A Letter from Principal Parker

 

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.  This impacts children.

By establishing Universal and Team expectation for students, all students know what it means to be a Pirate at Stevenson Middle School.  Each team has worked with students to create Team Names.  This year we have Olympians and Legendary Six at sixth grade, Elite and Dream Team at seventh grade, and Pirates 2K18 and Infinite 8 at eighth grade.  This approach has allowed each team to create a sense of community.  Team teachers serve as advisors to the children on the team.  And they use strategies discussed at PLC time to set goals with their students.  When students know how much their teachers care about them, they start to care how much the teachers know.  And our teachers know a lot!  Now the magic of teaching and learning can take place.

Each of us can choose what type of relationships we want to have with people around us.  Our teachers have chosen to have collaborative relationships with colleagues, supportive and positive relationships with administrators, communicative relationships with parents, and nurturing relationships with students.  Collective good will is being built.  And this reservoir of good will can be accessed by children and adults throughout the school day.  The resulting active, happy, safe, engaging and challenging professional learning environment makes Stevenson Middle School a special place.  And something people want to, “…be a part of.”  Teachers know they can take instructional risks, children know they can take intellectual risks.  All the result of an organizational structure, which empowers teachers to search for attributes in children, which they may not even know they have.

This year the Board of Education made an even bigger commitment to our PLCs by adding additional teacher specialists; those with expertise in the areas of special education and English as a Second Language.  This investment in people is paying off.  This allows more and more students who are new to our country, or differently abled, to learn in co-taught classes with their peers.  With two and sometimes three teachers in a classroom, the opportunity for learning and small group initiatives can grow exponentially when compared to what may happen in a classroom with only one teacher.  With more teachers on teams, more teacher experts attend PLC meetings for planning lessons for our students.  These experts focus colleagues and advocate for learners.  This support from the Board has already made a difference. And will continue to make a difference as the community being established at Stevenson Middle School – one relationship at a time – grows and thrives on the success it generates.

James Parker
Principal, Stevenson Middle School
[email protected]