May 6, 2021
I’ve had the absolute pleasure of learning more about professional learning communities (PLC) from a variety of sources over the years. I think the direct correlation between a “highly-functioning team” of educators and student learning outcomes has been thoroughly researched and well-documented. Yet, a professional learning session in my district’s PLC+ training gave me reason to pause–at square one.
Before any professional learning team (PLT) can function highly, there must be deep, professional trust. Without trust, chances for authentic collaboration and ultimate student success decrease significantly. Without trust, you have nothing.
Operationalizing a culture of trust requires a specific set of interpersonal skills. If teammates don’t abide by their norms of collaboration, it’s hard to function at all. If colleagues don’t foster safe spaces for vulnerability, uncomfortable conversations, and open sharing of resources, tools, and strategies, members are on their own. If educators can’t draw similar conclusions based on objective data without fear of repercussion, it can be hard to trust anyone.
What’s Your Relational Status? A Progression:
The value of relationships has also been well-posted. But is there more to “relationships” than meets the eye? And what kind of adult relationships might best serve each other–and ultimately kids–in this work?
From Reciprocal Relationships…
I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear the word “relationships,” I immediately think of the student-teacher dynamic. After all, classroom teachers have the highest frequency of interactions with our most cherished stakeholders–students. Together, they experience learning. They are co-learners. They construct knowledge together. They give and receive feedback with each other daily. In fact, you’ll often hear teachers express:
“I learn way more from the students than the students ever learn from me!”
In their book: Creating the Opportunity to Learn, authors Wade Boykin and Pedro Noguera state:
“Moreover, evidence has mounted that the association between relationship quality and student engagement is ultimately a reciprocal one” (Boykin & Noguera, 2011, p. 73).
To Mutual Connections…
Taking relationships one step further in her book: The Gifts of Imperfection, author Brene Brown professes:
“If connection is the energy that surges between people, we have to remember that those surges must travel in both directions” (Brown, 2010, p. 21).
So, now I’m thinking about relationships as mutual connections–and beyond the classroom. How about the adults in the building? Do energy surges travel in both directions on your team, in your hallways, or in your department? How about in the front office, on the administration team, or even in the central office? What kind of connections exist between your school and the community?
To… Reciprocal Investments
Taking it to another level in their book: What Connected Educators Do Differently, authors Todd Whitaker, Jimmy Casas, and Jeffrey Zoul said:
“Educators, like any other professionals, need peer-to-peer interactions and reciprocal investments in order to grow and develop” (Casas, Whitaker, Zoul, 2015, p. 2). #wcedd
What Does This Look Like in Your Space?
What do these relationships, connections, and investments look like in our professional spaces, learning opportunities, and leadership endeavors?
I think a lot of times in education, when we hear the word “relationships,” we think in terms of congeniality. You’re a nice person. I’m a nice person. We can be best friends enough to coexist in this group to get work done.
Yet, I’m wondering if we can extend those congenial relationships into collegial relationships?
Could we create a culture in which we foster and exercise interpersonal skills in deep levels of vulnerability, where we can give and receive critical, constructive feedback with each other–and in such a way where we can still preserve, maintain, and sustain our relationships, connections, and investments with each other?
How might that affect students, their learning, and our culture?
A Few More Parallels That Might Intersect
Congeniality allows for a team of individuals. Collegiality requires individuals to be on the team.
Congeniality smiles at independence. Collegiality bear-hugs interdependence.
Congeniality meanders around conflict. Collegiality navigates through conflict.
Congeniality among adults is nice. Collegiality with adults is respected.
How might educators create a culture of collegiality together?
I’m still thinking on this. What are your thoughts?
"Supportive Relational Conditions: Is there trust and respect in place within our PLC that provides the basis for giving and accepting feedback in order to work toward improvement" (Fisher et al., 2020, p. 5)? Enjoyed our Cohort C breakout talks today. #wcpssplcplus @SonyaWBrown pic.twitter.com/IrllE76M27
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) June 30, 2020
"Trust among members is essential for moving from parallel play to adversarial relationships to strong collegial teams committed to studying practice together. Use this survey to get a sense of the levels of trust on your learning team" (Ferriter, 2020, p.19). #PLCTools @plugusin pic.twitter.com/T48brfMSvX
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) July 1, 2020
Fact: Building relationships with students is important. It can help when navigating challenging learning experiences, together.
Assumption: All adults know how to build relationships… that might help them navigate challenging learning experiences, together.
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) January 7, 2021
"There is compelling evidence that the level of T-S relationship quaility affects the level of engagement for Ss. Moreover, evidence has mounted that the association b/w relationship quality and S engagement is ultimately a reciprocal one" (Boykin & Noguera, 2011, p. 73). #ecumsa
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) February 24, 2020
"If connection is the energy that surges between people, we have to remember that those surges must travel in both directions" (Brown, 2010, p. 21). #thegiftsofimperfection
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) December 21, 2020
"Educators, like any other professionals, need peer-to-peer interactions and reciprocal investments in order to grow and develop" (Casas, Whitaker, Zoul, 2015, p. 2). #wcedd
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) December 13, 2019
What do reciprocal relationships, connections, and investments look like in professional spaces, learning opportunities, and leadership endeavors? What are your thoughts? https://t.co/nuZjjgIRew #1mindrive2work #atplc #hamstrahighlights #collegiality https://t.co/Dw53VbfwzM
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) May 6, 2021