presented on how to create in-house ELL-specific professional development and training to support content teachers in collaborating with ELL teachers. Although unable to attend their presentation, entitled Smarter Together: Developing Teacher Expertise, I found that this team of Staunton City ELL teachers and an Executive Director of Instruction were more than happy to not only share their program model, but also major findings.
Step 2: Meet Virtually or In-Person to Establish Goals and Purpose for Meeting
After corresponding via e-mail a few times, we decided an in-person meeting would be best to exchange ideas and our own experiences with collaboration. I pitched the idea to one of my content area coteachers, who quickly expressed interest in being a part of our growing motley crew. Getting a group of educators together for a Friday after-school meeting is no easy feat, but we made it happen with the help of a shared interest in improving our district’s collaboration and PD model. Our first meeting centered on how to create a system for change through staff ELL training: starting a pilot study, using Title III funds, collecting data to show progress, and how to encourage reflection among teachers as they try out and adopt new strategies for supporting English learners—quite the productive agenda even as we hit start on our teacher weekend modes!
Step 3: Keep It Going
Almost three months later and our ELL cross-district PLC is still going strong. Although our meeting setting has shifted from city hall to local coffee shops, we still bring a desire to grow and increase our knowledge base as educators. On top of improving teacher expertise, we have also added a book study to our agenda list as we dive into Andrea Honigsfeld’s Co-Planning: Five Essential Practices to Integrate Curriculum and Instruction for English Learners. Like many ELL educators, we still vent about ACCESS testing and how to support our coworkers in being more intentional about supporting ELs in the classroom. However, I find that with new faces and ideas we also bring a dynamic energy that keeps us moving forward and excited for the positive change we can enact in our individual settings. Stay tuned–we’re not done yet!