Crazy title, eh? That’s what I thought as I was reading the book Making Teamwork Meaningful by Ferriter, Graham, and Wight. I heard Will Ferriter present at the PLC Institute this past July and could not get enough of what I was learning from him, so I had to buy his book. For those of you on the Professional Learning Community journey, I highly recommend this book that is filled with great tools for PLC teams to use.
Now, back to the crazy title…please follow me with a brief history lesson that makes a great analogy to how important our work is.
The authors share the story of how obstetricians, just like teachers, have committed themselves to working collaboratively together to improve their practice together. Their movement to collective inquiry largely began with Virginia Apgar in 1953. Apgar loved working in delivery rooms, but was troubled by the seemingly insensitive treatment that many babies received at birth. Any minor struggle with breathing, poor coloring, or small size could quickly result in a doctor’s judgement that the baby would not make it and just left the baby to quietly die.
Apgar believed that making such rash choices about a child’s future based on nothing more than general impressions was morally wrong. This led her to develop what we all know today as the Apgar test, which is a simple and repeatable procedure used by nurses and doctors with a baby at one and five minutes after birth. It was the Apgar test that improved the traditional practices that had previously resulted in doctors giving up on babies that just appeared unhealthy. Furthermore, doctors began using the Apgar observations to find new new ways to intervene to see if they could improve a baby’s Apgar score between the one and five minute mark. This collective inquiry has tremendously improved rapid advances in neonatal care and dramatically decreased the rate of infant mortality since the 1950’s.
So, how does this relate to education? We are just as likely to fall into the same trap that those doctors did many years ago and make quick decisions based on our general impressions about students. ‘He’ll never get this,” we sometimes think about a struggling student, or “I’ve seen a million kids just like him.’
“Such a reliance on nothing more than gut-reactions can result in students who fail simply because teachers stop fighting on their behalf.” (p. 63)
No, the decisions that we make regarding the students in our classrooms are not life or death as it was for the doctors prior to the Apgar test; however, we are making decisions that will affect their lives. Educators in a Professional Learning Community are committed to progress-driven learning and never stop fighting. Instead, they collaborate, use common assessments to analyze student results, develop interventions and make a difference in the learning lives of their students.