School to Watch:
Stevenson Middle School Builds Professional Learning Communities
Stevenson Middle School builds its PLCs one relationship at a time. A Professional Learning Community (PLC) is an organizational structure that matches a middle school approach perfectly. One pillar of a successful middle school is a structure that allows teams a common planning time. Stevenson has offered this professional time to its teachers since its inception in 2014. Team leaders, both past and present, have made our PLCs what they are today – self-directed, effective, and professional – by building relationships with each other, establishing norms and roles, and by holding themselves accountable to their established goals. This has taken time. By investing in people and persons instead of products and paper, Stevenson’s PLCs have been able to provide myriad opportunities for professional growth and for student growth. It is not uncommon for teams to watch instructional videos together to learn about teaching strategies, to visit each other’s classrooms to tap into collective creativity, and to co-plan with teacher specialists.
Each day, teams of teachers have up to 75 minutes of common planning time. Team Leaders see to it that this PLC time is spent purposefully. Each day has a theme. For example, Monday might be “Kid Day,” Tuesday reserved for “Admin Day,” Wednesday targeted for “Data Day,” Thursday set aside for “Content Day,” and Friday used as a “Flex Day.” Rather than teachers working in isolation writing discipline referrals, teachers work collaboratively to solve problems, design interventions, meet with students, and to imbed social and emotional lessons into their content lessons. Clearly, the organizational structure of a PLC affects students positively.