MANKATO — Heather Mueller's second-grade daughter called a little meeting at home one day.
She sat her mom down and presented her with worksheets and packets of information she was receiving at school. She said, Mom, these are our “ELOs” (essential learning outcomes), but there's a problem — not everybody is learning these things, giving her friend as an example of someone who was not doing as well on the lessons.
“Now what are you going to do about it?” she said to Mueller, professional development coordinator for Mankato Area Public Schools.
At 8 years old, the scene is amusing, to say the least. But Mueller pointed out to a large group of educators from 15 districts across the region Wednesday at East High School that the kids — her daughter, included — are truly buying into the concept that “every child can learn.” And it's up to educators to work together to make sure that happens.
That's the purpose of the annual South Central Minnesota Educational Learning Consortium PLC Seminar. PLC stands for professional learning community, meaning collaboration among teachers and administrators to share ideas about what’s working, what’s not and how to move forward with a shared vision.
“It's always focused on student learning,” Mueller said. “It's also really about adults and our consistent (effort) to reach every single child.”
Part of Mueller's and Mankato Supt. Sheri Allen's keynote was devoted to an idea from an Abraham Lincoln quote: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so must we think anew.”
Mueller asked those in attendance to talk about what entrenched practices in their schools and districts need to be examined and changed. Allen brought up the kinds of “stomachache” inducing changes that are significant and fundamental, such as technology, that are difficult but perhaps necessary.
And breakout sessions coordinated by Mankato, St. Peter and Waseca district representatives reinforced the ideas Mueller and Allen addressed.
For example, Dave Kennedy, a math teacher at St. Peter Middle/High School, presented on the recent technology-focused flipped-classroom model, in which students received digital lessons at home and do homework at school.
Kennedy said his biggest worry was that he wouldn't have as much time for interacting with students. But he found they were actually more frequent and in-depth. Students came to school armed with questions.
“The whole purpose with flipped is more class time to work with individuals,” he said.
Mueller said there's a difference between the ideas that every student “can learn” and every student “will learn.”
“'Can learn' is something students can do if they want to,” she said. “'Will learn' means I have to make that happen.”
She said bringing so many districts together each year helps teachers do that by sharing ideas and strategies about what's working for each of them.
The PLC conference continues today at East.