Guest Post: TOC Life & an Unstable Income

Tonight’s guest post comes to us from Tom Hayward, a TOC in our district.  Tom and I (Karley) go way back; we used to work at the Saanich Police station together in the Block Watch Office (just for one summer).  Needless to say, after a summer of Block Watch antics, we became fast friends.  When he is not teaching school, you can find Tom tutoring and teaching guitar lessons.  Tom also moonlights as a wedding singer.  I wish I could say this is a joke, but it’s not.  Tom wrote and sang a song about, and for, Joel and I and performed it at our wedding.  It was absolutely amazing.

Here’s what Tom has to say about the financial life as TOC (and how to make ends meet when the paycheque is unstable).

I have spent nearly my entire teaching career as a day-to-day substitute teacher – ahem, teacher teaching on call. While the reasons for this are mostly circumstantial, there have been times when I actively sought to be a TTOC rather than a classroom teacher. After graduating from the BEd program at UVic I worked in some local independent schools here in Victoria. I then left the country for the experience of teaching in London, England. Upon returning I went back to the independent schools before finally getting picked up by the local school district. While this has meant a rather fragmented three-year teaching career, I have been able to adjust quite well to the unpredictable nature of on-call work.

Teaching on call brings with it a large degree of uncertainty. Will my class be “good”? Will I work well with other teaching staff? Will there be a lesson plan? Will I even work today? One thing you can be certain of is this: you won’t be making as much money as a regular classroom teacher. It’s a cold hard fact. Even if you get a call every day, there’s a good chance that some of those days will be half days. Following breaks there is often a lull as teachers return to class healthy and refreshed. With such unpredictable workflow, the financial stress can be very real. Here’s how to cope:

1) Know how the system works. At least in my district, working a morning in an elementary or middle school pays more than an afternoon. If you have the choice, opt for teaching in the morning. As well, working one day in the morning and the next day in the afternoon is usually a smarter idea than working a full day and having a day off. Depending on your district, consecutive days can mean a bigger pay cheque at the end of the month.

2) Get to know the staff. This is huge. Eat in the staff room. Introduce yourself to the teacher next door. Hand out a card. Network. Be pleasant. Smile. This is really basic stuff, but the impression you leave on someone else could pay off in dividends later on.

3) Do a good job. Let me tell you a story. I once subbed in a school and I had a prep block. The teacher said if I felt like it I could do some of the marking on her desk. I did ALL of it. A few months later she needed coverage for the month of June. Who do you think she called? If teachers know you are good at what you do they will trust you with their students. This could mean a good chunk of change in your bank account.

4) Get a part-time job. TTOCs have the luxury of being off work at about three and going home with usually little or no marking or planning to do. Use this time to make a little extra dough. I currently tutor and give guitar lessons in my spare time. It’s not much, but a little bit of cash in my pocket definitely makes a difference to my bottom line. It’s also smart to designate that money as “fun money” so you aren’t dipping into your chequing account every time you want to go out with your friends.

5) Be smart with your money. Teaching can be stressful. Financial hardship can be stressful. If teaching is your passion you don’t want any other stresses affecting your work. Pay your bills on time. Be a bit frugal with your money. Put some into savings each month. Your teaching will improve if you have fewer worries clouding your mind.tom

Being thrust in front of thirty kids you don’t know and teaching something you haven’t seen since grade seven can reduce even the most seasoned teacher to a crumpled pile of frayed nerves, frantically grasping for the nearest stress ball. Master your financial situation and lighten the stress-load that’s weighing you down. Your students will thank you, and you will thank yourself.

-Tom Hayward

What Tom won’t tell you is that he’s actually kind of a big deal…his music has been featured on CBC!  Check this out. 

