My unexpected trial by fire in teacher education Why my mid-career return to university helped me develop a necessary identity as both a teacher and a life-long learner Content by Robert J. Ballantyne Posted on March 12, 2020 An Instagram moment in Quebec City. Photo by Derek Seguin Teaching requires a tremendous amount of self-reflection. If you don’t know your own story, and particularly how you learn, it’s difficult to be an effective educator. However, as a journalist, my own story is the one I’ve been least interested in exploring. For most of my life, I was happy to cast aside my own opinions in the name of “journalistic balance,” to hide my face behind the camera as a director, or let others voice my scripts and writing on air. Finding my own voice proved to be one of the most challenging experiences of my life — and I would’ve never found it without being part of the University of Ottawa Bachelor of Education program. Related content My broadcast journalism portfolio A selection of my favourite broadcast journalism projects from Marketplace, The Fifth Estate and The National. In my first week of classes, I was thrown into a real public school classroom. It was sink or swim: tweens and teenagers are the most brutally honest audiences you can have. They connect to authenticity and do not suffer fools. When I stood in front of those grade school classes, both my heart and mind were racing. In those first awkward teaching practicum experiences, I was constantly asking myself these four questions: Why am I doing this? What do I have to offer? How do I make this engaging? Am I teaching something meaningful? Through self-reflection, I eventually developed the skills to answer all of these questions before I arrived in class — and my confidence grew in turn. My students also sped up this process. They quickly let me know, via increased engagement, when I was at my most authentic in the classroom. So, for the most learning to occur, I had to come to terms with who I really was: a storyteller with a big heart and a lot of questions about everything. Student feedback As I was forming an honest identity as a classroom teacher in practicum, I struggled to translate that identity as a student back in the university environment. The way I learned back when I was fresh out of high school was definitely not how I learned anymore. I was now a mature student fresh off a successful career, and what I wanted to accomplish in university was much different this time around. Self-reflection was an essential tool in re-defining who I was as a learner. Once again, I asked myself the same set of questions that I did in my teaching practice, but this time, within the context of being a student: Why am I doing this? What do I have to offer? How do I make this engaging? Am I learning something meaningful? Related content My teaching philosophies Educational approaches, concepts and theories that shape my teaching practice. Unlike teaching, however, I wasn’t always able to create the circumstances that enabled me to answer all of these questions for every class. Many courses did not align with my interests. In-class discussions did not always welcome my perspectives. Some instructors were not engaging. And numerous assignments were tokenistic and didn’t offer meaningful connections to community or contribute to a body of knowledge. Through these two seemingly disparate training experiences — as both student and teacher — I was forging a singular learning identity. This forging process has often been painful, like an adolescence. However, with every experience, I grew stronger connections to my developing identity as a life-long learner, and to answer a clear question: how do I share my story, how do I learn, and how can I be an effective educator? As I head towards graduation in the Bachelor of Education program, and certification as part of the Ontario College of Teachers, I’m looking beyond that horizon to graduate studies. So while I am deeply invested in teaching, I still have more questions about the profession. Thankfully, all of my difficult self-reflection has paid off, as I finally feel like I’ve found my voice: I know why I’m doing this now. I know what I have to offer. I know how to make this experience engaging. I’m going to do something meaningful. Related topics Autobiography    Featured    Inquiry-based learning    Ontario    Ottawa    Post-secondary    Social and emotional learning    Talent development    University of Ottawa Discussion about My unexpected trial by fire in teacher education Please be respectful. Keep your criticism constructive. Open your mind to new ideas and opinions. Comments are reviewed according to the submission guidelines. Leave a Reply Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.