Top Ten Tips for Attending Virtual Professional Learning for Educators

So much learning is happening virtually now and it is amazing.  I recently attended a virtual EdTech Conference in Nebraska!  This is an opportunity I never would have been able to take advantage of before the pandemic.  I have attended a number of virtual conferences during COVID and I’ve also organized and facilitated virtual learning over the last year and it is a different way to get your learn on!

In order to really get the most out of Virtual Professional Learning here are my go-to suggestions:

  1.  Organize your time and your conference selections in advance.  If there are many choices, take the time to do the research on the session and on the presenter. If there are digital links for presentations on the conference site to add into a digital tote-do it before your sessions so that you aren’t tempted to leave the session in order to do so.  Thank you ISTE LIVE 21  for the digital tote feature!
  2. Be PRESENT.  Be mindful and intentional about your learning.  If it isn’t the kind of learning that you were expecting, hop over to another session otherwise you’ll be resentful of wasted time and learning.
  3. Put your “out of office” email message on and don’t check your email.  If you were in an in-person setting, checking your email would be rude. This is time for your learning so treasure and protect that time.
  4. When possible attend LIVE sessions not asynchronous or previously recorded sessions.  LIVE sessions have opportunities to engage and ask questions which makes the learning is deeper.
  5. Have a PLP (Professional Learning Partner) or two! No one really wants to go to a conference by themselves. Some of the best learning takes place when you share what you learned in a session that your PLP wasn’t able to attend! You double the learning!
  6. Participate in the learning.  If there is a chat feature then put who you are and where you are from in the chat.  Ask questions, engage and connect.  This is where you grow your Professional Learning Network.  In a face to face conference you would sit down and meet new people.  Think of how you would engage with others in a real conference setting.
  7. TWEET! TWEET!  Get the conference hashtag, follow it, retweet and tweet about your learning and the presenters.  Follow those presenters and give them a shoutout. Take a picture of the slide that they are sharing and post it (without people’s faces and names in it.)  It is awesome as a facilitator to see the tweets afterwards.  It is timely feedback and motivational for the presenter.
  8. Take notes.  My PLPs and I recently collaborated on note taking using a Google Slide deck while attending a conference.  We pasted links, took screenshots and put notes of important information into the slide deck so we have the learning for later.
  9. Participate.  As a presenter, it isn’t nice to present to the empty boxes on Zoom or Webex. Just as in person, it is nice to see the reaction of the audience to pace yourself and to know that they are still with you! That being said, if you are eating or dealing with your dog or family or have decided to multi-task, leaving your camera on can be distracting for the participants and the presenter.  If there is a question asked in the chat, respond! There is nothing like being a presenter left hanging.  If there is a poll, a word cloud, a Jamboard,or a Kahoot, play along! The presenter created these things in order to make the presentation interactive for the adult learner.
  10.  Take Breaks.  Make sure you look carefully at the schedule (and the time zone) in order to plan your screen, water, coffee, bathroom, movement or snack breaks.

The most important thing to remember is that the presenters put time and effort to share their learning and expertise with you.  It is nerve-wracking to present to a group of educators.  Tech savvy people have tech issues too.  Give presenters grace and remember to thank them and provide feedback for their work and expertise.  They will appreciate it!


Rejuvenation Through Creation

For me as a kid, there was no better feeling than opening up a new box of 64 Crayola crayons.  The big box with the flip top lid and the sharpener on the side.  I can remember agonizing over which colour to pick first and being so thrilled by the perfection of the colour palette in neat rows in that box.  I loved to draw and colour. I could do it for hours never lifting my attention from the page.  In adulthood, I abandoned doing art for pleasure.  It seemed silly for me to sit around and draw or paint for no real reason.  I felt I should be doing something productive.  A few years ago I began to create art again and realized how much I had missed it and how much joy it brought to my life. I create digital art now, which isn’t quite the same rush as opening a box of crayons but it is easier to share with others-like the picture above.  I have recently learned about the health and wellness benefits of creating. Creating is rejuvenating, it is rest and it is soul food.

