VFLA Professional Connections Program
The VFLA Professional Connections Program offers peer support to VFLA members at any point in their career. It is not intended to replace local forms of support but instead to enhance it. Members who are starting a new teaching assignment or embarking on a new professional endeavor are some of the people who would benefit from participation.
Professional connection and support are offered by VFLA members who volunteer to share their experience and insights with their colleagues. Communication between participants takes place primarily through e-mail and telephone communication at times and in ways agreed upon by participants. The program is intended to provide support for a full academic year. A complete program description and set of guidelines can be found in the VFLA website.
If you believe you would benefit from the professional connections support, please continue by visiting this link.
If you would like to provide professional connections support to a VFLA colleague, please continue by visiting this link.
Matching of participants will take place on an ongoing basis as best matches are identified. Matches will be made based on information submitted in the online application forms. If you have any questions about this program, please contact program facilitator, Adrienne D'Olimpio at firstname.lastname@example.org
Participation in the VFLA Professional Connections Program is limited to VFLA members.
Members may participate in this program by requesting Languages Other Than English (LOTE)-specific professional support or by volunteering to provide such support. The program is designed to meet the varied needs LOTE teachers have at the beginning of their career as well as at later points in their career. Some of the reasons a member may request professional connections support include: starting a new teaching assignment or embarking on a new professional endeavor, being in the first five years of LOTE teaching; being the sole LOTE teacher in a building or district; and being new to teaching LOTE in Vermont.
The VFLA Professional Connections Program coordinator, Adrienne D'Olimpio, is responsible for coordinating, overseeing, and evaluating the VFLA Professional Connections Program and can be reached at email@example.com.
Requesting Professional Connections Support
VFLA members may request professional support by completing the on-line request form at any time. This form requires information regarding the member’s teaching situation, his/her reason(s) for requesting professional support, areas in which he/she is seeking support, and his/her communication preferences.
Volunteering to Provide Professional Connections Support
VFLA members may volunteer to provide professional connections support to a colleague by completing the on-line form at any time. This application requests information regarding the member’s teaching situation, areas in which he/she can offer support, and his/her communication preferences. VFLA will call on volunteer support providers when there appears to be a best match between their application information and that of the member requesting professional support.
Making the Match
Using information from the on-line forms, the VFLA Professional Connections Program coordinator will attempt to identify a best profile match. From the profiles, the coordinator identifies a colleague who appears to have the appropriate knowledge and resources to provide professional support to meet a particular requestor’s needs. The support provider is given the opportunity to review the request for professional support (exclusive of identifying information), after which he/she may or may not accept the role. If there is no best, or appropriate, profile match, the coordinator may solicit additional support providers. In the case that there is still no appropriate support provider available, the coordinator will communicate to the member who is making the request that the VFLA Professional Connections Program cannot fulfill his/her request at this time and will offer suggestions and resources on which the member may draw.
Initiating the Relationship
Once a support provider has agreed to work with a particular VFLA colleague, the coordinator will provide the support provider the colleague’s contact information. This initial contact should take place by telephone and should allow for both parties to articulate needs, availability, preferences, and limitations. It should also be an opportunity for colleagues to get to know one another personally, an important aspect of any ongoing relationship. The result of this conversation should be agreed-upon goals for professional support as well as agreed-upon modes and frequency of communication, with understandings of each other’s preferences and limitations.
Professional Connections Activity
Professional connections and support activity should proceed in the agreed-upon manner for as long as the requesting member needs the support, but no longer than one academic year. If a participant who has requested professional support determines that his/her needs have been met prior to the end of the current school year, he/she is responsible for communicating this to the volunteer colleague as well as to the program coordinator. If a support provider is unable to continue to offer professional support, he/she should communicate this to the colleague who has requested support as well as to the program coordinator. Throughout the duration of the relationship and beyond, both parties are expected to maintain confidentiality regarding the content of conversations and activities.
VFLA recognizes that, despite the use of a best profile match, there are times when a mismatch may occur between the support provider who has offered to provide professional support and the member who has requested professional support. If, after attempting to resolve the concern(s) on their own, one or both of the participants feel that this is the case, it is their responsibility to contact the Professional Connections Program coordinator. The participant(s) making contact should provide sufficient details to aid the coordinator’s understanding of the situation. The coordinator may (a) offer suggestions and/or strategies that will facilitate the participants’ efforts to resolve the concern(s) themselves, or (b) determine that the pair is a mismatch. If the coordinator deems the pair a mismatch, he/she will communicate this to both participants. The support provider will then return to the pool of members available to provide professional support unless he/she wishes to withdraw from the program. The member requesting professional support will be rematched, if he/she indicates a desire to be re-matched, and if another appropriate profile match exists. This is a one-time re-match. If the re-match is not successful, the coordinator will make suggestions regarding resources the member requesting professional support may draw on to support his/her needs and he/she will no longer be considered a participant in the VFLA Professional Connections Program.
Program Oversight and Evaluation
To assess how well the program is achieving its stated goals and to determine what, if any, adjustments to the program may be necessary, the coordinator will periodically request feedback from program participants. Participants are expected to respond to the request for feedback in a timely manner. Participants may also provide feedback regarding the program to the coordinator at any time during and subsequent to their participation. At the end of the academic year, the coordinator will request that participants complete an evaluation of the VFLA Professional Connections Program. This evaluation is intended to identify what participants perceive as valuable aspects of the program and the ways in which they believe the program could be improved to better meet their needs. Participants are expected to complete the program evaluation form in a timely manner. The coordinator will use program evaluation data to develop a report for the VFLA Board of Directors and to suggest potential programmatic modifications.
Professional Connections Activity Guidelines
The following guidelines are recommended for communication that takes place between participants electronically (i.e. - via email).
1. Participants should engage in three-part communications:
a. Part 1: The initiator’s question or communication.
b. Part 2: The response to the question or communication.
c. Part 3: The reply to the response, which minimally acknowledges its receipt but may contain significantly more information.
Completing parts 2 and 3 of the communication should be done in a timely manner.
2. Electronic messages should be written with clarity to facilitate mutual understanding and avoid miscommunication.
3. Electronic messages should be of a reasonable length—long enough to make questions and needs clear but short enough to not overwhelm the recipient.
4. Communication should take place in the mode(s) and with the frequency that have been agreed upon by both participants.
The participant who has requested professional support should be proactive in seeking assistance and show a commitment to the relationship. Additionally, he/she should be accepting of the feedback offered by the support provider, whether or not he/she is able or interested in acting on that feedback.
When advice is sought, support providers should avoid telling the colleague who has requested professional support what to do. Whenever possible, the support provider should offer a menu of suggestions from which the colleague might choose. This empowers the teacher to think broadly about approaches to issues and to make choices that are most appropriate for his/her teaching context. Additionally, the support provider should articulate the rationale behind his/her feedback to aid in the teacher’s understanding and decision-making.
Views expressed by volunteers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of VFLA. VFLA’s Professional Connections Program is intended to enhance mentoring and other forms of professional support at the local level, not to serve as a replacement for it. Some participants may choose to participate in VFLA’s Professional Connections Program as a form of professional development. While VFLA encourages this and can confirm a member’s participation in the program, it cannot provide an accounting of the number of hours that a member engaged in activity nor details of the collegial relationship or activities
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