Teachers Network
Translate Translate English to Chinese Translate English to French
  Translate English to German Translate English to Italian Translate English to Japan
  Translate English to Korean Russian Translate English to Spanish
Lesson Plan Search
Our Lesson Plans
TeachNet Curriculum Units
Classroom Specials
Popular Teacher Designed Activities
TeachNet NYC Directory of Lesson Plans TeachNet NYC Dirctory of Lesson Plans

Teachers Network Leadership Institute
How-To Articles
Videos About Teaching
Effective Teachers Website
Lesson Plans
TeachNet Curriculum Units
Classroom Specials
Teacher Research
For NYC Teachers
For New Teachers

TeachNet Grant:
Lesson Plans
TeachNet Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
Other Grant Winners
Math and Science Learning
Impact II
Grant Resources
Grant How-To's
Free Resources for Teachers
Our Mission
   Press Releases
   Silver Reel
   2002 Educational Publishers Award


NYC Helpline: How To: Get Started
How to Home
NYC Helpline: Manage Your Classroom
NYC Helpline: How To Get Started

How to Help Create a Professional Learning Community In Your School 
Judi Fenton

On my first day of teaching I was handed the keys to my classroom and told “Okay, go ahead.” There were no materials or appropriately sized furniture in my classroom (I was hired in October when money came through to create an additional pre-kindergarten class—the furniture was on order but wouldn’t arrive until December). I had attended a respected college and had an undergraduate degree in child development and elementary education. According to the city and state, I was certified and licensed to teach. I had all the theory and paperwork I ostensibly needed, yet I didn’t know what to do with the busy, noisy, active children in front of me.

Luckily, there was another wonderful and generous pre-kindergarten teacher in the building. She had been teaching for one year and, along with our assistant teachers, we hastily formed our own professional learning community. She shared materials and supplies with me until my orders came through. Of greatest importance, thanks to her generosity, I learned to teach that year. 

The two of us, with our assistants, planned curriculum together, did our activities together, watched each other teach and talked about what went well and what didn’t, discussed individual children and how we could best reach them and talked about how to communicate better with families. We went on trips together, held class celebrations together, and jointly made recommendations to the principal and the district about our school’s pre-kindergarten program.

I realize now how very lucky I was. I stumbled into a ready-made and very welcoming group of teachers willing to invite me to join them in learning together about teaching real children. These opportunities are rare. Today, when I work with new teachers, I notice, sadly, that communities such as I had are few and far between.

However, there are a few simple things that a new teacher can do to help begin to create a professional learning community. Not only will these things help to support you during your first few years, they will also help to serve the needs of all the teachers at your school.

1. Ask questions.
Considering that schools are institutes of learning, creating a culture of inquiry in a school can be surprisingly difficult. We need to be learners and model learning for students. As a new teacher, you are in a perfect position to ask questions in order to find out what you need to know in a new school, and also challenge people to think about what exists in your school by asking them to see it through new eyes.

2. Ask an experienced teacher if you can watch her teach.
One of the hardest things for new teachers is when you are told that you have to use a certain strategy and you have no point of reference. You haven't seen it being done. Many of the new teachers I work with ask an experienced teacher or a curriculum expert to model a lesson for them before they are expected to do it on their own. Although we all must develop our own individual style of teaching, seeing a model enables you to experience and visualize what it is you need to do. If you have a curriculum expert from the district come in, you can probably invite other teachers who have a free period to watch also. Then you can debrief together, and talk about how you will implement the strategy in your own classrooms.

3. Ask an experienced teacher to watch you teach.
Setting up a peer coaching relationship with a more experienced teacher might be the single most helpful professional development for a new teacher. Find someone who has worked through, or is working through, some of the classroom and curricular issues you are currently struggling with. You will have some of the richest, most thoughtful conversations about your classroom practice after watching each other teach. I guarantee that you will become a more effective teacher when you find the right colleague to work with.

4. Eat lunch in a classroom with your colleagues.
Invite some of the teachers in your school to have lunch together in your classroom. It will begin to create the social relationships important in creating a professional learning community. If you bring food, you'll be truly appreciated! You'll be repaid for your kindness with pointers on how to set up your room, display student work, and construct curriculum. This could be a great way to find a peer coach.

5. Start a support group.
Your lunch time group might also turn into a support group. Sticky issues like how to talk to parents, how to get your students to return homework, and classroom management are areas of success that many teachers are happy to share.

It's as easy as talking to one other new teacher. At one of the schools I work in, we're started a support group with two teachers on their lunch hour. Now, more teachers are asking to meet with us. Not only that, the supervisors at the school are asking if others can join and if we might focus on some of the new strategies the school is beginning to institute.

6. Tell your principal that you want help.
Supervisors generally want you to do well, however, they might not remember what it was like to be a new teacher. Set the stage for them. Tell a principal that you would like to work with other teachers. Usually she or he will have some suggestions about who is good at what and who might be more willing to work with you. An ulterior motive for going to your principal is to show your willingness to take the risks in your learning necessary to become the best teacher you can be.

These strategies are small, but necessary steps in your goal to begin to create a professional learning community. Good luck!


Come across an outdated link?
Please visit The Wayback Machine to find what you are looking for.


Journey Back to the Great Before