One of the biggest teaching challenges can be finding the time and resources to participate in meaningful professional development. Since there are often only one or two Visual Arts teachers within a building (sometimes even within a district), it becomes difficult to find opportunities to connect and collaborate with other teachers who share your content.
Hopefully your district allows you release time and financial support to participate in the annual MAEA conference. Unfortunately (as seen on recent Facebook posts), that is not always the case.
This is when a PLC (Professional Learning Community, also known as a PLN or Professional Learning Network) comes into play. Why wait for release time from your school or district initiatives to give you the opportunity to plan, prepare, and collaborate curriculum? The time often does not come and when it does it can be scrunched in, overwhelming, and without follow through.
PLC's and PLN's offer teachers an ability to connect with other teachers both within and outside of their content area about topics they decide and coordinate. This revolutionary concept can enhance and expand the walls of your classroom because you have a team of teachers invested in you, wanting to share with you, and offering to help you succeed in the teaching endeavors you face.
One of the most helpful PLC's for Visual Arts teachers is the Art Education 2.0 Ning. This group (brainchild of Craig Roland) is now over 10,000 members strong. Through social networking, it offers Visual Arts teachers an opportunity to connect, share, and collaborate globally.
It is not unusual to see teachers swapping student work across continents, to see teachers offering help through video tutorials and commentary about what methods work best, or to see the offering of advice through the many difficult situations we find ourselves in as budgets are cut and teachers are pink-slipped.
The same can be said about the possibilities found through Twitter and Facebook. Both sites allow quick sharing of resources and topics that can lead to collaborating ideas and promoting educational growth.
We are teaching in a changing world, and we need to be at the forefront of that change with ideas and methods to help our students succeed. One of the best ways to do that is to be collaborative partners with others in our field.
Through the participation of a PLC, you will not only find yourself growing as a result of the interaction, but you will also allow your students to benefit from the learning and resources gained as a result.