Dan Tricarico, in his book “Sanctuaries: Self-Care Secrets for Stressed-Out Teachers”, he talks about how people get lost in an activity that you love so much that the rest of the world seems to fade away.  He calls it a state of “flow”.  I find myself getting into that state of flow when I draw, create music, write, cook or do jigsaw puzzles.  It isn’t that passive state of binge watching something on Netflix.  However, sometimes life’s answer is just that.  The state of flow is active and when I emerge from that state of flow, I feel rested and invigorated.  In Jessie Scholl’s article, “Go With the Flow: How States of Blissful Concentration Can Boost Your Overall Health and Well-Being” she states that, “Flow triggers the opposite of a fight-or-flight response.  Breathing becomes more relaxed, muscles loosen, and heart rate slows.  The specific biochemistry associated with flow varies depending on the activity, but the overall benefits to health and well-being are the same. ”  In fact, a 2018 Forbes article, “Here’s How Creativity Actually Improves Your Health” written by Ashley Stahl, claims that creativity increases happiness, reduces dementia, improves mental health, boosts your immune system and makes you smarter. Well, who doesn’t want all of those things?

You don’t have to be a professional musician, writer, artist or athlete to practice flow.  You can do it with any activity with some level of skill that requires you to pay attention.  It is really a type of active meditation.  Flow can be found with exercise, writing, dancing, baking, gardening, robotics or whatever activity brings you joy.

Don’t have the “time” for a creative pursuit?  It definitely requires some intentional effort to ensure that you take some time each day to pursue what you enjoy doing. It doesn’t have to be for hours but make it a specific small goal. In building anything into a routine or ritual, micro habits are key.  These are tiny steps towards implementation that grow into longer lasting habits. When I started creating art again, I just started with doing 5 minutes a day.  I just drew something.  I wasn’t worried about perfection or even completion.  I started getting lost in the flow and those minutes eventually became hours over time.  I continued to build my time until I created the habit to attempt to do something creative at least twice a week.  Beware of your inner perfectionism critic if you have one, like I do.  Give yourself some self compassion if you get out of the habit.  No one is keeping score and it is meant to be for you and your health and wellness.  When I get lost in stress and the life’s duties I often think, I should probably create something and get into that flow state-it has been a while.  Ultimately, I never regret taking that time away from the rush and hustle.

If your activity is just one more thing on your to-do list, it isn’t going to bring you joy and happiness.  In order for something to really feed your soul, it has to be something you value, something authentically you and something that you want to do because it brings you a sense of flow, peace, focus and energy.  Hopefully you will find something that gives you that “new box of crayons feeling,” whatever that means for you.

Let’s Talk About Shame

Author Brené Brown from her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” writes that there are three things that people need to understand about shame:

1.  We all have it.  Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience.  The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection.

2.  We’re all afraid to talk about shame.

3.  The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.

While reading this it resonated with me as a teacher.  How many have you experienced Professional Learning Shame?  I’m a professional learning hoarder.  I consume professional learning whenever possible and yet, often I feel shame while experiencing professional learning.  I listen to another teacher who is courageous in sharing strategies and ideas that are meant to help me in my job and ultimately I end up thinking that I must be a poor teacher because I don’t do those things in my classroom. Often I come away feeling worse about myself.  I’ll think, “Well great, obviously everything that I’ve been doing has been ineffective and I need to add THIS onto everything else.” or “I haven’t been doing THAT in my classroom. Clearly I’m not working hard enough. What must my colleagues think of me?”

Shame makes us think that we are somehow not worthy.  I know that I’ve convinced myself of not feeling worthy when I compare my work to other teachers in my school, on Twitter or (cringe)…Pinterest.  I find it difficult to look at myself professionally through an asset lens.  The best way to stop feeling that shame is to talk about it.  Once shame is talked about it tends to lose power and it is easier to let it go.  So, I’m talking about it in a public forum so I can work on building up that resiliency.

I’ve felt shame as a teacher in social situations with people who aren’t educators.  I’ve felt judged, compared and found unworthy.  More than once I’ve heard, “Teachers are paid too much and have far too many holidays and benefits and they’re really just babysitters.”  Whenever a Provincial Government talks about making cuts to education, it sends a message that teachers aren’t worthy of maintaining the current working conditions and fuels the public perception held by some that teachers are unworthy of what we earn.

In our school, whenever EQAO results are returned and we have our fall meeting to talk about the school improvement plan for the year, we celebrate for a nano second the areas in which the student have succeeded and focus intently on the shortcomings.  As a school we know that we all share in the responsibility for the cumulative education of students and feel shame when we look at where we didn’t succeed, but some of my grade 3 and 6 colleagues have told me about how they feel solely responsible for EQAO scores and consequently, feel shame.

