I remember very clearly my first year of teaching. I was extremely fortunate to get a job directly after my year at the Faculty of Education. I went right from there to a full timetable, my own classroom, my own students – right into the deep end.
As a computer teacher, I was essentially “it” in the school. Yes, I had a department director and an assistant department head and colleagues but largely I was on my own. I could do no wrong. I could do no right. Who knew?
It was only during our first subject specific PD Day that I realized that there were other teachers of the same subject in the board and you could actually talk to them. I was so naive. It was a great experience, getting together for half a day and talking about teaching and how to search for resources. If you’ve ever taught programming, you know that you’re always looking for something interesting and exciting to engage student interest. It came late in the year – October – so I had six weeks or so of experience under my belt.
Those connections changed how I approached teaching and I always looked forward to them.
I’m starting to think about what THIS September will look like. There will be teachers who are excited to be going into their own classroom for the first time. Many will have had some experience as occasional teachers. But now, they’re in their own deep end.
This year, the deep end is an area like no other.
These teachers can’t wait until October to make connections and get things right. They need that wisdom from Day 1, actually, they need that wisdom well before Day 1. They will have attended their own Faculty of Education and have been prepared for teaching in a perfect world.
The problem is that we no longer live in a perfect educational world.
Experienced teachers are already making their plans, armed with the learning that they had from the past spring. If online learning is a thing, that is. For a face to face return, there are new challenges. The problem they face is that nobody has been through this before. They now know what the Ministry is planning and expecting. School district are starting to roll out their plans.
It’s overwhelming to all; imagine that teacher that will be owning their own classroom is a few weeks. What do they do?
I’m pretty sure that Harry Wong doesn’t have a chapter devoted to this.
It’s time for others to stand up.
School Districts need to kick in early their mentoring programs. Getting those important connections can’t wait until the first professional development days. More than ever, starting safely is a paramount concert.
Principal and vice-principals need to set the expectations and implementation plans well in advance. Multiple walk-throughs of the building will be required. Put yourself in the role of a teacher, a student, a parent, support workers, caretaker, school visitors and any others to see what a typical day or visit will look like.
Colleagues need to be reaching out to share advice and wisdom. If you have a new teacher at your grade or subject level, reach out and start that communication. Talk about what resources are available and which ones won’t be helpful when the “new normal” kicks in. While you’re at it, check in with experienced colleagues. This new start puts everyone in the same “unknown” boat.
Subject Councils need to be stepping up with realistic advice for what teaching will look like for the fall. Links to what would work in a normal school year just don’t cut it. A new approach to providing subject resources is absolutely necessary. All those lessons with collaboration and sharing of manipulatives aren’t going to be helpful, at least in the beginning.
The upcoming school year will be one big puzzle. One of the advantages of a traditional job is that a workspace often can be modified to provide distancing and safety. Teaching is a job like no other. We’re seeing that the advice given to others (i.e. 2 metre distancing) is modified for schools to make it work. (1 metre distancing)
The decision about opening school buildings has been made by the province and good people are taking the direction, questioning everything, and making plans. and plan Bs. Let’s just make sure that those new to the profession teachers don’t get left behind. It’s going to be incredibly short-sighted to think that what has worked well in the past will work or even work at all going forward.
The power in education has always been as a result of good teachers and their generosity in sharing. It’s going to be more important than ever.