Vision to advance connectivity and collaboration as well as foster new approach to professional and curriculum development
The Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) and the Ontario Christian School Teachers Association (OCSTA) are heading up the development of professional learning communities for Ontario’s Christian school educators.
Launched at the recent OCSTA convention, the purpose of the initiative, called Educators Helping Educators, is to connect teachers according to either grades — at the elementary level — or disciplines — at the secondary level.
The vision is to advance greater connectivity and collaboration amongst Ontario’s Christian school teachers, as well as foster a new approach to professional and curriculum development, says OCSTA executive director Diane Stronks.
Workshops that took place at the convention have initiated the connections, with many of the groups now continuing their conversations through a variety of virtual forums, including mass e-mails, blogs or Facebook accounts. Facilitators have been assigned to each group.
The next steps include identifying the best virtual platforms for having these conversations, with the design of a share site which could be accessed by school board members and OACS and OCSTA staff also being considered.
“Once we get a sense for how well these things work we are going to formalize them and have further conversations on whether we can run these networks through a central joint database with OCSTA and the OACS,” says Gary VanArragon, OACS director of secondary services.
A meeting is slated for December to work on these next phases.
A book publishing company, Solution Tree, which specializes in the development of professional learning communities, is also being engaged to determine how their resources might supplement the process.
A long-term vision for the outcome of the professional learning communities is the formation of a new approach to professional and curriculum development.
Stronks describes it as a “bottom-up and top-down” approach, in which the vision for Christian education, often formulated and articulated by those in leadership within the OACS and OCSTA, is melded together with the practical experiences of teachers in the classrooms.
Stronks adds OCSTA is very interested in hearing directly from teachers about what they want and need from their professional organizations.
“We want to have our ear to the ground, rather than just assuming we know what the educators need and want. We’re very interested in those conversations.”
VanArragon notes there was very strong attendance at the initial Educators Helping Educators workshops and interest is high in keeping the development of the communities moving.
“This is a work in progress and we are excited about it, we think it has tremendous possibilities,” he says.