The more training I receive for Professional Learning Communities, the more I enjoy the opportunity for collaboration with my colleagues. I love reading books about self improvement and how our thoughts affect our lives. One of the earliest books on this subject that I read was given to me by my mom. Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is a classic in this field. Don’t let the title fool you into thinking that it has nothing to do with becoming an excellent teacher.
Think and Grow Rich is a book about how to set and achieve big goals in your life. While the emphasis is on earning money, the book is written in such a way that it shares timeless principles about how to accomplish any goal you set. One of the principles is the concept of belonging to a Mastermind group. This is a group of like-minded individuals who support one another towards reaching their goals.
Like a PLC
The idea of a Mastermind group really reminds me of today’s Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) that are becoming increasingly common in American schools. My school is no exception. I love going to my PLC meetings and the time spent on collaboration with my colleagues! I always leave feeling inspired and am humbled by the wisdom my co-workers generously share during our time together.
The purpose of a PLC is to improve student achievement, so our meetings are very focused on that endeavor. However, some of my friends and I have started meeting privately in order to achieve our personal and professional goals. It happened quite organically – nothing formal at all. Just a group of friends sitting around a fire, drinking and sharing our dreams with each other. I never wanted the party to end. It was so great that before we left, we had our next date scheduled. Talk about buy-in!
Two Special Factors
So I started thinking…what was so different about that party? My friends and I have gotten together many times before that night. We’ve always been supportive of each other. It’s not uncommon for us to share our hopes for the future. As I reflect on that night, I think it comes down to two special factors – focus and enthusiasm. We were very focused on verbalizing our goals and the more we talked, the more enthusiastic we became. (Okay, the wine might have had something to do with that, too!)
3 Criteria for Collaboration
Even though our group happened quite spontaneously, there are criteria you can use to purposefully create your own Mastermind group. The important thing is to put a group together and get started. Here are some ideas for you.
* Trust. You absolutely MUST have trust within your group. I’ve known some of the people in my group for almost my entire teaching career. Others, I’ve only known for a few months. That’s okay. The important thing is the level of trust we have with each other.
* Transparency. Before our party, the only other person who knew about my blog project was my mom. That night, I revealed my plans for the future – something I would never have done if I didn’t first have the trust. Remember, your colleagues can’t help you achieve your goals if they don’t even know about them in the first place.
* Time. Life is busy. It’s even busier for my friends, who have husbands and children. Factor in a full-time career and that leaves very little time for meeting. Schedule your dates in advance and, as much as life allows, commit. The goals you set for yourself will not be handed to you on a silver platter. Take the time to invest in them and you will eventually earn the reward.
Here We Go Again!
Tonight we are meeting again. I’m so excited! And I have no idea what’s going to happen. I only hope we continue to encourage each other to push ourselves out of the dreaded comfort zone and achieve great things – not just for ourselves, but also for our students who deserve teachers that strive to be their very best.