Posts Tagged ‘OCDSB’

Co-planning makes Teachers Great

I’m always trying to be a better teacher. Always reworking my plans, reading new teaching material, and questioning what students really need to learn about.

As a newish mom, I was in a teaching slump. I was still trying my best and teaching well but knew there was better out there.

I decided to reach out to other teachers to help me teach better and I’m so lucky to have connected with 3 amazing teachers in 3 different subjects.

Luckily this year, a teacher who I knew at teacher’s college came to work at my school and teach the same grade as mine. We decided immediately to team up and plan a spiral math curriculum together.

Also my school is in it’s year to get a lot of new technology for its students. Luckily for us, that comes with training from our board’s technology coaches. They presented at our staff meeting and that sparked an idea. Why not ask one of the coaches to help me plan the way I want to. I’ve met with Louise several times now to plan Science units and luckily for me she is helping me plan using Overarching Inquiry.

I’m also working with another teacher and we are joining our classes together to work on a ‘Dream Journal’ with our students. The ‘Dream Journal’ is working on creating the life we want through reflecting, goals and learning from experts.

Co-planning is great for so many reasons.

1) Keeps you accountable

Teaching is a demanding, busy and draining job. We all have days where we want to take it easy and relax. By co-planning with a colleague you have to keep on track to keep up with the other teacher and class. Of course, if you are meeting your students where they are you are going to differ slightly but you’ll for the most part keep up the same pace.

2) Helps you problem solve

Don’t worry alone. You aren’t solving any problems all by yourself.

When you are co-planning you, of course, try your best to plan for all your students but nevertheless something comes up to throw you for a loop. If you’re planning together, you are going to check in on each other and ask each other questions about how that lesson worked or didn’t work. As a team, you can easily problem solve together and even reflect on how the unit went and makes notes for the next time you teach it.

3) Makes you happier

When planning with a colleague, you feel a sense of teamwork. We, as teachers sometimes feel really alone in our classrooms because it is just us with dozens of kids. We need to plan with other teachers so that we can feel supported. When we feel supported, we feel better and we do better.

4) Less stress

If you are making time each week to plan together, you are planning in advance. You know exactly what to do next and you can easily plan for that day or week. This makes you stress less as you know where you are headed, you know you have help, you know the big picture idea of what you are trying to cover so you know what you’re trying to accomplish and can easily adapt.

5) More willing to try new things

If you have a strong support system you feel more comfortable to take risks and try new things. This year for science my class and I learned about and tried out microbits. It was a new idea that I’ve never considered before and my students loved using them! And I loved learning with them too.

Occasional Teacher Trainings

At Edcamp Ottawa this past weekend, there was a session all about occasional teachers, the process and the struggles.  I remember being an occasional teacher (OT) for the OCDSB and was so frustrated with the wait to get my own classroom.


During the session I talked about spending your time as an OT learning and getting ready for your future classroom and students.

Afterwards, I spoke to the two OT’s running the session, Jessica Davis and Courtney White. I told them I had the idea in the past of giving training sessions to OT’s who wanted to learn. We decided to put it into action.

We are sending around the below form to ask you what you want to learn about. We are hoping to put together a bunch of sessions that will help OT’s learn relevant information to help them in their future classrooms and with their future students. We are only collecting your email so we can email you when we figure out when these sessions will be.

Please fill out the form below and please share it with your OT friends!

Creating a board expertise database

Currently, I’m reading “Empowered Schools, Empowered Students” by Pernille Ripp.


One idea that really stuck me as genius is creating an easily accessible and updatable expertise list of current staff within our board. We have a brilliant staff that is committed to being the best teachers they can be by constantly attending professional development and implementing their learnings in their own classrooms. Why don’t we poll our staff at our board, create a document that can be shared and then we will have experts in many different fields at our disposal. This will also cost the board less since they won’t have to waste time and money searching out experts when we already work for them!

How to do this:

Create a google form with sections for: Name, School, email address, and checklist of expertise that they have with an ‘other’ section for people to add to it. Share with the entire board and get everyone to answer it.

Then share the completed list with the entire board so people can search for an expert they are looking for on a particular topic. It would also be helpful if the board would pay for release time for the ‘expert’ to go and speak at a school or staff meeting.

Coles Notes: Learning Goals and Success Criteria

The Ministry of Education is doing a big push for educators to focus their teaching to learning goals and creating success criteria with their students. I read “Learning Goals and Success Criteria: Viewing Guide” and watched a video on the same topic. To know more or do your own research, please click on the above links.

Our goal as educators is to help students become independent, self-monitoring learners and this helps us accomplish just that. We make sure the students have a clear understanding of what they are learning, and they know exactly how to be successful in their learning.

Here is the framework:


Learning Goals:

Learning goals focuses on the curriculum expectations; identifying and sharing with your students at the beginning of the learning what they will be expected to know. You can do this by focusing on one curriculum expectation and getting the students to determine what it actually means and turn it into language that they can understand. As a class you can define, change, or delete words so that it makes sense to them. We can share these learning goals orally, visually or in writing.

After you create the student created or students worded learning goals, you write them on the board that states “By the end of this class/unit/week I will —>Insert learning goal here <—.

Here is how to do it in your own classroom:


Success Criteria:

The students brainstorm in groups or as a class what they will need to do to be successful for the learning goal. The success criteria can also be known as look-fors and has to be explicit and transparent.

