Feature

Taking Time To Learn: Strategies for Surviving While Smiling

Donna Chapman, Annamari Pouti-Fletcher, and Marion Mutton

Like  learning  to  skate,  becoming  a  successful teacher is easier with a helping hand, according to Annamari Pouti-Fletcher. The Windsor area teacher has reaped a lot of benefit from ETFO’s new teacher workshops.

While new  teachers face  unusual  challenges that  require  extra  support,  the  challenges for occasional  teachers  are even greater: isolation, lack of a peer network, and the ongoing difficulty of  adjusting  to  different  school  environments and different student groups can make the life of an OT an ordeal that has to be endured on the way to a permanent contract.

“Occasional teachers are often isolated out in the schools,” says Donna Chapman, vice-president of the Toronto Occasional Teacher Local. “They have  traditionally received little support and had limited access to professional development.”

To address that need, ETFO has launched a four-part professional learning program to support both new full-time and occasional teachers as they begin their careers.

Facilitated  by  teacher  members,  “Strategies for Surviving While Smiling” is full of practical ideas and strategies to help new teachers develop a positive, effective learning environment in their classroom. The program focuses on

  • creating community and building relationships through cooperative learning, understanding equity, and differentiated learning
  • developing classroom management and conflict resolution strategies
  • promoting effective communication and ongoing assessment and evaluation practices.

The decision to run a four-part series was intentional: this format offers new teachers a chance to network, discuss their issues and questions, and develop collegial relationships with their colleagues.

Annamari Pouti-Fletcher, a member of the Greater Essex New Teachers’ Committee, was a participant in the New Teacher Series in Windsor last fall. She feels she was fortunate to have been able to attend. “During the four evenings  we were able to share, reflect, participate and build confidence. We also each received a resource binder filled with useful information and ideas,”  Pouti-Fletcher recalls. “The atmosphere was supportive. The singing and dancing (and laughter that resulted) were definite indicators of our enjoyment and willingness to learn new things.”

The multisession format of this program has proved particularly beneficial for occasional teachers. The Toronto Occasional Teacher Local has over 3,000 members, many of them new to the profession. It was the first OT local to take part in the new teacher workshops. This four-part series helped members feel connected not only to their local, but also to other members and to the provincial office.

“With this series, our members feel a part of something,” said Donna Chapman, who coordinates the program. “Networking became a valuable spinoff as our members on long-term occasional contracts found other members in similar situations. Through networking and dialoguing, members supported each other and problem-solved while validating what each teacher was doing well.

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