“Just” an Occasional Teacher

Hello everyone!

I am thrilled to announce that I will be joining the Heart and Art blogging team this school year. I look forward to time spent being passionately curious with all of you.

As educators, it feels we are under the spotlight this year to openly reflect in conversations with curious strangers on how the school year is going amidst the pandemic. Everyone is wondering how educators are creating activities and lessons for students that involve social distancing, mask wearing and constant hand sanitizing. When asked personally about how this crazy year is affecting me, I often find myself replying with “I am just an Occasional Teacher”. 

I love my job and feel valued in the school system, especially this year with the demanding need for Occasional Teachers across Ontario school boards. I feel important, worthy and necessary. Why do I sell myself short each time by adding the word “just” in front of my job title? 

The word “just” has so much power and holds the potential to remove importance from meaningful concepts. As I reflect upon my own use of the word “just”, I begin to think about how this small but significant word can affect my students. Psychologist Carol Dweck talked about students’ growth mindset and the power of the word “yet”. In terms of growing and learning, students can use the word “yet” to talk about what they cannot do, but will learn to do after practicing, taking chances and making mistakes (for example: “I do not know how to multiply… yet”).

Does the word “just” have the opposite effect? Instead of granting power and adding room for growth like the word “yet” does, “just” seems to diminish the power of whatever follows.

Let’s harness the power of “yet”! Here are some phrases that should not follow the word “just”:

  • Students are “just” playing.

Play is how students explore, investigate, discover and create what they don’t know yet. No matter age or ability, each student deserves play opportunities in an environment that respects and celebrates the benefits play can have on academic progress, social and emotional growth and overall student well-being. 

  • “Just” Art, Phys. Ed, Social Science or any subject that isn’t Math or Literacy.

Each subject and learning area contributes to holistic development while providing opportunities for learning and success in areas which students have yet to grow. Students deserve to know that each subject is important and personal accomplishments can be celebrated in sports, the arts, etc. With the pressures to push for success in reading, writing and math, we must not let talent and passion in other areas go unnoticed, unacknowledged or undervalued.

  • You are “just” an Occasional Teacher/Rotary Teacher/whatever your role is in a school.

To all my fellow educators out there, no matter what you are doing, no matter where you are, you will ALWAYS be more than “just” a (insert job title here) to your students, their families and the school community.

You are passionate.

You are important.

You are valued.

For what you know now and for what you do not know yet

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The Author

Melissa Turnbull

Enjoying the journey as an Elementary Occasional Teacher for the Lambton Kent District School Board and the Thames Valley District School Board. I am a recent graduate of a Master of Professional Education program with a focus on teaching students with exceptionalities. I am a lover of learning and have a passion for incorporating play in the classroom. Currently, I am navigating the road to becoming a permanent teacher with a sense of humour and a huge smile on my face.

4 Comments

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  1. M-P Joanis says:

    Thanks Melissa,
    Merci bien!
    Very encouraging to hear these words and your interesting thoughts of how at times we are JUST Occasional Teachers but so Much More and even after 17 years of being retired I have to say that the last 7 years (kind of being semi-retired) I am always suppose to be on my last year of teaching but I keep going at it for all the good reasons that you just mentioned. Cheers, yes, U are making a real difference, best school of learning is being an occasional teacher.:)

  2. Hema Sharma says:

    Melissa loved the way you explained the power of “Just.”
    The power in Just and the power in yet speaks for itself! I’m an Occasional teacher in my third year. Although, been with Peel board for over 9 years. Hoping to land an LTO position in this challenging year.

  3. About 20 years ago I was part of a large monthly knitting group, and when we did Show and Tell, the word “just” was banned. They weren’t “just a plain pair of mitts”, they were handcrafted works of art to someone. I carry this philosophy still. I’m not “just” an OT. I have chosen this route for the meantime. We are ALL teachers, on different paths, but all significant for various reasons.

  4. Reeshma says:

    I enjoyed reading this!! I often say “just” as I have felt less of a teacher. But the truth is, I am not less or more than any other teacher. I choose to be supply and not seek out LTOs or permanent for many reasons and am happy with my choice. Whether we do this job by choice or while pursuing an LTO or permanent, we don’t “just” do our roles. We become what the students need and more…and therefore go beyond the word “just”.

    After reading this, I feel encouraged and inspired to say: I am an occasional teacher (:

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