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37 December 2017 | Professionally Speaking From the start of his teaching career, Andrew Shedden, OCT, had his own classroom, and by year two was working as an intermediate numeracy and literacy coach. He has come a long way — and went a long way to get there. For his first teaching job, Shedden flew from Toronto to Thunder Bay, took another flight north to Sioux Lookout, and went another 425 kilometres north to Sachigo Lake in north- western Ontario. "It was an exciting adventure and a great opportunity to jump into teaching with both feet." Rather than seeking OT jobs, Shedden, who's from Peterborough, tried an alternative career path. He taught for six months at the Sachigo Lake First Nation, then moved to the Kashechewan First Nation on the north shore of the Albany River, 10 kilometres inland from James Bay. The community provides housing, and Shedden lives a two-minute walk from the on-reserve Francine J. Wesley Secondary School. As he has taught, Shedden has also learned, including the Cree language (he describes his skills as "terrible, but I can understand more than I can speak") and First Nations traditions. He's a musician, too, and has played guitar at community jamborees and at a New Year's celebration with a Cree fiddler. Just as the community has embraced him, so have the students. "They know I'm there because I want to teach them and care about their learning. They can sense that I'm genuine," he says. From the beginning, Shedden had the chance to develop his own classroom management strategies, assessments and evaluation. He's adding to his qualifications by doing a master's program part time (through the University of British Columbia) in educational technology. The full-time postings have fast-tracked Shedden's career, but that wasn't his main motivation for taking work in two northern Ontario First Nations communities. "It's a teaching experience like no other," he says. same students have improved immense- ly. It hits home that with effort and a thoughtful teaching practice students can change for the better, something you don't always appreciate on a daily basis. "It's a motivator," she says. Lesson 8 Be disciplined about classroom management This is always important, and being a supply teacher reinforces that. Way says some students will assume that the usual routines don't exist when an OT is present. So he made an effort to read up on the regular teacher's notes, grasped the classroom procedures and kept them consistent. That reminded him that structure in- fluences student success. "Students often struggle with change and it can take their focus away from lesson content," says Way. His objective: "Make sure the class achieves the goals set for them." Lesson 9 Start with a clean slate Dealing with the same students and same classrooms day after day has its advantages. You get to know the children well. Yet that can also place them into "boxes." "I don't know anybody when I go into a classroom, so I don't have any biases," says Fitzpatrick. "I'm able to be fair with every single person. The kids know that I'm not there to assess them. They can just be themselves. I see them at their most real state." That highlights the importance of being open-minded and objective with students. Fitzpatrick isn't influenced by what came before. "Every day is a new day, and I like that," she says. Lesson 10 Ignite your passion When studying to become a teacher, Rogers was most interested in teaching kindergarten. As an OT, he has taught a wide range of age groups and also spent time with a Section 23 alterna- tive program. "You start to appreciate things beyond the grades and subjects you originally became a teacher for," says Rogers. Proving the point, he is now teaching Grades 7 and 8 in a full-time, permanent position with the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board. Anglehart, who has taught students from JK to Grade 12, says, "In the first few years I got to see what age groups I prefer, and where I feel more comfortable." In a way, being an OT can also fuel your enthusiasm. Without the extra work of a full-time teacher, "I come in fresh all the time," says Anglehart. She says that a lot of new teachers become stressed worrying about full- time jobs. Take a breath, take the work you can get, and learn from it, she says: "It really broadens your mind and your horizons." To Reasbeck, it's all about attitude. You get to see different school settings, programs and ideas in action. Full-time employment might be the goal, but in the meantime the broad span of experiences helps to inform occasional teachers about the kind of teacher they want to be, and prepare them for that next opportunity. "You're a better teacher for it," says Reasbeck. "When you start as a supply teacher, you have the mentality that you want your own classroom. I would say just embrace the challenge of it and the learning curve." PS ON THE FAST TRACK WITH THE FIRST NATIONS

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