Personal Introduction

Courtesy of Robert Ballantyne
Some scenes, moments and highlights from my former journalism career

When I took the big leap to join the University of Ottawa’s Bachelor of Education program in mid-September, I accepted with no idea that I’d be constantly asked share my feelings.

Personal reflection is a key part of the program. Every course and almost every assignment is like this: write a letter to yourself about why you want to become a teacher, write about a personal artifact that represents you, describe a personal time of transition, and so on.

Frankly, my story is the one I’ve always been least interested in sharing. I was 16 when I landed my first paying gig as a journalist and I’ve been happily telling other people’s stories since.

I find it easy to hide my opinions behind journalistic balance and impartiality, to hide my face behind the camera, and to have my writing read by someone else on the radio.

As a kid growing up in Winnipeg, my dream was to work at the CBC and to work with journalist Wendy Mesley. A combination of luck and hard work led to me landing a full-time job at CBC’s investigative TV consumer show Marketplace, which at the time was newly hosted by Ms. Mesley.

During my nearly 10-year tenure at the CBC, I worked as an investigative researcher, television director, radio producer and web developer. For many years, I was extremely prolific, and my work ended up on many well-known programs beyond Marketplace, including The Fifth Estate, The National, The Nature of Things and As It Happens.

Unfortunately, I can describe my professional life much better than my personal one, because, well, I didn’t really have one at that time.

This was the primary reason why I left the CBC: to detach from the unhealthy relationship I had with my work. It’s the price you pay when your life’s ambitions relate to work. I (sadly, yet) honestly have never felt as happy and fulfilled as I did working 12-hour-plus days, then heading for after work get-togethers to talk about work some more with colleagues, finally forcing myself home to go to sleep, and then excitedly waking up to start the process all over again.

It’s an incredible gift to have your wildest dreams come true, but the price to pay (there’s always one) is that once you achieve your goals, you have a profound sense of uncertainty about what to do next.

So, I spent many years trying to figure out my next career phase. Along the way, I took personality tests, did a few courses, and attended many career workshops. The result was unexpected: I should be a dentist.

Plot twist!

Apparently, if you are smart and sensitive, you are destined to pull out teeth. Or at least drill into them on a regular basis.

(Forgive the sarcasm, and really thank goodness for dentists. If you’ve ever need one, you’ll be grateful they’re around. It’s just really, really, really not the gig for me.)

My second most-recommended option was to become a clinical psychologist, which I was into, except for the additional eight years of training. I just don’t think I could mortgage my life for that long.

In third place was teaching. You know how this resolves, but I was very practical before deciding on this path, listing out the pros-and-cons, and stripping idealism from the decision.

I’m still not quite sure how to feel about this new life direction. It may be due to my whirlwind schedule. I was accepted into uOttawa’s program as a super-late admission, befitting my super-late, on-a-whim application this summer. My first week was a sink-or-swim experience as I was forced to simultaneously adjust to becoming a full-time student at a new university, catch up on weeks of classes and, oh, just for fun, I was thrown into a real high school to teach English, too.

It’s been quite the ride so far-and has been wonderful considering the disadvantageous start. Every week, as I approach a real-life school, I have moments of disbelief and can’t believe I’m, like, you know, a real teacher.

I try to avoid cliché but can’t avoid describing it all like a dream.

Lucky me, getting the chance to live out two different dreams in a lifetime! And this time ‘round, I’m also working on getting that personal life in line, too.

That’s what reading week and breaks are for, right?

The Talk of the Town Reflections on the art of teaching
Spotlight Selected stories from the archive
Quotations Deep thoughts and inspiration

"You cannot strengthen one by weakening another; and you cannot add to the stature of a dwarf by cutting off the leg of a giant."

— Benjamin Franklin Fairless (1950)