Well, this is a downer of a subject, get over it Fenn.  What can we do?  It’s the nature of our job right?  Nope.  There are some great pointers that Brené Brown shares about becoming shame resilient:

1.  Understand when you are feeling shame and recognize what messages and experiences trigger shame for you.

2.  Remember not to equate being imperfect with being inadequate.

3.  Share your stories with people you trust and own your stories.

4.  If you feel shame, name it.  Talk about how your feeling and ask for what you need.

Teachers are constantly in receipt of feedback about their job; from parents, students, administrators, colleagues, the public and themselves.  Staying open to criticism and feedback is what helps us improve education for our students.  We need to take risks to remain open so that we can experience improvement.  However, what we should also try to remember is that everyone is flawed and imperfect but that doesn’t mean that we are lacking.




Teaching Dramatic Arts-Resource Recommendations

My first Additional Qualification Specialist was in Dramatic Arts.  When I signed on at my current school board I worked as an overlay teacher between two schools and taught whatever I was assigned by the Teachers for whom I provided preparation time.  I was mostly asked to teach art, drama, dance, and music.  These curriculum areas are my passions but not all Teachers feel qualified or comfortable teaching these subjects.  Drama seems to be one of those courses that some Teachers “tack on” for a week or two just before a reporting period and with good reason, they aren’t comfortable teaching it and it can become difficult to manage behaviour during dramatic arts.

Drama lends itself well to all areas of the language curriculum.  There is a misconception that Drama and Theatre are the same thing and that scripts and plays are the end goal of the Dramatic Arts curriculum.  However, there are many ways in which to incorporate Dramatic Arts activities into the daily language curriculum and you don’t ever have to mount a full scale production.  Drama doesn’t have to be scary.

One of the best resources that I recommend to Teachers who have Dramatic Arts Anxiety is the DramaNotebook website.  It has all of the Drama games you will ever need all in one place and is especially handy for Occasional Teachers for transition times.  In addition, it has poems and scripts that you can access from 2 parts up to 30 parts.  There is a sign up for a cost, but there is also many free items including 40 drama games for teachers.

Another great Canadian source for drama lessons is Larry Swartz.  He is an Educational Consultant, author, speaker and Dramatic Arts specialist.  His book, “Dramathemes” is in it’s 3rd edition and is used in many Education Faculties in Ontario.  It not only provides “activities” but it creates units that are easily integrated into the language curriculum.

The Council of Drama and Dance Educators has a fantastic website and there are many free resources which are written by educators and can be accessed even if you are not a member of CODE.  In addition, they have a conference each year held in the fall which provides opportunities to learn along with other Educators.

I would also highly recommend the Arts resources from ETFO.  The Primary ETFO Arts and Revised ETFO Arts resources provide an integrated approach to all of the Arts.  You can find them at Shop ETFO on the website by following the link below.

Revised ETFO Arts (2014) $23

Ref. #91.129  The Revised ETFO Arts book is a practical step-by-step handbook for junior/intermediate grade teachers who want to include the Arts in their classroom program by introducing all the elements of dance, drama, music and visual arts.

Primary ETFO Arts (2013) $20

Ref. #91.169  Primary ETFO Arts is a publication that features 10 picture books that will pique children’s interest with their universal themes, issues and questions. Each section of Primary ETFO Arts includes engaging verbal and non-verbal activities to stimulate imagination, communication and critical thinking.

I hope that these resources provide you with some ideas and inspiration.  I am always looking for more.  If you have some other resources to recommend; please add a comment.



Attainable goals

In my first couple of years of teaching, I was so overwhelmed. I felt like I was doing everything wrong and not helping my students at all. I was so focused on lessons that didn’t go exactly how I wanted, that I totally missed out on all the positive things that were happening in my class. I was incredibly hard on myself and my expectations were way too high.

I looked at the first ALP that I wrote as part of my NTIP recently and I can see those overachieving expectations in the goals I set:

1)      Deliver a language program that meets the needs of all learners, engages students and uses assessment and evaluation to drive instruction.

2)      Deliver a math program that follows a three part lesson plan, allows multiple entry points and encourages rich math conversations.

