Monday, December 6, 2010

Call me Crazy

Crazy.  Call me crazy... I'm crazy to be doing what I'm doing now, or so I've been told ... going back to school at my advanced old age isn't the smartest thing to do.  Apparently.  I should just sit back and relax, take it easy, don't do anything radical.  And yet when I am asked about my current career, people are also amazed that I've been there as long as I've been.  I don't hear anyone wondering why a physician is still a physician, or why a teacher is still teaching; why a researcher is still researching.  Apparently my current career, based as it is in the lowly bowels of administration and academic advising at the University, is not worth keeping for as long as I've kept it.

These comments don't take into account how many times the position has advanced, grown, how many different things I've learned or done, it's plain weird to have been there as long I have (25 years).  I had the opportunity to get a Master's degree, to teach University courses, to bring our Faculty into the forefront of new information system that was introduced at the University, to have 3 children, to take different times off for either family or personal reasons, while I was also able to construct a meaningful career in academic advising.  And advising is finally receiving some of its due -- advisors are now seen to be important elements in retaining students, rentention being the new mantra in postsecondary education.  Over the years students have told me that I've made a difference in their lives.  Now it's time to start something new, a program in education, and it will take a few years to achieve.   

The year away did something to me and for me:  It gave me time to think and be more creative with myself.  It may have been as basic as cooking a wonderful meal, or just being there for my family, but it was different, it was a break from the "normal" existence we'd had for a few years, and it was refreshing to do it in a different place.  Then we came back, and it was more of the same.  The same town, the same work place, not bad in its entirety, but sameness.  The transition or return was harder than I'd thought it would be.  I didn't actually think about it, I just did it.

Now that it's almost one year, I am boggled at the quickness of time moving by.  Last night I had a vivid dream about the neighbourhood we lived in last year.  When I awoke, I was shocked to realize I wasn't in the old neighbourhood. But a lot has happened, and there is much moving forward with plans and lives.

I have finished two courses in the B.Ed. program at the University.  My fellow students are now in their teaching practica, but I will wait for that until next year.  You need 5 weeks off in order to do the practicum, and that wasn't viable this year.  The academic portion was frightening enough -- I haven't written an exam or tests in 17 years.  They're mostly still written in long hand, by the way.  It's weird to do that for several hours as most of my writing is now done in an electronic format.  The brain didn't appear to kick in as quickly.  Funny.  Transitioning to writing directly into an electronic format was hard when I moved from writing onto paper... now it's the reverse.  In one course we had the opportunity to write our tests online, which was a new experience.

Each course explored some fundamental issues of education -- one was sociological, related to the structural aspects of the education system, and the other had its roots in psychology, always more of a struggle for me.  I seem to resonate with the systems approach that underpins sociology.  Somehow it fits my brain.  And I love the politics of it all, why decisions are made, where policies fit in, how the historical patterns relate to current trends.  At first it was frightening, but the cohort model, which is the basis of the education programs at the U of M, seems to work.  You do develop relationships with others in the group, and it is an excellent model that creates momentum within itself.  Of course, there are hazards, but that's part of the learning experience.  Because I'm not part of the practicum placement this year, I won't be able to share in the experiences, other than vicariously.  But hopefully it will lessen some of the fear that will accompany that new experience next year.

Last Friday night I accompanied Tom to the keynote speaker presentation of a Learning in the Arts conference he attended.  Sir Ken Robinson spoke with humour and passion about the way teaching and learning intersect in creating conditions that allow talents to reveal themselves.  I am keen to be part of an approach that prepares our children for this century, not the 19th or the 20th, which were the forerunners of the current education system.  The relationship at the heart of education is between the teacher and the learner.  That is why I want to learn what I'm learning now.

Life is not linear, it is organic (K. Robinson).


  1. Good on you Brigitte! I must say your 'teaching/mentorship' certainly affected me and I'm glad to say I was once your 'student'!

  2. Thanks. I'm just heading back into the fray tomorrow, and I'm certainly looking forward to the classes. There is some intellectual stimulation which I've been craving!