We work in principal learning teams (PLT) in our district to further our professional learning. Our team is made up of eight principals and vice-principals from five schools. Over three years, we have worked hard to build trust and now have a respectful working relationship where we can challenge and support each others’ learning.
A key component to our success was creating and committing to meeting norms. Once we had established our team’s purpose, these norms emerged.
- We will collaborate not compete. Too often in education, people feel that they are in competition with colleagues for recognition and rewards. There is a fear that if someone else looks good, then you look bad. It was important to emphasize that we are all in this together. We need to share our knowledge and expertise. When one of us looks good, everyone looks good!
- We will participate openly and listen actively. Listening is the most important communication skill. We are committed to learning to listen with all senses engaged without being focussed on what we plan to say next. By paying attention to others and being “in the moment”, we know that our honest participation follows naturally.
- We will be engaged in the discussion. This is one of those norms that says you can’t just sit back and check your email. One way we achieve this is by planning our agendas carefully so that each component is of great interest to all of us, and everyone has an active role.
- We understand that disagreement is meant to create intellectual debate for the purpose of professional growth. Cognitive dissonance is essential for learning. It is often quite uncomfortable, however, so we go out of our way to avoid it. Our PLT has accepted that it’s OK to be uncomfortable for the purpose of learning. And we disagree with respect.
- We start every meeting with a “Brag and Drag”. Our district uses this technique from Restorative Justice practices. We go around the table, and each person shares a “brag” (something great) and a “drag” (not so great) from their life. It can be personal or professional. It is a great way to get to know others better, and it builds trust. Every member has the right to pass if they wish, but on our team, no one ever does.
What norms does your team use? Are they effective? Do they reflect your purpose?