Looking at these goals now, I realize that there were too many things that I was trying to accomplish at once. What I have learned is that when you try to do everything perfectly, you end up being a grumpy, unproductive teacher. I have learned that focusing on one thing at a time produces much better results. Also, becoming skilled at developing a three part lesson or creating an environment that encourages rich math conversations takes time! Reading professional books, attending workshops and the implementation of new knowledge take thought and reflective practice. This cannot be accomplished in one day, week or even a year.

What I have since learned is that everything is not going to be perfect – not by a long shot – and that you really need to set reasonable goals for yourself that are attainable. When I finally came to this realization, I decided to focus on improving one thing per year. Of course, working towards competency in language and math instruction were my first two goals. I also decided to focus on developing good management and climate techniques. After I had a handle on these items, the focus became other things like better parent communication, stronger programming for my English Language Learners and developing creative thinkers.

Two years later, my goals looked like this:

1.     Continue to learn good classroom management strategies

2.     Continue to learn from collaboration with colleagues, including lesson and unit planning.

3.     Continue to learn best practices in assessment and evaluation.

Seven years into my teaching career, my annual learning plan is reflecting a shift into some leadership goals:

1.      Mentor a student teacher through their practicum

2.      Mentor new teachers in their first years of teaching through a blog called the “Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning”

3.      Continue to learn best practices in music instruction by attending workshops and conferences.


Take the time to celebrate the success that you have had and make achievable goals!





Anchoring Learning

Anchor charts have long been identified as a high-yield learning tool. What exactly is an anchor chart? Why use them? How do you determine what should be on an anchor chart? These are common questions faced by teachers as they try to establish optimum learning environments for their students.

I have heard anchor charts best described as the ‘third teacher’. The following is a quote from Scholastic’s Literacy Place – For The Early Years, 2010. “ To promote literacy skills and encourage independence, you will want to make strategic and purposeful use of print resources such as posters, signs, lists, charts, and student/teacher writing samples in your classroom. One tool in particular, the anchor chart, is very effective in promoting student success. An anchor chart outlines or describes procedures, processes, and strategies on a particular theme or topic and is posted in the classroom for reference by students. Examples of anchor charts include: what to do in an interview, tips on using commas, what readers need to do when they infer, how to choose just right’ books, or how to write a literature response.

This of course aligns perfectly with the visual learner. Visual learners learn through seeing, observing and anchor charts allow them perpetual access to critical information and not just when instruction by a teacher is occurring. They can return to the key ideas or concepts when they need to and as often as they need to.

One lesson that I have learned is that not everything can be an anchor chart even though it is all so valuable. If the visual scene in your classroom becomes cluttered the benefits of this tool diminish as they just become part of the scenery and no longer a tool for the students. In my class we have a large variety of anchor charts positioned around the classroom with different colours, fonts, sizes, shapes and almost any other way I can make them unique and stick out. I did an experiment with my students one day where I gave them post it notes and asked them to go around and put them on the anchor charts they used most often and felt were most helpful to them. Prior to that I had made my prediction of what might occur. Needless to say, what I thought was most important did not align with their view. Sooooo from that point on, my anchor charts became a mutual task created by my students and myself. I still do all of the finish work, but the content and positioning in the room is a shared decision. One final change in my practice as a result of that data collection was that I am constantly changing the visual cues so that they stay fresh as learning tools and not just become a regular site in the room.

Another feature of this great tool is that I also have personal anchor charts around my desk that help me as I learn new pedagogy to add to my practice. I am able to return to them throughout the day to evaluate my growth and development progress. IMG_1799 IMG_1803 IMG_1804 IMG_1797 IMG_1806 IMG_1798 IMG_1800 IMG_1801

My Experience With a Lesson Study

Last month, my Principal put out a call to the staff at my school: if anyone was interested in participating in a lesson study, she would make it happen. She had briefly filled us in on what a lesson study was at staff meetings, so this was not out of the blue. After debating for a few days, I submitted my name.

A lesson study, for those who aren’t familiar with the term, is a collaborative exercise in professional development and reflective practice. The team creates a lesson together, one teacher delivers the lesson while the others observe the students being taught, and afterward the team discusses their observations. The idea, at least in the case of my school, is to gain insight into how students engage in the lesson and which strategies yield the greatest results for our students. This allows us to reflect on our own practice and see where we can change some things to better help our students succeed.

