Thursday, May 31, 2012
Professional Learning Community
Right in front of the white board, principal, assistant principal, and the curriculum head teacher, and business staff are sitting to start a staff meeting. The assistant principal usually runs the meeting. "Principal, please give us the initial message for us prior to the meeting," the assistant principal would say. "Well, this year has been a tough order to protect our children from the common cold. Please take care of yourselves by washing hands and gurgles as well," the principal ends his speech. The assistant principal follows the agenda like; 1. Report from the school discipline committee, safety committee, academic committee, parent involvement committee, etc. 2. The planning for the upcoming open lessons in the professional development guided by the curriculum head teacher. 3. Sports Event instruction designed by the event committee, etc. There are so many branches instead of the principal dictating approach. Many different committees work together and collaborate with other committees to make their school run well. The principal looks like he's almost about to fall sleep, therefore. It takes forever to complete the all items in the agenda. Though, there is no grouching even after 5:00 pm. Their respectful and collaborative system is great, however, the lengthy meetings made me think, "Can we be more practical and productive?" I even didn't have any kids to pick up from the daycare, but my time after school was valuable. It was so unnatural to me just sitting and listening to the endless arguments over little things. It seems like teachers had difficult time compromising. I wanted to go back to my classroom to plan my lessons for tomorrow. By the way, there is a teachers' meeting every morning for 10 minutes in addition to the weekly staff meeting. While teachers are meeting in the staff room, children are working on their morning tasks independently. Except some six graders are helping first graders most of the time, and 15 minutes of morning time is quiet without any supervision. We cannot do it here in the U.S.
On the first staff meeting I attended in the U.S. it was held in the library. There were little tables and chairs nicely organized. This room was like a Munchkin house. The attendees are all larger than my size, and some of them are triple larger than me. How could they fit in these munchkin chairs? I hesitantly sat on the chair where Barbara asked me to sit. Luckily, my bottom fit on the munchkin chair. The young principal came in joyously and greeted to the staff from the door and walked directly to our table that has no more chair. To my surprise, the principal started talking by sitting on the table! If it's not a culture shock, what is? Sitting on the munchkin chair is a shocking enough, but on the munchkin table? I tried to look at his eyes, but only thing I could see was his nose holes from this position. At least I got a couple of lessons; A little rudeness is acceptable here (People even don't think it is rude anyway). And I, as a monkey, should do as the other monkeys do. I also learned quickly that I have to make my own coffee here. But I didn't have to make coffee for anyone else.
Teachers kept interrupting (participating) the meeting, however, the direction was always coming from the principal. There was no wonder why they want to share their comments and ask questions so often. Among seven different buildings where I have worked in the U.S., only one school had staff lead staff meeting. A few committee was functioning routinely and collaboratively like Japanese schools. I was very amazed at this possibility. Yet their meeting was dismissed by 4 pm most of the time. Staff in this school even don't know Japanese style; it means staff lead system is not necessarily originated in Japan. No matter which countries you teach, genuine educators seem to know the significance of Professional Learning Community. And they make it happen. Together. Furthermore, the effective Professional Learning Community is not designed by a single party. The healthy and transparent communication between administration and staff is essential and rather critical because the relationship will soon be made with its success. Teachers are no longer intimidated by knocking on the principal's door. The principal should be a leader rather than a boss who can listen, guide, share, and organize a team cohesively. Trust and respect are going to be built upon that fundamental relationship. Once it's made, it will be as sturdy as pyramid, if not, Samurai Castle, not like a munchkin chair. Dignity doesn't have to be on the special heavy sliding door. Dignity is something you can feel during the first couple of dialogue you exchange among staff on the day you step into the school.