We caught up with Tracey Webster RECE who is working on her learning plan during the pandemic. Tracey, whom we previously featured in an article on professional learning, spoke to us about her current CPL activities and ongoing passion for continuous learning.
Q: What does your practice setting usually look like?
A: I’m a Professional Learning Consultant with Affiliated Services for Children and Youth (ASCY) in Hamilton. As part of our local quality initiative we provide mentorship and consultation to centers, so three to four mornings every week, I’m out visiting a program. My afternoons are spent back at the office where I focus on the other part of my role which is the planning and delivery of professional learning. We also have a new location in Haldimand-Norfolk, so I also oversee their professional learning resource library.
Q: How has your practice changed since COVID-19 closures?
A: My practice setting is now my dining room table!
I’m still reaching out to programs that, while the centres are closed, have staff working. I’ve been providing virtual support to those programs. And I’ve been conducting online learning via Zoom, which is definitely a new practice setting for me.
There are two silver linings to this. As an organization, we’ve often talked about embracing technology to reduce some of the barriers to participating in professional learning. Our team at ASCY has really stepped up and responded to a need for virtual learning during the pandemic. I encourage folks to check out our website for the resources, tip sheets, and professional learning that we’ve developed and made available during COVID-19.
Another positive to using technology is the opportunity to connect more frequently with some of our more remote programs. Haldimand-Norfolk is such a geographically large area so the furthest program from my office is an hour and 20-minute drive. We’re visiting each program monthly, so driving can be a large portion of our time. We often host in-person professional learning sessions in the evening and it can make for a very long day for those that have a long drive home. The pandemic pushed us into using this technology, and I think that’s going to change the way our work looks when we go back. We’ll be able to use this technology to find more ways of connecting with people.
Q: Can you share one of your current CPL goals?
A: One of my ongoing goals connects to Standard IV: Professionalism and Leadership of the College’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. It’s part of my practice as well as my own professional values to remain current and be knowledgeable about our guiding documents and responsibilities to the profession. My goal is to help strengthen the understanding of the Code and Standards and engagement in the CPL program.
I regularly hear misconceptions about the CPL Program. These misunderstandings have led to RECEs feeling overwhelmed with the process before they’ve even started. I hope to shift this mindset and help RECEs feel more confident with the process. In fact, I encourage members who are struggling to use ‘learning about the CPL Program’ as one of their goals.
Q: What learning activities are you doing?
A: I created a Facebook group on CPL as one of my activities. The Facebook group is an online community for members to connect with for support, not just from me, but from others in the group. The members of the Facebook group are there to support each other and are interested in engaging in a professional manner. I’ve received a lot of feedback from group members who really like the fact that it’s a positive environment. While people share their barriers and challenges, there’s no one there sharing negative attitudes about the CPL program.
Q: You recently held a Facebook Live event. How did it go?
A: I did two events, actually, and both went really well. There were around 100 to 115 attendees at both events, and since those two videos were published, they’ve had over 1,000 views. There was great feedback. People were really appreciative of getting reliable answers to their questions and genuinely relieved that the process is not as hard as it seemed.
I’d never done a Facebook Live event before, and decided it would be an informal Q&A session. Mostly, I directed people to where they could find information, both on the Facebook page and the College website. I created a pinned post at the top of the Facebook page with a direct link to the website so that it is handy for members.
Q: What resources have you found most helpful?
A: I visit the College website often and use the resources there in my practice supporting educators with professional learning and individual support to engage in the CPL program. I often direct RECEs to read the CPL resources on Reflective Practice and Self-Directed Learning, or I refer them to the #StandardsinPractice series.
I also find the CPL Activities web visual useful when members are completing their professional learning plan component. It broadens our thinking about what constitutes professional learning. It helps members connect activities they may already be doing to their learning plan, such as having professional dialogue at team meetings, following a blog or writing in a reflective journal.
Q: How are you supporting individual RECEs with their CPL?
A: In addition to the support I provide through my role at ASCY and my Facebook group, I have delivered one-on-one support to individual members via Facebook messenger chat, phone or FaceTime. Sometimes it’s just answering a few questions and other times it’s been up to an hour walking through the three components of the portfolio cycle. I try to be mindful of my own time so I’m up front at the beginning of each call with the amount of time I can spend. And, I always invite members to follow up with me again if they have other questions.
I recently invited members of the Facebook group who have been showing leadership and an interest in supporting others to join me for a Zoom chat. I currently don’t have any other moderators in my Facebook group, and these individuals stepped up in an organic way. My hope is that we can share ideas, resources and strategies, and ensure that information provided to the group is reliable and consistent.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge working on your CPL while also balancing work and life during COVID-19?
A: I’m fortunate to be at a life stage where the biggest interruption to my workday at home might be my dog barking at a delivery person. But I recognize that many RECEs are juggling multiple priorities during a time that is already so stressful. Don’t let it overwhelm you – take care of yourself and your family. When you’re in a place to pick CPL back up again, you’ll be more prepared to do just that if you make your self-care a priority.
I’ve been encouraging members to consider reviewing their professional learning plan and think about shifting their activities to things they can do online, or consider moving them to later in the cycle when we’re back to work. And if RECEs are experiencing more significant challenges, they have the option of the CPL deferral due to COVID-19. I did a recent Facebook post on my thoughts about the deferral and cautioned members to think carefully about it, and know what your options are. If you can continue with your CPL, I’d suggest you keep going and make adjustments to your learning plan based on what you can do during this time. Or put it down for the next few months, and pick it back up when you can.
Q: Final thoughts?
A: Reach out for support when you need it. I have a great example of someone who posted in the Facebook group when she saw so many posts from others working on their CPL. She wrote that she felt overwhelmed and guilty for not working on hers, as she couldn’t bring herself to think about it. Well, about 20 of the group’s members responded with messages like “take care of yourself,” “keep your chin up,” “you’re not alone” and “we will be here for you when you’re ready.” The member messaged me later to say the encouragement made her feel better, and she managed to get started on her CPL.
My final message to everyone is to be kind to yourself and others. Really focus on self-care and just do what you can do. If working on your CPL is the farthest thing from your mind, then you know where to find us when you’re ready.
Looking for more information on the CPL program, including resources and FAQs? Check out our website.