In my last blog post ‘ The Power of Partnership’, I discussed the powerful impact that partnering with a grade team member/mentor has had on my teaching. I related that my mentor and I have been using common planning time and regular check-ins to align what is going on in both our classrooms and share our resources and reflections.
Mentorship and co-planning has been wonderful for me, however for some teachers, establishing a common planning time with a colleague can be challenging for many reasons such as differences in scheduling or teachers’ responsibilities. There can also be school or board-wide initiatives that might require more of a teacher than time that they set aside for classroom planning. Fortunately the New Teacher Induction Program enables Ontario school boards to provide beginning teachers (and their mentor teachers) release time that allows for such planning. The school board that I teach in has a Job Embedded Learning Initiative that allows beginning teachers and newly hired Long Term Occasional teachers release time for activities such as attending workshops, visiting a model classroom or working with a mentor, and I have found it to be helpful in the past and intend to use it again this year.
In my case, our school is adopting some new initiatives that are intended to improve upon the way we have been typically teaching in the past. My mentor and I feel that we could use some time for long-range planning and to effectively wrap our heads around what these initiatives look like in our classrooms ( with respect to the materials that we already have and the curriculum). We are going to utilize my board allocated release time for planning and we plan to find ways to combine the resources and materials that we already have with the school’s learning goals. We hope to try out our new ideas and then share our successes and strategies with the other teachers in our division.
For beginning teachers that don’t have a close mentoring relationship or someone to take planning time with, there are options to visit other classrooms in the board or attend workshops. In the past, I have found that using release time has really allowed me to spend a block of focused time on classroom planning. It has also been beneficial to visit other schools and look at the best practices of other teachers. I am thankful that my school board recognizes the huge learning curve that beginning teachers face and provides opportunities and choice for how teachers can best use their time for learning.
So, if you haven’t thought of it already, mentors and beginning teachers, consider looking into what kind of support your board is able to provide you with, and consider the many options that will enhance your teaching!