Years ago, in my first experience of a professional learning community, I learned the term charrette:
Charrette is French for “small cart or wheelbarrow.” The term (as we use it here) came into use in the 19th century at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts architectural school in Paris.
Teams of students there were given challenging design problems to creatively solve under the pressure of time.
The intense teamwork continued right up to the time when a cart or charrette was used to carry the students’ competition submissions from the studio to the rooms where the reviews would take place.
Our PLC charrettes were focused on curriculum and lesson design problems. We’d put our heads together, ask for help on focused issues, and leave with great ideas for strengthening our lessons.
As leaders, we know the importance of PLCs for teachers, but we often neglect our own needs as professionals, and don’t give ourselves the same benefit.
We need colleagues to put our heads together with in a structured way, to get focused help with the urgent problems we’re facing.
And we’re always working as we walk by the charrette, because there’s never time to bring everything to a halt. We’re rebuilding the plane as it’s flying, as the saying goes.
Let’s say you’re working on your master schedule for next year. How many times have you actually gone over your schedule with an administrator from another school?
Or say you’re overhauling your efforts to get all of your seniors to graduate. When was the last time you purposefully gathered together with your peers to ask for help, compare notes, and share solutions?
Most likely, it was at a conference or a district meeting where someone created the opportunity. In rural Washington, my colleagues have told me that athletic conferences are often where their best charrettes with other principals take place, because everyone is together and eager to collaborate.
What problems do you currently want help with? How do you seek out the peer input that can help solve those problems?