It’s the third Wednesday of the month almost 4 p.m. After a busy day at work teachers are heading out the door, to pursue their own learning. They converge at Spruce Glen Public School in Huntsville to share the fine art of teaching writing.
Learning the ETFO/Drake Way
Professional learning matters. It reinforces what we know, teaches us what we strive to learn, and challenges us in unexpected ways. As instructors in the ETFO/Drake University credit course program, we not only deliver professional learning, we take part in it ourselves. For us it’s a win-win situation.
ETFO and Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa maintain a partnership that allows ETFO members to take credit courses close to where they live. Founded in 1881, Drake University is ranked among the top American universities for educational quality and student achievement. Its 70-plus academic programs include a School of Education through which the courses are made possible.
Through the ongoing training that ETFO and Drake University provide, we are all constantly learning. Each ETFO/Drake course is updated regularly and offers practical ideas based in current research. As instructors we learn new strategies and improve our own practice every time we are trained in a new course. We also get a first-hand look at how other instructors present the same content and benefit from their years of experience. When we teach, we benefit from the know- ledge and experience of participants.
“Adult learners have many unique experiences to share in class discussions. Not only do the participants learn from the class, but so do I as an instructor,” says Elke Baumgartner. Adult learners are more reflective and are there because they want to improve their professional practice. ETFO/ Drake courses are not subject-specific but are focused on methodology that can be applied to any subject at any grade level. As a result, a teacher’s skill base increases. As well, since the courses are offered in a relaxed environment, participants are more willing to practise the skills and strategies that make for good teaching. A true professional learning community develops.
We each followed a slightly different path in becoming ETFO/Drake instructors. “In teachers’ college I experienced professors who were passionate about education. their knowledge and ability to teach captivated me. Their material was practical and fun… Like them I wanted to motivate teachers to become the best possible educators,” says Ali Stickland. Sandra Himann got her start by organizing and presenting an ETFO math workshop for Junior teachers: “It was a great experience! From there, things snowballed and I’ve never looked back.” After getting her master’s degree, Elke Baumgartner wanted to combine her love for teaching Intermediate French Immersion students with her desire to help other teachers become better educators.
Although ‘golden’ most days, instructing ETFO/Drake courses can be challenging. Adult learners, especially teachers, are a tough crowd. They know good teaching and are critical of other teachers. “I feel a pressure to be on,” says Stickland. “Adult learners pick up on your mistakes and are cognizant of time.” With their different learning styles, adult learners also require differentiation.
ETFO’s relationship with Drake University provides significant leadership opportunities for members. “My affiliation with ETFO and Drake University has provided important networking opportunities,” says Stickland. “I have developed life-long personal and professional relationships. Becoming an ETFO/Drake instructor has allowed me to explore and expand my horizons.” When given the opportunity teachers will pursue the professional development that matters to them. ETFO/Drake courses are one of a number of professional learning opportunities and a good option.
You can find out more by going to etfocreditcourses.ca.
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation has long advocated that students in elementary and secondary schools should have access to FSL pro