The response at my school was great. We had enough teachers to run two separate lesson studies, one in Primary and one in Junior. I volunteered my class – a busy, but lovely, group of thirty Grade 4 students – to be taught by another teacher. We planned a lesson related to our School Learning Plan, an annual goal set each year to target our students’ areas of greatest need. Our lesson would teach students about word choice and words with “swagger” (also known as juicy words, to some). We spent half a day setting up the lesson, talking about the students, and deciding which strategies the teacher would focus on using in the classroom.

Two days later, I gave my students a little pep talk, explaining that there would be a teacher delivering a lesson to them while other teachers watched from the sidelines. They thought it was a little weird, but I’m a pretty weird teacher already, so they were ready to roll with it. When the lesson study team arrived, my students got a little weirded out; suddenly there were six adults in the room, including the Principal and their homeroom teacher, and they were clearly feeling like they were under a microscope.

As soon as their teacher – we’ll call her Ms. J – arrived, though, they forgot all about the rest of us. She walked in with spaghetti in her hair (an activation moment for them, as the poem she was reading to kick off the lesson was all about spaghetti) and they immediately needed to know what was happening. She jumped right into the lesson, keeping my students’ attention the entire time. I still don’t know how she did it, but I’m so glad she volunteered to teach the lesson.

While Ms. J was teaching, the rest of us on the team were watching the students, not her. We kept notes on what we noticed – who was fidgeting, who was responding to the strategies Ms. J was using, how the students interpreted the questions being asked, how they interacted with the teacher and each other during the lesson. While the students worked in small groups later in the lesson, we flitted about the room eavesdropping on their conversations, listening to how they interacted with one another. It’s rare that I get to see my students being taught by another teacher, so this opportunity to really focus on them was great.

After the lesson, we had a few hours to chat with each other about our observations. It was interesting to see how we all took notes on very different things, but the take-away from our observations was always the same. That conversation after the teaching was finished was arguably the most beneficial PD that I have had in years. The conclusions we came to, which I’ll mention soon, have had a significant impact on my teaching since participating in this exercise – because we saw just how well the students engaged with and understood the lesson.

So what did we learn?

Our biggest take-away was the idea of intentionality. Everything the teacher did in that lesson was intentional, from walking in with spaghetti in her hair, to the poems we chose for group work, to how we built the groups. We had discussed the class beforehand, so she knew which students might have difficulty focusing and she was able to work things into her lesson to grab and keep their attention. Because of the work we put in during the planning phase, there was no wasted time in-class. Everything in the lesson was there for a reason. Being that well-prepared for the lesson meant that during the teaching part, Ms. J was able to adapt on the fly while still sticking to the learning goal.

Another thing we felt was really beneficial was having the learning goal stated explicitly for students at the outset of the lesson. During the lesson, Ms. J would frequently refer back to the stated learning goal any time it seemed like students were drifting off-course. When it came time for them to work in groups, every group knew exactly what to do because they were so in-tune with their goal.

The last thing I want to mention is the idea of letting students engage in the lesson without “judgment”. In order to explain what I mean, I have to give a brief example of what happened in the classroom.

The class had read a poem together as a shared reading exercise. Ms. J then asked them to work with their neighbour and highlight four words in the poem which really stood out – words with “swagger” – and explain why they chose those words. She asked students to come up and highlight the words they had chosen directly on the poem. The first pair of students went fine; they circled a few words, explained their thinking, and returned to their seats. The second pair of students, however, started underlining entire lines of the poem. Ms. J looked for just one brief moment like she was going to stop them, but ultimately she let them finish without comment. In the end, this pair of students underlined four full lines of text, explaining that these four lines summed up the entire poem. As they explained their thinking, it became clear that for them, underlining four words wouldn’t really make the point they wanted to make. They needed all four lines, even though that wasn’t what they were asked to do.

If Ms. J had stopped them and insisted they choose only four words, their entire line of thought would have fallen apart. Instead, she let them do what they had to do without “judging” their response as wrong/a misinterpretation of the task. Because of that, these students were able to demonstrate their learning in a very clear, very comprehensive way. It was a really cool moment, and I suspect it doesn’t come across as well in text. You had to be there.


