Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Teacher/ECE Relationship Journey

Today's post is from @fr_immersion98, a French Immersion kindergarten teacher in Ontario, Canada.

Ontario recently introduced full-time junior and senior kindergarten programs. In most cases, the children are placed in a multi-age classroom where junior and senior kindergarten students share a space, a teacher, and an Early Childhood Educator (ECE).

When the call went out from Amy for blog contributors, I was very reluctant.  I do a class blog but I have never written a « professional » blog post.  As Amy put in her first post of the month, “Be Brave”.  This is the primary rule in my classroom and I hear parents saying often that they too are living this rule as they learn French along with their children.  So I took the plunge and here goes …  (P.S. I purposely have not yet read other posts so my style is all my own!)

When the FDK (full-day kindergarten) program was first introduced to us, many of us had great apprehension about the program.  Working with a full time Early Childhood Educator (ECE) in the same room?  What if you don’t get along?  What if the ECE in a French Immersion classroom doesn’t speak French?  Wouldn’t the kids go more to the ECE who speaks English than the teacher who only speaks French?  30 kids?  3, almost 4 year olds at school all day, every day?  Oh boy!

I started my summer school prep thinking I would be teachng Core French and covering Kindergarten Planning.  Fortunately, the Friday before a Tuesday school start, the Principal announced we would be adding another French Immersion Kindy class and it would be staffed for the first week with a supply teacher and a supply EA (Educational Assistant) or ECE.  I really wanted that class!!  To make a long story short, I was moved into that class the first day and by the end of the week it was mine.  I was thrilled!  I had 1 EA who had been assigned to our class and 1 ECE who was a floater but who spent most of the time with us.  At the end of the 2nd week, the EA moved on but Tracey, the ECE, stayed.

Tracey was amazing!  She and I got on well right from the start.  She was kind, had a great sense of humour and had a great way with the kids.  She had tons of good ideas and really understood children.  Everything a teaching partner should be!  Each day I hoped she would be given the job permanently.  There was one small problem.  Tracey doesn’t, or should I say, “didn’t” speak French.

This was a concern for me in the early days when FDK was introduced but I have to say, I realize now that this shouldn’t be a worry.  Tracey is honestly one of the bravest people I know.  Not only is she a great teaching partner, and really it is a partnership, but she also tries hard each and every day to use all the French she is learning.  I just love that she is learning with the children.  What a great role model!  Some days I smile with pride as I hear her speaking in French with the children.  She is learning too! I laughed with her recently saying, “I bet when you came to our school you never expected to be saying ‘C’est le temps de ramasser’ (It's clean up time!) every day, did you?”  

We have gone beyond asking for her extension week to week to be a little more month-to-month.  She is still not permanently placed with our class but we keep our fingers crossed that it will continue through the year – or even longer!  Yet Tracey still comes to work each day ready to be everything for our children.  She also keeps me focused and organized (I joke that I’m always seeing squirrels and therefore getting quite distracted but Tracey keeps me on track).  I’ve heard from other friends in the FDK program that their partnerships are not all so good.  Perhaps there is not a meeting of minds or in some cases there is a bit of a power struggle where the teacher has difficulty relinquishing “control”.  I see it as working with someone who has far more training in childhood development than I do so it only makes sense that we work together to give our students maximum benefit.  It is also a relief for me to have someone to bounce ideas off of and who contributes ideas as well.  Tracey rounds me out.  I’m not great with arts and she is so we are a great balance.  

I can honestly say, I am blessed to have been given such a wonderful ECE to work with.  Our students are also the beneficiaries of this coincidental placement.  I cherish the relationship we have built.  Parents see it, children feel it and we get to live it.  I have truly made a friend and learned from her as well.  I hope our partnership can continue through this year and beyond but should it not, I will envy the teacher and children who are blessed to have Tracey working with them in the future.  She is a brave individual and makes me a better teacher each and every day!

Kelly says: My name is Kelly and I teach Kindergarten (both Junior & Senior) in Ontario.  I teach at a brand new school with all the technology bells & whistles.  We are the first school in our Board to offer Full Day French Immersion (FI) Kindergarten.  This program is still being rolled out in Ontario and has not yet been introduced in any other FI schools in our area.  I absolutely love the full day concept as I feel it does so much for the children!


  1. @Kelly - a very 'professional' post :) I will get my FDK class next year, and am a little apprehensive about the ECE relationship. I currently have a wonderful EA, as I have special needs students in my alternate day program, but she does not have her ECE qualifications. We do work well together, and I know that our collaboration improves our students' learning. Like you, I know that wherever Ana goes, her students and teaching partners will be lucky to have her.
    Ann-Marie Hulse

  2. What a wonderful education team for your students.

  3. Kelly it is wonderful to read this post and to know that you have such a wonderful working relationship with the other adult in your room. Lucky you, and most importantly lucky kidlets. :-)

  4. Kelly, I enjoyed reading your post as I taught FDK last year. Teachers at our school had similar feelings of apprehension as there were so many unknowns. We were told the ECE/teacher partnership was like a marriage and that each set had to define their rules and expectations:) No mention of separation, counseling or divorce.. not to mention... the kids! After a few bumpy starts, my journey was incredible and I made a lifelong friend. My ECE partner and I can both speak to the power of communication and never leaving with an unsettling feeling. Sometimes we agreed, sometimes we agreed to disagree... by keeping the larger, common goal in mind (our students), we were able to combine talents and energy to create a dynamic environment. By the end of the year, we really did feel "married" as we were finishing each other's sentences and students knew they couldn't play us against each other; our responses were always consistent. Thanks for sharing.