Guest Post: Message from a Student Teacher

Today’s guest post comes to us from Reisa (Reis) Brooks, a student teacher working in a grade 8 classroom across the hall from me.  It wasn’t that long ago that I was in Reis’ position and we’ve grown close throughout the duration of her practicum.  Reis has been teaching my class’ social studies because her mentor teacher usually teaches my social studies.  Reis and I have bonded over our similar fashion sense (think daily comments from our students, “Mrs. Alleyn, you and Miss Brooks look exactly the same today!” – unplanned outfit coordination, I promise), our love for coffee and our daily triumphs and struggles with our students.  I will be terribly sad to see Reis finish her practicum and move on; however, our district is about to gain another incredible educator, which makes me very happy! I know I’ll be booking her as my TOC as soon  as she gets on the sub list!  Here’s what Reis has to say about a recent social studies lesson we co-taught…enjoy.

Amidst my final practicum I have strived to experiment with as many different strategies and forms of teaching as possible in order to keep the students engaged and interested in their subjects. In Social Studies 8 we are covering Ancient India, more specifically the Gupta Empire. Over the duration of this unit I quickly discovered that there are only so many ways to immerse your students in a cultural experience within the walls of a classroom. With the help of an excellent teacher mentor, Karley Alleyn, I was able to bring a cultural experience to the students in hopes that each student take ownership of their own learning, their own experience and challenge them to be present in an unknown cultural experience.

Students resting in savasana during our yoga practice.

Students resting in savasana during our yoga practice.

Moksha yoga (not the branded studio, but the type of practice itself) has a large place in Indian culture especially during this era, as well as in modern India. Moksha was traditionally practiced in the early mornings to avoid the heat of the day as well as to provide one with relaxation, focus and to bring forth positive energy releasing toxins from the body. Yoga, both a skill and a discipline, allows one to focus in on themselves and their own being, relieve tensions and bring both body and mind to a peaceful, calm state. My students accepted this challenge with open arms and, although some were skeptics at first, many of them felt the benefits that yoga can bring to one’s life in the short 30 minute practice we did at school. Bringing moksha yoga into the classroom was an excellent experience for myself as well as the students who came with open minds toward a culture and who succeeded in a challenge to experience an aspect of a culture many were not familiar with. Sending thanks and gratitude to Mrs. Alleyn for instructing such an amazing class. Namaste.      -Written by Reis Brooks


Following the yoga practice, Reis had her students (and mine) write an exit slip reflection about the yoga experience.  Here are some comments extracted from our students’ exit slips:

“I had mixed emotions at the start, I didn’t really want to do it. But once we started I actually enjoyed it it was very relaxing and peaceful.”

“I felt like I forgot about all my school work I hadn’t done, and things that stressed me out.”

“This was my first yoga experience it was so relaxing and calming.”

“Having no shoes on made me feel at home!”

” I liked it because it gave me a chance to focus just on myself with the music playing and my eyes closed.”

“Yoga is used to relax; I agree I’ve never felt more calm.”

“I really enjoyed that experience I wish we could do it again”

“It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. If I had the chance I would do it again!”

After reading our students' reflections about their yoga practice (for many of them, their FIRST yoga experience ever!) I am truly feeling this quote!

After reading our students’ reflections about their yoga practice (for many of them, their FIRST yoga experience ever!) I am truly feeling this quote!


Guest Post: The Educational Role of Transformative places

We have a special guest post for you tonight from a friend and colleague of Meaghan’s with the UVIC Research project that has been mentioned here a few times. Nick Stanger is going to share with you how our stories of place have a transformative impact on our lives. The video is a preview of his research and then he will explain his background and project in the post so please read, enjoy, participate, and share. Thank you!

It was the first time I had really been on my own.  I was ten, and I was exploring the local hill, probably with my family dog.  I had convinced my parents, who were very protective of me, that I could responsibly walk my dog alone and told them I was going around the block.  Instead, I headed up the hill that had a little regional park on the top of it, an unused observatory, and some buildings originating from WWII.  This hill, though heavily urbanized, represented the wilderness to me.  While standing on the highest peak of the hill, I could see across the Salish Sea to the Gulf Islands and the Olympic Mountains.  But it wasn’t only the epic views that made it so exciting; It was that feeling of autonomy and connection to place.  I built forts, scrambled on rocks, climbed trees, got lost, found secret hiding places, and developed a love for this funny rocky park.

