August 20 – first impressions have never been so wrong

27/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. When I started my 3 year stint at UBC teaching adults how to become teachers, it was an eye-opener and I ended up being the one educated as I learned a lot about myself in the process. I was in my early 40s and in that first year, the group I was working with was comprised of about 1/3 of the students being older than myself. I was intimidated as I had only ever worked with teenagers for the majority of my career and here I was now teaching people from 20 to 60. I remember looking at one of the students, Judy, and thinking to myself why is this “older” woman going into teaching – she was ending a career as a high powered executive so it didn’t make sense to me as to what she could offer to the teaching profession. Yes, right away, I made a judgment call in my mind – I was surprised that I had an ageist bias which I wasn’t aware of. I was not only Judy’s instructor at UBC for all her required courses, I was also her Faculty Advisor when she was on her practicum in Burnaby and watched her teach. During the course of the year, I got to talking with Judy and realized that she was not fulfilled in her career and wanted to make a difference. She had always wanted to be a teacher and she decided to make the change. She also had two daughters and wanted to be a role model to them. This is where Judy had the advantage. She was tasked with teaching a very rambunctious group of students where the girls in the class were not having any of Judy and on that first day, I was feeling for Judy as I did not know how she was going to survive in the class, let alone teach them but survive she did – in fact, thrive she did! Her motherly experience shifted the dynamics and the students were engaged and motivated – Judy’s wisdom, background, ability to understand kids, dare I say age, made all the difference! At the end of that year, I had to pick the top student teacher and I had no hesitation in awarding that honour to Judy (although there were grumblings from some of the 20/30 somethings but I knew who had stepped up to the challenge and had an amazing practicum). In the process, she also ended up with a teaching contract! I learned so much from Judy about teaching. It’s not your age, your gender, your book knowledge etc etc – it’s you. It’s one’s life experiences that make all the difference to the students. The caring, the empathy, the relating that matters. Thank you Judy for teaching me a thing or three about life and reminding me not to judge a book by the cover but by the amazing pages revealing the wonderful story within! Cheers to you Judy!

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