A colleague recently commiserated with me about what a pity it is that specialty teachers like us aren't offered in-service training and professional development, including time for idea-sharing the same way many other teachers are. I disagree. I feel we are rather fortunate that we aren't given this time.

What??? Am I out of my mind? (Yes, I can hear your thoughts as you read this! It's a gift all French teachers have, isn't it? How else would we understand what students are trying to say in class in the target language?)

How many workshops have you attended that went like this description I recently came across in another teacher's blog? Have you ever attended a learning opportunity offered by your school, board, district or professional organization, just because it was offered to you for free (or worse - because you were EXPECTED to go)? I know you have! We are too fatigued, too stressed thinking about the OTHER things we need to be doing - "and now they want to add THIS to our day too?" - to really network, listen with an open mind for new ideas, and to fully benefit from such learning opportunities.

As a "specialty-subject, rotary" modern languages teacher I don't get to sit in on in-service meetings about TLCPs, analyzing student test scores, and a million other educational topics that aren't really all that inspiring to me personally. Being a Gemini, I do however love to talk and am full of ideas and opinions. This lead me to seek out connections elsewhere.

I think this really started with a maternity leave and wanting to connect to other like-minded moms online. I created a facebook account while I was pregnant, and this is one of the primary places I've connected with other teachers. From poking around a little bit, it does seem that Ontario teachers may be more active on facebook than some other regions. But if you look for yourself and find a lack in your area, don't complain about it - start a group yourself! I firmly believe you get back what you give out... lend a helping hand to other teachers around you, be gracious and kind, and soon you will find others reciprocating! I find it really disappointing when I hear that Core French teachers (or ANY teachers, anywhere, for that matter!) feel isolated and like they don't have a chance to connect with our peers.

Well, this post is quickly becoming WAY TOO LONG for my liking, so let me get right to the point...

Try these resources and suggestions to connect with like-minded teachers in YOUR area - or beyond, by creating your own personal online version of a Professional Learning Circle!

  • Suggest to your curriculum coordinator that a teacher-created activity-swap be held one afternoon shortly after school. It could either be a "bring 10 copies" kind of approach, or individual teachers could courier or email files to be shared (including the source, instructions and tips for use!) in advance and a PDF/photocopied booklet containing all the goodies can be compiled and shared with attendees who contributed. Try quarterly if the first one is less successful than you'd like! Word will get out eventually, and personally I LOVE the idea that only those who give, receive.
  • See if your school board or district's intranet has an electronic chat board or discussion group. Suggest one if not, and if it does exist, visit regularly to post a suggestion or see if you can comment on other people's posts to encourage sharing. Don't use the excuse of low traffic to discount this suggestion. You build traffic, interest and value through your own contributions, which attracts other teachers.
  • Join relevant teachers' groups on facebook, such as Ontario teachers - resource and idea sharing, Ontario Core French Teachers or French Teachers.
  • Check out teacher forums that appeal to you. How about the Canadian or Middle school forums at ProTeacher or the French Teachers chatbaord at Teachers.net? I've made wonderful connections in some of these places!
  • I'm just starting to check out teacher bookmarking and resource sites such as Cube For Teachers, which is still quite new and has the potential for huge growth over time.
  • If you are interested in sharing your original teaching resources with others, forums on sites such as TeachersPayTeachers are awesome sources of potential collaboration. I'd love it if you used my referral link to join TpT's seller community, even if you are only planning to share items for free, just so I know I helped you find this network.
  • One avenue I've stayed completely clear from at this point is Twitter. Yet I do hear that there is a lot of really exciting educational stuff happening there. Are you braver than I am?
How are you fostering your own virtual Professional Learning Network? I'd love to hear about what strategies are working the best for other French teachers out there!