This place taught me something:  That exploration without goals often leads to wonderful adventures and meaningful moments.  I found myself learning about the systems up there: the water cycle, biology of the Garry Oak ecosystem, and the weather patterns. At the time, I had no language to describe this understanding, but it seeped into my skin and affected me profoundly.  These experiences also left me with a life-long curiosity about what was going on.  Since then, I have always been curious about the human connection to place.

After my undergrad degree in natural resources conservation, a Masters degree in Environmental Education and Communication, and my PhD in Environmental Education, I feel I am a little closer to understanding how humans connect to place.  For me it all relates back to that age when I was ten and the unstructured play I was engaged in.  By having the space and time to play without intentional outcomes, I had rich learning that were transformative and distinctly mine.  These experiences continue to transform me through my life.

With an increased interest in nature-based Kindergartens and Forest Schools in Canada, many school systems and teachers acknowledge that early connection to nature can lead to great learning.  I am of the mind that in addition to research stating that early exposure is critical, I believe that any exposure at all points of our life can be transformative and indeed critical.   This is why, for my research, I wanted to interview adults who do not readily identify as environmentalists.  In the summer of 2013 I identified four exemplary individuals and interviewed them in their childhood or adolescent transformative outdoor places. My participants included Tsartlip Elder and Cowichan Sweater knitter, May Sam; National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence, Dr. Wade Davis and his wife Gail Percy; Her Honour, the former Lieutenant Governor for British Columbia, Iona Campagnolo; and Hua Foundation co-founder, Claudia Li.

I filmed my participants during these interviews so that I could see beyond the words they were saying and have insights into their non-verbal communication.  I then created a website to share these films.  The goal of this site is to celebrate these places as a way to show their relevance throughout these four people’s lives.  Yet there is more.  Interviewing these four made me wonder about you and your story.

Likely you have been thinking about your transformative place throughout this blog.   Where would you go if you were to go to a transformative place?  You are encouraged to write about this place on the interactive map on the website.  You can upload movies, songs, poems, artwork, and stories.

As teachers, be sure that you pay attention to your students’ concepts of place.  Where are they going right now?  What are they doing in these places?  I would bet that they are finding solace, exploring and learning with nature, playing in unstructured ways, and discovering new things about themselves.  Our current education system has missed many opportunities to teach about the ecological and cultural communities that surround us.  Take this opportunity to do that.  Share your place with your classroom and then ask them to do the same.

Guest Post: Classroom Environment

We are so excited to have another new teacher do our guest post this week! Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt is a grade 1/2 French Immersion teacher in our school district who graduated with us. She is so inspiring with her continuous strive to create the best classroom environment she can for her students and we are so excited that she was able to share the set up of her classroom here…

Environment. The one word that was on my mind since I received the BEYOND exciting phone call asking me if I would take a French Immersion Grade 1/2 position for the year at a lovely school in the Victoria School District. Yes, I thought about the children, the school setting, the curriculum… but the one thing I could not get off my mind was the learning environment in my new classroom.

I was non-stop daydreaming about my classroom.
How I was going to set it up?
What kind of environment I wanted to create?
What kind of objects for playing and learning with I would like to have?
…So many thoughts it became overwhelming. I then decided I needed to start tracking my ideas, so I bought a journal. I also registered for the Uvic Primary weeklong institute that focused on play and environment in the primary classroom. The course was an amazing start to my planning, preparations, and inspiring me to create my environment. For the rest of the summer I researched Reggio-Emilia (An Italian, play-based, approach to education) based environments, classrooms, preschool settings and of course, I ‘PINTERESTED’ non-stop for ideas.