We learned a lot more than just those three things, of course. We still find ourselves talking about the experience weeks later, finding new things to get excited about and implement in our classrooms. If I get the chance to do another lesson study, I’ll jump on it – and I hope you will, too. It’s a great chance to collaborate with your colleagues and reflect on your practice.

Photo of Tammy Axt

Professional Development in the ARTS

It has taken me a few years now to locate some of the amazing professional development sources available for teachers who teach the arts. Below is not an exhaustive list, but a place to get started.  I have divided the resources and conferences into three categories: FREE, REASONABLE and EXPENSIVE BUT WORTH IT!


ETFO is offering an online book talk for its members starting in May. The book that will be the focus of this book talk will be “Primary Arts”. An online book talk is a great way to connect with teachers from other boards and get some new ideas. If you are unable to join the book club this spring, consider running your own book talk at your school. ETFO has created manuals for members to run their own book talks at their schools. You can find more information about these book talks at:

Both the OMEA (Ontario Music Educators’ Association) and CODE (Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators) have amazing websites. If you were handed music, drama or dance as part of your teaching package and you have NO idea how to start teaching these subjects, these two websites will get you started. Both have entire units, assessments and modifications that are aligned with the Ontario curriculum for teaching music, dance or drama. You could easily print off a unit from these websites and teach it in your class tomorrow.  These can be found at:  and .


This year, I applied to the Ontario Arts Council to have a guest artist come in and work with my grade five students for a week. The cost of five full days of workshops, including a performance for the community, was $500.00. The money came out of our performance budget at school, but the added bonus was that I had a full week of PD in traditional Cuban music. I learned right along with the students and will be able to continue to teach this type of cultural music going forward. The program is called “Artists in Education”. This program has artists from all over the province in all of the arts disciplines. As many of the conferences and workshops for the arts are in the Greater Toronto Area, this is a great way to get some professional development at your school in the eastern and northern parts of Ontario. Go to:

If you are in the Greater Toronto Area, ORFF Ontario holds excellent workshops three times a year for teachers who instruct music. I have used some part of every ORFF workshop that I have attended in my classroom practice. Even if you don’t have ORFF instruments at your school, the core philosophy of creation, movement and engagement will make your music lessons successful. The workshops are usually in October, February and, for those that are members, there is an extra workshop in March. Workshops are usually between 30 and 50 dollars. It is money well spent. The link is:


Both the OMEA and CODE conferences are intensive experiences with four to six workshops, trade shows, keynote speakers and performances. I have attended everything from “Starting a Ukulele Program” to “Understanding  Aboriginal Music”. There is a wide variety of workshops to choose from and I always leave feeling energized and excited about teaching the arts. Both of these conferences are expensive (in the $300-$400 range),  but most boards have funds that you can apply for to cover the cost. Your local union may also have money to assist in covering the cost of the conference.

I hope this helps. If you know of another great source for professional development in the arts, please leave a comment below!

Photo of Tammy Axt

Building Support Without a Team

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?

Learning Goals: Today we are learning...This will help me...Question of the day,.. Reflection Question

Professional Learning: an AHA! Moment

How many of us have  sat through professional learning meetings, in-services, workshops, and lunch-and-learns and went back to our classrooms feeling inspired and motivated to take some risks in our practice to better our learning and consequently, that of our students? The answer: all of us.

On the other hand, how many of us have left the workshops and meetings and questioned the relevance of what we “learned” as it connects to our teaching, wondered why we were strongly encouraged to participate in the first place, or  felt confused and frustrated with respect to how the PD could possibly help us meet our learning needs and those of our students? The answer: all of us.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a PD session that really got me thinking about the difference between professional development and professional learning.  It was one of the most beneficial experiences I’ve had as a teacher because it really expanded my understanding of professional learning and challenged me to rethink my role as a teacher and leader in my school.  I’ve come to see it as a way to build the capacity of ALL educators in our schools based not only on the needs of the students but that of the teachers as well.  I’ve found that not all professional learning builds a dynamic culture in schools that fosters collective responsibility among educators and we, as teachers, need to question what, why, and how we are learning just as we do with our students.

If you’re interested in exploring how continuous professional learning can expand and refine teaching and increase results for students, a great place to start are the resources created by Learning Forward (the National Staff Development Council based in the USA) and the Leadership Development Unit at TDSB.


Toronto District School Board Leadership Development Unit