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Staff book group puts focus on expanding expertise in learning

(Jan. 25, 2019) Students are not the only ones who have club activities at Showell Elementary School – every administrator, teacher, counselor and faculty member are part of a book club of their own called the PLT Book Club.

PLT, or Professional Learning Team, is a group of educators that meets regularly, shares expertise and works collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students.

 “It started out when we started to learn about the ‘5 Dimensions of Teaching and Learning’ in 2015-16,” instructional coach Michelle Forte said during a monthly board of education meeting last Tuesday. “The next year, 2016-17, we began doing some different things where [teachers] would research some trends or some components of the 5D that maybe we were a little weaker on, and they would meet as a team and sign up for whichever one they wanted to be a part of.

“We’ve done that the past two years,” she continued. “One of the suggestions this year was to change up … so what we did is we came up with our book club and this summer we researched six different books … that could go across grade levels. It could be any subject.”

Six teams were split between the school staff, choosing from one of these six books: “A Mindset of Learning,” “Engaging Children,” “Help for Billy,” “Better than Carrots or Sticks,” “Teaching Talk” and “Who’s Doing the Work?”

The teams meet twice a month to discuss different research trends, where everyone has a chance to discuss key points they discovered about the texts.

“Everyone has a seat at the table,” art teacher Lindsey Winters said.

The books discuss a variety of topics, such as helping children in difficult situations that might be impacting their learning ability, whether the teacher is providing too much assistance (identified as scaffolding), and honing better time management and learning practices.

Some of the faculty chose books the club organizers never expected, which Forte shared during the board meeting.

“I’ve chosen [“Better than Carrots or Sticks”] … I knew my reason as to why I [chose] that and then all of a sudden we have a guidance counselor on the team,” Forte said. “When I saw him sign up for that I thought, ‘Oh, well he didn’t get to the group quick enough and get the book he wanted.’ I would have definitely thought he would fit the ‘Billy’ book and he picked this one.

“I remember the first night we were like, ‘Ed why are you on this team?’” she continued. “And he said, ‘There’s so many things that go on in this school,’ … and he says it just gives him the insight that he wouldn’t have if he didn’t read books like that.”

The PLT Book Clubs are only halfway through their designated books, but by the end of the schoolyear, each team will provide a presentation in front of the entire faculty.

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