From my experience in administration and being a teacher, creating a professional community is crucial for effective learning in a restructured system. One challenge is that ALL teachers need to share responsibility for ALL students. A professional community must also be committed to fundamental change in teaching practices. As viewed on this blog site, elements of an effective professional community include reflective dialogue, teachers being open with their practice, collective focus on student learning, collaboration and shared norms and values.
There are structure resources and human or social resources that enhance a community. Research collected from restructured school systems have shown that human resources such as openness to improvement, trust and respect, teachers being provided knowledge and skills, supportive leadership and socialization can be more critical than structural conditions.
Structural conditions such as time to meet and talk, physical proximity, interdependent teaching roles, communication structures and teacher empowerment are very important and necessary, but if a school doesn’t have social and human resources to use the structural conditions, strong professional conditions can’t develop. Improving culture, climate and interpersonal relationships lead the way to building a necessary foundation for restructuring schools.
We can learn from our students and the culture that we envision to create. What do we want to model for the students we teach? Students learn in an environment that has mutual respect and trust. If students are willing to learn and work together in and out of the classroom they will continue to progress. Teachers provide the students with the tools to learn and the students have leaders throughout the school to guide their achievement. The restructuring pathway takes dedication and time but if the fundamental resources are in place a successful school system will reap the benefits of a professional learning community.