When Experts come to Town


September 26, 2009 by readlisaread

My school district is on the small side- around 9, 000 students, and about 600 teachers. The district surrounds a smallish town on a Vancouver Island.  So, yes, in some ways, we are like a Colonial outpost, but only geographically.  My colleagues are well read, attend professional development and are up on all the latest trends (or bandwagons).

However.  Despite our collective expertise, when the Board Office decides it’s time for a change, their first impulse is to look for an expert who can be flown in, at great expense, and School us in what it is we should be doing in our classrooms. One such expert was Dr. Rick Dufour, a well known name in Education.  His name jumped out at me as author on the article about “Merit Pay”: http://www.allthingsplc.info/wordpress/?p=226

It was about 7 or 8 years ago when he was booked for a 3 day-blitz up here– a couple of days with Admin and a day addressing the 600 employees.  His talk to us was great– he was inspiring and funny and all of his ideas seemed eminently sensible and do-able.  Of course, we knew that any suggestion that cost money (ie, extra assistants, early dismissal days, extra resources) would never happen.  Why?  Because of the blessed perversity of our great district. The tally?  They spent $10, 000 to bring him up and make recommendations, not one of which was ever followed through.


But they will do the same thing all over again when the next band wagon rolls by.


  1. Dear Sigh,

    You present the perfect example of a big problem: Implementation. The very best idea is of little value until it helps a teacher improve teaching. Instead of how to conduct a PLC, we need to ask how we can leave a collaborative session ready to teach and analyze a new strategy?

    Our system is structured to offer time for professional leaning in increments of hours. The solution must work in hours. We have to focus on why previous ideas did not transfer to the classroom in the system we have. Then we know what kind of solutions PLC’s must generate. Subtle yet critical details can make the difference.

    Most of the time, we fail to adaquately prepare teachers for the moment they walk in and try the new strategy. There will always be risk in change, but teachers have a right to feel a reasonable degree of assurance that they will succeed when trying something new. We have an obligation to support building perceptions of success.

    In hours, how can we help teachers prepare for and predict the successful implementation of one strategy. Small cycles of PLC work, should continually help teachers meet a readiness threshold for using and analyzing new strategies.

    Send me a performace objective, and I’ll give you an example of how it is done. Prestonww49@yahoo.com

  2. wolin says:

    This fall, a group of teachers and the administrator from our school attended a conference sponsored by the Washington State ASCD. We were excited by what we heard. The break-out sessions were taught by “real” teachers in a school district that implemented the PLC approach successfully. Their district was very committed to making it work, i.e. they gave them planning time built into each week to encourage the process. Our group decided to jump in without the gift of time. All grade levels agreed to find time to meet. The first grade team meets once a week during our planning time. It has made a difference right from the start. We may have a lot of work to do to achieve the status of a “sophisticated” PLC, but it can work without waiting for the time and money commitment.

  3. readlisaread says:

    Thank you for the reply, and we get a lot of lip service up here about PLCs, but the reality is that our “communities” are mandated and driven by outside agendas and so instead of being collaborative and self-sustaining, they are stagnant and a place of resentment. It’s too bad–but it sounds like your district might be doing a better job!

  4. […] times I have blogged about “The Experts” generally Really Smart People from somewhere else who come to tell us how we ought to be doing […]

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