There are many challenges associated with being a planning time teacher. Your group of students is constantly changing, you often teach a variety of grades and subjects, and you have a very limited time to teach the students what they need to learn. I feel the biggest challenge for many planning time teachers, however, is the fact that they don’t belong to a grade level or division team at school. This requires planning time teachers to be quite creative when building communities to continue their professional learning and growth.

Over the past week or so, I went around to all the planning time teachers at my school (Music, French, Gym, Drama/Dance) and asked what they do to build a professional community.

In Peel, we have a teaching and learning community of music teachers called JEMMS (Junior Elementary Music Makers). This group of teachers sets up mentorships and offers workshop, but primarily they are just an email distribution list to which you can ask any question. Every day in Peel, some music teacher who is at a school by themselves has a group of people that they can ask about resources, special education in music, management, performance groups or any other question that they might have. Check to see if your board has one, or start a list yourself!

In speaking with our gym teacher, I discovered that she feels that tournaments are a great way to start building a community of gym teachers to consult with. She also feels that networking at the annual gym conference gives her a community of teachers she can rely on.

Our French teacher is not a new teacher, but fairly new to teaching core French. With a new curriculum and a new assignment, she has headed to Facebook to build that community of teachers to help with lesson ideas, selecting resources and getting French savvy. The Facebook group that she belongs to is “Ontario Core French Teachers”. In addition to working collaboratively together, one of the members of this group also leads a live question and answer period for French teachers once a week.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other social networking sites have sections for Music, French, Drama, Gym and Dance teachers. It is a great way to build connections provincially or even globally.

Our drama/dance teacher sits on the executive of the Peel Elementary Dance and Drama Association. Associations can be an amazing way to get some access to new resources and incredibly knowledgeable teachers. If you feel like you are too inexperienced, volunteer to be the secretary treasurer or a member at large. I guarantee you that the time you volunteer will be given back to you through new ideas, resources and great professional dialogue.

Overheard in my Ontario Classroom…
Last week one of my grade one students informed me that he was having a horrible morning and that it was truly the worst day ever. When I stopped, bent down to his level and asked him why, he informed me that his sister had cut her finger at the breakfast table this morning and he felt very sad for her. Can you imagine what our world would be like if everyone had that much empathy for each other?


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