K-12 teaching in the United
States has traditionally been individual work. Teachers spend almost
all of their working day with students in classrooms largely closed
to peer observation, assistance and review. Compared to teachers
in other countries, U.S. teachers spend very little time working with
each other to analyze and improve their teaching and their students’
learning. As a result of their relative isolation, U.S. teachers have
developed strong norms of privacy and autonomy. While these norms
have provided teachers the discretion to address their students’
varied learning needs, they have also made it difficult for teachers
to develop a shared knowledge base upon which they can develop,
evaluate and improve their practice.
Given these organizational
traditions and norms, creating and sustaining teachers’ professional
learning communities pose significant challenges for teachers. Professional
learning communities require that teachers make their work and its
challenges public and that they investigate and consider anew their
own and their colleagues’ knowledge, beliefs and practices.
The following tools will help
you and your colleagues to establish and sustain the work of professional
learning communities to support mentoring.