My career has mostly been centered around teaching language in some capacity; French Immersion, French as a Second Language (FSL) and English as a Second Language (ESL) and I have been fortunate to have taught grades from the Early Years to High School. As an international educator who has taught at various schools during my career, I never worked for a principal who had the same vision or way of doing things as the previous one. Because of this, I had to check my ego at the door and start at each new school with an open mind, letting go of what I thought I knew about teaching and learning new methods and approaches. From my time spent in Canada and abroad, these are a few of the lessons that still stick with me today:
Keep current, because education evolves, and as an educator you have to evolve with it. What you know coming out of university will not be the same mid-way through your career, nor at the end of it. Your knowledge about education and teaching is always growing, and you never stop learning.
Never Assume Understanding
Being a French Immersion teacher taught me never to assume that a child understands what you are saying. Too often teachers assume that because their students are native language speakers they understand everything. They don’t.
Structure is Key
I learned the importance of working at a school with a strong vision, structure and framework. The more organized you are, the more creative your staff can be!
Create Your Planning Tools Wisely
As Language Coordinator – I have learned the best way to lead a team of teachers is through a proper framework and planners that match the vision of the school. I have led Professional Development (PD) sessions and assumed that everyone understood what I said. They did not. All teachers have previous baggage from prior schools that leads them to interpret what they are hearing in different ways. Through planners, you can shift the thought process of teachers by changing the steps they take to plan. You can also see exactly how well they understand by looking at how a teacher fills out a planner.
See articles on the power of Educational Frameworks and Individualized Planners:
What is an Educational Framework?
A Vision vs. an Educational Framework
The Power of Planners
Individualized Teacher Planners: Do They Really Work?
Using Planners to Change Mindset
Include Specialist Teachers and Support Staff
Specialists and support staff are an important part of any school, yet too often they are left alone on their islands. Specialists and support staff should be included in team planning with mainstream teachers. The biggest impact I ever made on student learning came from being able to tie my ESL lessons into what mainstream classes were covering.
Above all else, ask questions and push boundaries – never remain stagnant in your career; never become ‘comfortable’!
Have any lessons you would like to share? We would love to hear them!