Thursday, 11 August 2011

Your PLN begins in PDP

Goodbye Dinner With Our Homestay Families
In the spring of 2005, I applied for the January, 2006 module of Simon Fraser University's Professional Development Program for teacher training.  This one-year program is required for certification as a BC teacher.  It was my first application and I knew that if I was admitted, I would be ecstatic.  I also knew that it was a competitive process and that I may have to apply again for the September, 2006 program.

Unexpectedly, I received a letter that summer stating that the September, 2005 International Teacher Education Module had spaces available.  The program required additional tuition for travel and would enable me to live in Mexico or Trinidad for 10 weeks while completing my "short practicum" and SFU seminars in international schools.  With the prospect of finishing my degree a semester early, and having an incredible international experience, I decided to send in a letter of interest.  More than a hundred other prospective applicants did the same thing but, for some reason, I managed to secure one of the two available Mexico spots right away.  I am a "planner," so it was rather unlike me to decide in July that I would be doing something different in September, but I was ecstatic!  I fired off a mass e-mail to my friends, and began preparing.

My participation in the Mexico PDP module was probably the best thing that could have happened to me as a prospective teacher.  The group of sixteen student teachers, our SFU Faculty Associate, and her husband, were amazing.  Our teaching preferences ranged from kindergarten to grade twelve, and our backgrounds and personalities were diverse.  Despite obvious differences, we worked well as a team and supported one another personally and professionally throughout our ten-week trip away from home.  We have continued to provide professional support to one another as some "elementary trained" teachers began teaching at secondary schools, and vice versa.  Through job cuts and layoffs, many have changed grade levels and have been able to turn to PDP classmates for advice.  One of my fabulous PDP classmates was recently a guest speaker in my Family Studies class during her pregnancy and after the birth of her son.  I love having guest speakers and the kids adored her and her little guy.

On a personal note, quite a few of the women I met in that program have become good friends.  The group isn't able to get together often, but we do manage to catch up for lunch or dinner on school breaks, and the occasional wedding, and have Facebook to keep us connected in between.

I love getting together with those ladies and hearing what is going on in their lives and careers.  Often, teachers become focused on socializing with colleagues within our own schools and districts.  It is incredibly valuable to hear what is going on across the lower mainland.  It never ceases to amaze me how a conversation with an elementary school teacher can shape my practice in secondary school.  It is also interesting to compare and contrast policies and procedures in different schools and districts, giving us a better sense of education province-wide.

After eight weeks in the city of Oaxaca, we arrived at the beach!
The connections formed in university have been incredibly valuable to me personally and professionally and I wouldn't trade them for anything.  I strongly encourage prospective teachers to take the time to form lasting connections with classmates.  We had more "bonding time" than most PDP students, as we were living in Mexico together, but it really is important for all prospective teachers to get in the habit of having a coffee with a colleague from another district or grade level.  Even if we teach different grade levels and in different communities, I always benefit from chatting with my fabulous PDP classmates.

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