Friday, April 03, 2015

Meeting Mme Duckworth

Back in February (where does the time go?!?) I finally had the pleasure of meeting face to face the legendary Sylvia Duckworth, a recent recipient of the Prime Minister's award for Teaching Excellence, Google-certified teacher, and FSL edu-collaboratrice extraordinaire. I attended her premiere hands on GAFE in the Classroom day long workshop.

This is me, heading out at an awfully early hour, especially for a weekend. I thought I'd tweeted my "selfie" out before I left home, announcing my excitement about the coming day, but apparently, in my not-yet-caffeinated state, it didn't actually send and I didn't realize until much later. Sylvia hosts PD sessions for French as a Second Language teachers (and other educators) on a regular basis through the year in her own classroom on the weekend, and freely shares so much of her sample projects, tutorials and teaching suggestions through her network of websites and social media interactions.

I won't was a little hairy getting there! This February was one of the most consistently cold months we've had here in Ontario in a long time, and there was a terrible, slushy snowstorm that Saturday. 

I had warm fuzzies as I arrived though, since her location is near Glendon College. My wedding photos were taken there, and I just love the location, for a variety of other personal reasons.

As for the workshop itself, it was time very well invested. The pace was fast, and a lot of that day was a bit of a blur BUT... here's the great part... Sylvia has extensive documentation, links to resources, samples and presentations, so that you can always go back and go over some great idea for which you've forgotten some of the finer points. Here's her main GAFE presentation, as just one example.  We used the hashtag #gafefsl that day, so feel free to check that out on Twitter or Instagram to see what wonderful little tidbits you discover.

I think the biggest "aha" moment in the room that day was when Sylvia showed us how, within a Google document, if students use the Research Tool, then Google will automatically make footnotes and citations for students. There was an audible "Ohhhhhhhh!" in the room at that point, thinking about how tricky it is to get students to cite properly, and what a wonderful time saver this would be.
Photo credit to Richard Smith

The professional dialogue within the room that day was amazing - both the actual, out-loud conversations as well as the chat using a variety of tech tools and tricks - and I was really happy to get a chance to converse with some teachers I've chatted with online and in person in the past, to meet with some new teachers, and to refresh some relationships with teachers from even within my own school board. There's just not enough time to catch up sometimes, especially in a school district as large as mine.  I left feeling so excited and energized, with so many new ideas.

For example, check out these < super cute posters from Teacher's Discovery that Sylvia had displayed in her room. To support her students in using only the target language, her (rather small, but well equipped) classroom was filled with anchor charts and reference materials for her kiddos. It was a great reminder, for me, that even with AIM-based instruction, and lots of engagement through technology and authentic interaction experiences (like the Mystery Google Hangout we tried out just before lunch) that it's good practice to continually provide second language learners with a rich, supportive learning space.

She's got two upcoming workshops scheduled for next month (although I'm not sure if there is any space left - check the registration link to find out!) Don't forget to ask your school or other teacher support systems to provide the funding for you, if you are interested in attending such a PD opportunity. I'm really sorry to have missed her at last weekend's OMLTA/World Congress in Niagara Falls... and will definitely catch up with her again the next time around!


  1. Thanks for this blogpost, Tammy. I have to say, it was also a momentous occasion to meet you, too, the Queen of the Ontario Core French Teachers Facebook group! Thanks for coming to my workshop and for taking the time to write this wonderful recap. I wish all good Googly things for you in the future as your board joins the Google train!

  2. I didn't write about how terribly awkward I felt when you introduced me, Sylvia.That was just too sweet of you! (Not sure I merit that attention... but you know I'm glad to help whoever I can, when I can!)

    You're awesome & don't let anyone ever tell you anything different!



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