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The Secret Ingredient for PLC Success

In the summer of 2007 as a still-green assistant principal, I attended my very first PLC conference. I had the amazing opportunity to hear the great Dr. Rick DuFour speak, along with his entire team. He shared his journey and the success that occurred at Adlai Stevenson High School, where he’d been the principal and where the PLC movement was born. Their work was so impressive, as was that of so many other of the Solution Tree presenters. I was excited to further grow our PLCs. Surely, this was the one thing we were missing that would take us to the next level. Only, it didn’t.

Over the years I attended countless conferences where both Dr’s DuFour, Anthony Muhammad, Rick Stiggins, and many others were present to share insight and inspire greatness in schools across the globe. Everyone, myself included, would leave the conference with ideas of how to improve the PLC work in our respective locations. There were amazing data protocols, team structures, even evaluation tools for the PLC to examine and improve. Let’s face it, Solution Tree was crushing it and we all wanted our work to emulate what we were hearing and learning about. But for many, it didn’t. Why aren’t my PLC’s performing like that?!?

Beware of the trap!

I, like many others, fell into a trap with PLC work. I believed if we only could get our departments to behave more like the PLCs we had learned about, our test scores would improve, our grad rates would soar, our teachers would be happy! We just need to train them in the protocols. Perhaps we take more of them to the conference or to see another school doing the work. Yeah, that will do it. But just like every other thing we attend and bring into our buildings…there is a big caveat. And it is the thing that is most often overlooked.

People have to BELIEVE!

Years down the road, I think I began to figure out what leadership meant and what Rick DuFour truly had nailed with his PLC work. Without everyone buying into the message, seeing the vision, and TAKING OWNERSHIP, no amount of training nor number of conferences attended will matter. The secret to PLC success, and the success of your school, is having a leader who creates a vision so compelling that everyone wants to see that alternate reality become their truth. Dr. DuFour didn’t sell the staff at Adlai Stevenson on PLCs, rather he sold them on a vision of what their school could become. The outcomes that could be reality for children and the success in the workplace that adults could achieve. Probably not everyone believed in it, at first. Some probably left when he began to hold people to that vision. Leadership is hard…let me say it another way – leadership is HARD! It is a heavy lift to really transform a system and alter the current course.

So, as you begin thinking about next school year and your plans to move the school forward, consider the importance of your own clarity and the clarity attached to the vision you have for your school. Is everyone in alignment with it? Do they even know what it is? Start here, then begin to invite people into the vision of the new reality. Help everyone see not only the vision but their role and importance in achieving that reality. Coach them, support them, listen to them. Thisis the biggest thing that Dr. DuFour got right. Yes, PLCs are huge. But they only happened and were successful because of his clear vision, ability to get everyone to see it, understand their role in it, and to want it. It happened because of his supreme leadership.

Focus on building a vision. Focus on helping everybody see and believe in your vision. Make it something all can achieve and want to take ownership in.

The secret to PLCs, and every other effort you want to put into your schoolS; the secret to any change movement is…


Have a #RoadToAwesome week


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