#1After I started using the journal for brainstorming and lists, how I envisioned my classroom environment started to become clear. I knew I wanted a large carpet area for learning, moving, sharing, playing and inquiring. I hoped to create a quiet area, which had books, pillows, a cozy carpet, and family photo frames. I knew we needed an art inquiry nature based table, with art supplies and an art easel. And I imagined a writing center, with all different types of paper, stamps, pens, pencils, a word wall, a mailbox, etc. I also was insistent on having tables instead of desks. I like to encourage my students to do group work, share and inquire together. I also like that tables give us more space for moving and playing.

pizap.com13826697139921I also wanted to incorporate found and fallen nature objects, loose parts and natural toys in to my playing and inquiring areas. I created alphabet, people, and fruit rocks, painted sticks, I have fallen giant pinecones, and natural hand crafted wooden puzzles. I bought the wooden puzzles from the Moss Street and Sidney Summer Markets from Tidal Toys; a local Victoria company that specializes in hand crafted natural play items.  The children love using all of the natural, colourful and inspiring materials.
Through my research on Reggio-Emilia based classrooms, I was noticing more and more ideas on making the classroom the children’s. Professionals who had focused on having the children create the posters, alphabet, calendar, and word wall in their rooms. I learned that it helped create a warm community environment, and helped foster ownership in our classroom. Again, I returned to my journal and started brainstorming objects I was planning to have my students make. Together, we have created an alphabet word wall, numbers, calendar, months of the year, schedule items for the board, bathroom magnet board. I noticed the children love creating parts of their classroom, and are continuously proud of their work.

The end of August was when my imagining, planning, and creating FINALLY came together. Along with the help of my wonderful friend, I spent my last week of summer at school creating the beginnings of ‘Our Environment’. Here are some snap shots of what my room looked prior to all my new 6 and 7 year old friends started exploring, creating, building and enjoying the space.


pizap.com13826713339031I also wanted to share a close up of my favourite spot in the classroom –our Nature Art Inquiry table. I change it about every week or so by bringing in beautiful and inspiring natural items. I’ve brought in: colourful flowers, leaves, rocks, sunflowers, gourds, pumpkins, and daffodil bulbs. Each week I also try to switch the art medium we use. We have experimented with markers, pencil crayons, pastels, different types of paint, sharpies, and the list goes on.

The word Environment is a very powerful part of my everyday teaching. I’ve read many articles and blogs that refer to Environment as the ‘Third Teacher.’ I am continuously looking for new ideas, photographs for inspiration and ways to improve the environment that we have been creating. I am a new teacher who is trying out different methods, experimenting with a variety of strategies, tools and materials. Some ideas have been extremely successful, while others have needed a quick adjustment or needed to be let go of. I would love to hear, see and learn about things other professionals are doing in their classrooms revolving around the idea of Environment.

I would like to thank my friends, Meaghan and Karley, for asking me to be part of their AMAZING blog. They help keep me inspired, energetic and always make me smile with the incredible work they are doing and sharing through this method of communication and reflection. Merci les filles! ❤

Happy Creating!


Guest Post: The Courage to Lead

Today’s guest post, The Courage to Lead, comes to us from one of the most dedicated leaders I’ve ever worked with. Nadine Naughton, a vice-principal in our school district, is a source of sunshine for all those who cross her path, as well as a shoulder to lean on when one needs support. Nadine leads her team of staff and students with purpose, creativity and genuine love. I hope you enjoy what Nadine has to share about leadership from the heart.

The age- old question about whether leaders are born or made is a well- worn cliché. After over a decade in diverse leadership roles from teacher-leader, district leader to Vice Principal, I have come to believe that a bit of both are present when analyzing and learning from influential leaders. Indeed some individuals are born with natural tendencies towards leadership much as one has a natural aptitude for sports, the arts or Pythagorean theory. However inspiring leaders must remain life- long learners and reflective practitioners to achieve mastery in this complex and challenging role.

My master’s degree in leadership provided me with theoretical and conceptual touchstones on which to operate as a leader, but it is the daily work in schools that has deepened my thinking and developed my skills as a leader. Underlying every action a leader takes must be the firm and unwavering practice of courage. I define courage in all areas of school leadership as decisive, fair and caring action in the pursuit of justice for children.

Niccolo Machiavelli in his historical work The Prince states, “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.” Leadership is not for the faint of heart.

Within the education system and in our schools in the 21st century we are teetering on the edge of a new order of things. Fundamental changes to curriculum are necessitating changes in instruction and assessment. Ongoing developments in brain research are forcing educators and stakeholders to re-envision learning from a passive “sit and git” perspective to an active, inquiry-based one. The balance of power has shifted; the learner must take the wheel firmly while the teacher assumes the comfortable position of passenger. The role of technology and its potential for teaching and learning is so profound that it has many of us spinning as we try to determine how best to implement and support this rapid and undeniable force in our schools. The impact on teaching today is profound; and change is difficult.

