Having been in a different school every year, I have been able to see the different ways teachers wind down their school year and transfer information forward to subsequent teachers. I do my best to observe and adapt to the different end-of-year practices so that I am effectively adapting to the school culture, and continuing to hone my teaching practices. In some of the LTO positions that I held that started in September, I experienced firsthand how communicating with last year’s teacher and communicating information forward about the students can help prepare a new teacher for meeting the students’ needs from the get-go, in September. The sharing and transferring the knowledge a teacher has about his or her students at the end of the school year to the following teacher can be as simple as passing along a reading assessment, a writing sample or even a students’ journal that would give a glimpse into the student’s life of the previous school year.
I have benefitted from good communication practices in several of the Long Term Occasional positions that I held and had started in September. One example that stands out for me was when I was beginning as a Senior Kindergarten teacher, I was given a file from the Junior Kindergarten teacher which revealed her own learner background summary on her students from the previous year as well as an outgoing assessment performed on each student (a self portrait, printing their name, letter printing with markings showing whether they could identify the letter, the sound, and number printing). In reading those files, I was able to get a picture of where the students left off and where some of them were developmentally. That information allowed me to get an idea of my classroom profile and where I would need to begin in my teaching with them (for example, based on their printing, I could get a sense of a student’s fine motor skills, letter identification, from their drawing, I could get a sense of where the student was developmentally). Having that information before even meeting my students also gave me a starting point for what I would diagnostically assess them on at the beginning of the school year (which was great learning for me, as I was new to teaching kindergarten).
It was through this experience that I learned that communication can continue and be transferred past the end of one school year, into the next and that the transfer of this information can provide teachers with a more comprehensive picture of their new students. While teachers can access previous report cards and schools maintain the Student Ontario Student Record (OSR) folders as a record of the students’ learning history, having additional access to a tangible student work sample can fill some of the blanks and prepare the new teacher for continuing to meet of the students’ specific needs from the very start.
I am sharing this learning as some ‘food for thought’ for my fellow teachers to view the finishing of a grade in June as a pause in the students’ learning journey before they move onto their next chapter, a new grade the following September, and an opportunity to continue supporting the students as they progress by communicating forward information. By passing the detailed information that we worked diligently to maintain, forwarding student information to the next teacher we can benefit our students and help each other prepare continuing to meet the students’ needs as well.