How can we get Grandpa on the team?

For a discussion question in my current course, EDT6030 (Using Technology to build Learning Communities):  
Rembrandt’s “Old man in armchair”
According to Martin-Kniep (2008), the professional learning community model holds key assumptions which include:
Knowledge is socially constructed
• Allows for individual understanding and the exploration of new ideas, deepens expertise and helps to disseminate learning
members engage in deep conversations and inquiry
holds all members accountable for what they know and are trying to understand

Comment on the relationship of one of these assumptions to the dispositions of learning community members and how the work of the learning community should be facilitated (role and responsibilities of the leader).

There are probably some teachers out there who do not acknowledge the fact that knowledge is a social construct, and that the teacher is never the “know-it-all” if he is to exemplify lifetime learning to students. The teachers I’m talking about here are likely long-tenured veterans who feel secure in whatever they have been doing successfully for many years. They may wish for nothing more than to put on the professional blinders and do what they’ve been doing, without the distraction of administrators or younger colleagues championing PLCs.  Martin-Kneip (2007) would say that such teachers are just not “ready” to be good PLC members. 

Such crusty old teachers lack every one of the dispositions of a PLC-ready teacher. With entrenched, veterans, there is

  1. no commitment to understanding the purpose of one’s work (the “articulation of beliefs and questions” related to one’s work), nor the measurement of one’s work (in assessing student work (37)
  2. none of the intellectual perseverance (reflected in one’s commitment to revising and improving one’s work) as their newly educated colleagues (39)
  3. little of the courage and initiative necessary to work in “unfamiliar contexts, ways, or genres” or to pursue “new roles and responsibilities” that PLCs impose (41)
  4. zero commitment to reflection that all learning demands (experience + reflection = learning) (43)
  5. no sharing expertise (and doing it “as an expectation for [one’s] own self, and not a perk or unusual privilege”) (45)
  6. no real “collegiality.” The old-fashioned teachers “attend only to their own needs and responsibilities, avoid conversations with colleagues, and operate as if they did not need, or could not benefit from, interaction with others.” (52)

Once upon a time (in the last several decades) a public school teacher in the USA could get by in certain districts with deadly repetition of the tried and true. S/he was allowed to develop idiosyncrasies–both educative and otherwise–and continue using them–whether good or bad–unimpeded by teacher evaluations. However once upon a time dinosaurs roamed the earth. And this teacher is a dinosaur on any faculty in 2010. He needs to be remediated or made extinct. 

These are  the “dead-beat” die-hard teachers one hopes do get removed from the classroom by the policies of an Arne Duncan or a Michelle Rhee. Any responsible administrator would do what was best for children’s learning and get this teacher PLC-ready or get him out. 

How should  one “lead” such a recalcitrant teacher? One hopes that merely explaining the change in school culture to the oldster would be sufficient. And one hopes that the PLC leader’s organization were supportive, fostering the older teacher’s professional development in a way that made it easier to “get with it.” If the teacher were reasonable and the least bit conscientious, the appeal of a friendly PLC ambassador might suffice. On the other hand, if the teacher were opposed to being in the PLC in the first place, his/her disposition might not be workable. The best “facilitation” in the world would not make a difference with the unwilling.  For, as Martin-Kneip states, “those in a community should always want to be in it” (81).  What can you do with someone who is not fully “there?”

If the teacher were within a few years of retirement, Martin Kneip’s exercise of visualizing the school “ten years from now” (76) might not be able to be “vest” him/her into the concept of a professional learning community. So the best leadership might be to “lead” this teacher out of the profession, in the same way a commanding officer seeks to remove the wounded and diseased out of the ranks where the work is done.

I’ll be interested in reading what others think about getting similarly un-disposed teachers into a PLC program. 

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