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33 December 2017 | Professionally Speaking Occasional teachers share how working in different schools has expanded their skill sets and fuelled their learning. BY STUART FOXMAN W hen he was a young student, Corey Way, OCT, says the day was different when the regular teacher was absent. "We thought a supply teacher meant a free day. I was probably more talkative than usual [on those days] and not on my best behaviour," he jokes. Today Way has a different perspective on supply teachers: he completed his teacher education in 2015, and was an occasional teacher (OT) until this past September, when he was hired as a full- time, permanent Grade 6/7 teacher with the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board. But as an OT, he faced the challenges, and reaped the rewards, of being in new schools and classrooms all the time. "You see how different strategies work within certain environments," says Way, "That allows you to reflect on your own practices." Supply teaching is a reality for many new teachers — even as more and more new graduates are finding full-time employment. However, as these five occasional teachers can attest, it can also make you a better teacher. Here are 10 lessons they have learned on the job. Lesson 1 Enjoy the variety In teaching, much growth comes from understanding the range of personalities and styles in the classroom, and absorb- ing professional advice. That's true for occasional teachers too, but in their case they turbocharge those learnings. OTs have access to a much broader palette of students and colleagues in any given year. "You get to see what works, and you're just soaking up so much infor- mation," says Way. Working with a few boards and many schools as an OT, Eddy Rogers, OCT, witnessed a wide range of traditional and experimental pedagogies. He was able to see how each did (or didn't) work best. During interviews for long-term occasional assignments at the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, Rogers was asked about his impressions of various teaching methods. He had a wealth to draw on — not just the theory but actual experiences. "I received prac- tical exposure to the benefits of different approaches," he says. Lesson 2 Go with the flow From September through April during the 2016–17 school year, Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick, OCT, put almost 40,000 kilo- metres on her car because of work. The occasional teacher lived in Huntsville (she now lives in North Bay) and took assignments in 60 different classrooms at 27 schools within the Near North District School Board. Most were just one-day assignments; the longest was three days. As the year went on, Fitzpatrick got as- signments the day before, and sometimes weeks in advance. But often she'd get the 6:30 a.m. call and have to head right out the door. The schedule forces you to be flexible and embrace new opportunities and ideas quickly. PHOTOS: MATTHEW LITEPLO

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