We cannot establish a culture in our schools or district that expects and supports risk-taking behaviours in the pursuit of new ways of doing business unless we are courageous. Whether it is participating in the inquiry process with colleagues about improving instruction and assessment practices, initiating difficult conversations with staff, parents or colleagues, or challenging systemic structures, leading is a feat that involves both the head and the heart. The root of the word courage is “couer”- translated from French meaning “heart.” Challenging what has always been and forging new ground in schools, can be frightening. The moral imperative to act in ways according to what is just for the children and families we serve requires leaders to stay in touch with their hearts. I have never found that my heart has led me astray in making a choice between what is difficult and what is right for a child.

Leading in a culture of change is exhilarating but it also forces leaders to run towards the fear and not away from it. Courage propels the runner somewhat like the wind at one’s back. As we grapple with the rapid changes imposed upon our system through the forces of globalization, technology and economic uncertainty, what was and what needs to be for our students and the teachers that serve them, depends on courageous leadership.

Courageous teacher leadership in our schools is the heart of innovative and promising change in how we do what we know we must do for our students to become communicators, collaborators, and creative problem solvers in our world today. The single most important factor in improving student engagement, learning and achievement is the quality of the classroom teacher. This is no longer a debatable statement. International research and practice supports this fact in all high-functioning education systems. Our highest quality teachers catupult themselves, arms wide open, into new assessment practices and new strategies that are brain-friendly for kids. They stay abreast of current research, engage in the inquiry process with peers and utilize social media to extend their connections. They blog, tweet and share what inspires them as teacher-learners: often inspiring others on their journey. They do all of these things as still arrive each day excited and energized to forge new ground with the students in front of them. That is courage.

The role of the principal is to ensure that teachers continue to receive the support they require to develop into master educators through ongoing, collaborative professional inquiry, access and training in educational technology and learning-centered conversations in our hallways every day. There are countless tasks a principal must undertake in the course of a day, a week and each year. None of them takes precedence over supporting courageous teacher-leadership in schools.

One of my preferred courageous authors in school change and leadership, Alan Blankstein profoundly proposes that, “Courage is the connective tissue between knowing what needs to happen and getting to the business of doing it.” Dig deep and find the courage to lead.


Nadine Naughton

Vice Principal
Gordon Head Middle School

Guest Post: Parent~Teacher~Student

I’m so excited to introduce our very first guest blogger here on Tale of Two Teachers: Paul Abra, from Island Parent Magazine. Paul was a teacher and administrator before becoming publisher of Island Parent Magazine. (He also happens to be Meaghan’s dad!) His post is to share his experience about the parent role with school from his perspective as both a parent and an educator. This is a hot topic as we are kicking off the new school year and both kids and parents are adjusting to the new routines of a different class and teacher. Everyone has their roles in a child’s education but when it comes to a parent’s presence at school, how much is too much? Here’s what he has to say:

Parents need to let go sometimes and especially in schools. Too often, parents want to know everything that’s going on in their child’s day. In the words of parent educator, Barbara Colorosa, these are the helicopter parents, hovering over their child’s every minute and every move. Does this actually teach the child anything about independence and growing up as a self reliant individual? With Mom and Dad controlling every move including trying to choose the teacher and friends, the child is stifled and not prepared for the real world of life.

Schools are sometimes the first instance where children have an opportunity to experience some independence and growth. As parents, our job is to help our children become more independent and self-sufficient, our job is to start to let go. We still need to have rules and boundaries in place but we also need to let our children have space to grow and develop as individuals. Parents need to place trust in teachers, coaches and other adults, to provide their children with mentors and role models beyond the parent.


Source: Unearthed Comics

We want to hear from parents and teachers:

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Teachers – How much parent involvement is wanted in your classroom?

Parents – What are some ways you have found to help yourself let go and let other adults take on important roles in your child’s life?