Professional Development 2020

Mental Health First Aid – Gabe Andrews

In early November 2020, I had the opportunity to attend a COVID friendly professional development course in person. After experiencing a few situations where students confided in me with suicidal thoughts, mental health issues and general anxiety, I jumped on the opportunity to take a course on Mental Health First Aid through the Mental Health Commission of Canada. I wanted to be able to have the tools to help guide my students in a safe and compassionate way and offer the appropriate help that they need. The course provides the trainees with the ability to a) provide immediate support and guidance in a safe environment b) have a comfortable conversation about mental health related issues and c) provide information about professional and other supports. I feel more confident now with the increased knowledge to be able to provide necessary supports for my students in a time where mental health issues continue to rise. Thank You to NATA for providing financial assistance to attend this PD and thanks to the school division for providing release time.

Blended learning Series – Ashley Squires

I enjoyed the Blended learning Series quite a bit! It was a series of shorter topics (about 1 hour each) spread over about 5 weeks to fully do development on Blended Learning. Some take-aways that I got were philosophical in nature, but some more concrete take always were online teaching techniques such as chat cascade, Jamboards, and using google documents to collaborative work even while at a distance. The chat cascade was a simple idea, but very powerful in practice! the idea is that when you ask a question on chat, have the students all type in but NOT hit send until you say. This way all students have time to type and all the responses come in at the same time. It keeps each student accountable, too, instead of just being able to copy the first person's answer! Jamboards (a free website) were super interesting, because they allow groups to work on the same document, moving around ideas and adding ideas like an electronic whiteboard, and were perfect for sorts, brainstorming, and getting ideas together. I could totally see using one of these in place of a standard graphic-organizer sheet and allowing students to work online with a group! It was extra-powerful when paired with a group breakout room, so all students could talk to each other and each of them could manipulate the board. The last one was the use of google docs. Now, most people are familiar with those and how they work, but the new way to use them that I saw was that we used them to do jigsaw readings in a way I never thought possible online! Each group (again paired with breakout room) was given 1 page/section of the google doc to read, and then we put our answers to our questions in the document. We could see other groups there and reading other pages, and we could see the other groups typing their responses! It felt very collaborative, even though we were all at a distance. Overall, I think that this PD really helped me see even more of what online teaching and blended learning can be, and I am looking forward to trying the Jamboards and google doc jigsaw during face-to-face learning as a great way to keep distant while being collaborative!

-Ashley Squires