Success Criteria needs to be co-created by the teacher and the class. The steps for this are:

  • Step 1: Brainstorm the criteria,ask: What does this look like when we do this well” or “How do we know when we have learned how to ______”)
  • Step 2: Sort and catergorize the criteria,
  • Step 3: Make a post a T-chart/checklist/template/rubric,
  • Step 4: Add, revise, and refine.

In order for the students to really understand the criteria, they have to be able to interact with it, which helps them internalize the look-fors and how to apply them. If you have old student work, you could take off the names and give them to the students. Get them to assess how the student did according to the criteria. As teachers, we can help students develop a deeper understanding of each criteria by focusing on them one at a time. Some students may need to focus on limited criteria.

A great way to see how the students are doing with the learning goal and/or their personal goals is to ask them to self reflect as an exit ticket. Ask them: “How are you progressing on the learning goal? How do you know?” This way we can quickly see how they students are doing and what needs re-teaching or who needs extra help.

Here is an example of an exit ticket:


After creating a success criteria with your class, it is a natural next step to co-create a rubric.

Descriptive Feedback:

When the learning goals and success criteria are understood, the students can assess their own work and they then can provide descriptive feedback for themselves, to the teacher and to their peers.

Self and Peer Assessment:

You will need to explicitly teach your class about how to peer assess. Make sure that they focus on the positives first and then the next steps. This should sound like “Alex, you did follow the success criteria on  this and this but I would suggest for your next step to improve this. Each student should have a opportunity to peer assess and self assess on every task. A checklist would be really helpful for this.

Individual Goal Setting:

By clearly understanding the learning goals and success criteria, the students can set goals for themselves to improve their learning. This can guide their learning because they will know what they need to focus on.

In order to set appropriate goals, the goals need to be SMART goals that address the learning goal, success criteria and have next steps.


This framework focuses on 3 different questions:

1) Where am I going? 2) How am I going? and, 3) Where to next?

Where am I going focuses on the learning goals and the curriculum. How am I going is building the success criteria and the students using it to determine how they are doing and where to next is the students self assessing themselves to know what they need to focus on next.

What I wish I knew as a new Occasional Teacher for the OCDSB

It is now harder than ever to get a contract for the Ottawa Carleton District School Board. It is an immensely competitive job market and a long, long, looooong wait.  Here are some tips and advice I wish someone had told me when I got on the Occasional Teachers List.


During teachers college, I was told it would take 5 to 8 years to get a permanent job in the OCDSB. I was told this again and again, and I understood it. You don’t know how long 5 years can feel until you have been waiting for a job all that time. My advice is to use this time to your advantage. Supply for many schools and many teachers. Figure out how you want to teach, and what you definitely do not what to teach like. Use this time to learn from teachers you admire and to gather resources.

Additional Qualifications:

When you’re supply teaching, you will have a lot of time on your hands since you won’t work everyday or all day. Use this time to take Additional Qualification (AQ) courses. Yes, they do cost a lot of money, but it’s better to do them now, when you have the time. I focused on getting to the highest pay grid during my time as a supply teacher. This way, whenever I get a job, I’ll be earning the highest amount possible and I won’t have to bother with taking courses when I’m already stressed out with a job. Also, because there are so many qualified teachers, you need to take AQ’s to look more favourably for the job that you want.

Professional Development:

Professional Development aka PD is a great free way to learn more about teaching. OCEOTA has specific occasional teaching PD such as “Survive while Smiling.” I would suggest that these are great for your first year supplying. When you become more experienced you will want to learn more. This is when I was thrilled to find out about ePLC. It is the OCDSB workshop registration system. Go to, and look in the staff section for ePLC. Click on the link, and make a New User account.


Click on Register for Workshops and then Fetch All Workshops. This will give you a list of all of the workshops happening. Make sure you are allowed to attend. Some workshops will state specifically that they are not for Occasional teachers, but you can always email the person involved and ask to attend. They can only say no!


You can also check out Ontario Teacher Federation PD. They are offering free webinars that are so informative. Check out the PD calendar here.

Twitter is also a great way to get some PD anytime. There is always interesting discussions going on about education. I participate in #ntchat which is a chat for new teachers by Lisa Dabbs (@teachingwthsoul) that happens on Wednesday nights at 8pm. There are also a ton more. To learn more about the twitter chats, click here.


Supply Teaching is a really emotional job. It is like being on a job interview every day for 5-8 years. You constantly are trying your best, being friendly, and balancing a million things. You might work at a school all of the time, and then they stop calling you. You will wonder did I do something wrong, did I offend anyone? My tip is to believe in yourself. You are probably doing a better job than you realize. Smile at everyone, help wherever you can, clean your classroom at the end of the day, and leave a note or email for the teacher to let them know how it went. The truth is that you are going to have hard days, try to keep on focusing on the good ones!

Being Sick:

We all get sick. As supply teachers we are covering for sick teachers most of the time. I always felt so much pressure to go into work no matter how I was feeling. My advice is to only call in sick if you are really, really sick and cannot work. Try and give as much notice as you can, and explain that you are really sick and apologize. Most of the time they will be understanding.


Meeting new people and networking is a huge part of being a teacher. I would use BEAM to save contacts you meet. Put their name in your contacts folder with a note of how you met them and their information. This way, you can email them occasionally and keep them up to date with what is happening with you. Twitter is also an amazing way to meet other teachers from around the world or right here in Ottawa!

Free Stuff/Discounts:

As teachers we get some perks! Yay perks. With our OCT card we get some freebies and discounts. Check them out here.

Michaels lets us save 15%, you just have to show your OCT card.

Let me know what you thought about this post and if you have any other questions!