Please Learn Children: A Story of Acronyms

The world of education is filled with acronyms, intended to provide a quick, abbreviated way to communicate the way we do things in a school. I was in a school recently in which a group of teachers were gathering to begin their Collaborative Team Meeting and as one of the teachers were leaving their classroom the children asked where she was going. She replied “I’m going to our PLC meeting.” The student responded, “oh, I know what that means, Please Learn Children”. LOL! While that is certainly entertaining and somewhat true, it leads me to consider the deep rooted misunderstanding that emerge from the overuse of our educational acronyms.

Time and time again, we go into schools and hear acronyms being used readily throughout the building to communicate one thing but can carry with them a lack of clarity amongst the collective staff team. This “intended communication” is not only unclear but causes some deep seated misinterpretations. I worked with a school division a number of years ago that had decided to create a list of acronyms and their meanings to share with health and community partners. The list steadily grew and the last I heard they had collected over 200 in their educational setting alone.

Collaborative Response is a framework grounded in many educational foundations and principles. In our initial development of the framework, we intentionally reached out to examine current practises at the time and built upon these ideas to establish an Alberta made model. As we work with partners, we encourage them to look for and note the things they are already doing that are working well in their schools. Chances are much of those practices can be traced back to learnings from Professional Learning Communities (PLC), Response to Intervention (RTI), Assessment for Learning (AFL), Differentiated Instruction (DI), and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) just to name a few.

If our main goal in education is to provide the environment and circumstance for children and/or adults to learn then the use of acronyms is clearly a misfit. I’ve had the opportunity to work with beginning teachers and we play a game of calling me out when I use an acronym and then I need to take the time to explain its real meaning. We do a count throughout the day and I’m afraid I’ve been in education long enough that those acronyms are a part of my vernacular and my end score is usually in the double digits.

This is a common problem not only in education but in the science, medicine and business. So what do we do? My challenge to you is that we stop using acronyms and use the “real words” to describe what we mean. For us, “Collaborative Response” is a powerful phrase that evokes a vision of teachers working together to problem solve a response that will not only meet the needs of their students but grow their expertise at the same time. This emotional response, mental imagery and vision does not accompany the often used acronym “CRM”.

Let's get down to the real work, our moral purpose of seeking ways in which we can better support our learners through collaborative practice. If we are successful in this endeavor, we will not be satisfied with the wish of "Please Learn Children" but rather have confidence that we are doing all we can through our collaborative processes and structures to ensure all children will learn.

Author: Lorna Hewson