FSL/FI Professional Development: Engaging Occasional Teachers

French teachers on itinerant  assignments often feel somewhat isolated and disconnected from colleagues. Many times, they may be the only teacher with that assignment at a school and will have no colleagues to network with.  They also sense that some students and their parents don’t value French instruction.  It’s no wonder that occasional teachers list core French and French immersion assignments as ranking high on the anxiety scale – even when they have FSL/FI additional qualifications.

The recognition that this segment of our membership  has  specific  professional development needs recently prompted the   Hamilton-Wentworth   Occasional  Teacher Local  to  access ETFO FSL incentive funding. We formed a steering committee that included the board coordinator for FSL/FI, ETFO executive staff, and the local.

The committee brainstormed numerous  initiatives  and  ideas  for  FSL/FI, but felt the best starting point was to ask the  occasional teachers themselves for input. Integral to the success of all events  was  our  commitment  to  draw on the strengths  and experience of the members themselves by inviting them to  share their best practices with col- leagues.

The Bonne Année French Café event occurred early in January. All OTs, including those with FSL/FI qualifications, received individual invitations to the event. The gathering featured a light supper, a social  mixer  en français, and a guided activity whose purpose was to draw out the PD needs of OTs who are willing to teach French. Each participant received a gift package of FSL/FI materials.

The  committee  identified  several  areas  where  members  wanted  support.  In response to member needs, we organized a  marché. Suppliers brought their wares, experienced OTs shared their best units and resources, and snacks were provided, all in storefront style. The final event for this school year was a Make ‘n’ Take called  Jeux français. Members were invited to participate  in developing practical games and activities for use across all grades (with no cost for materials). A pizza supper was provided.

The committee has received extremely positive feedback from members. Some comments from participants included “Finally, somebody’s doing something for us,”  Mille mercis,” and “I didn’t know who to ask for help and here you are!” One member even pleaded her case with her administrator to allow her to attend the afternoon  marc!

In October the  marc will be included in the local’s “Get Stuff!” storefront event for new teachers and will feature the use of technology in enhancing FSL/FI instruc- tion. As well, the committee will offer the French version of Mind Games. There is also talk of a mentorship program.


teacher kneeling next to student sitting at desk while they read

Talking into a different class each day as a daily occasional teacher can present its own unique challenges.

Teachers sitting together with books

In the spring of 2005, I read Teaching for DeeU