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Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Next year I kind of enter the adult world

I'm almost finished my fourth year of university, and with it, my HBA in Mathematics. It doesn't feel like four years! It feels like barely yesterday I was a nervous first-year student trying to figure out how to get around our campus (which I now realize is tiny compared to other campuses).

I won't be graduating at the end of the year, because I'm actually in a five-year concurrent education program. For those of you unfamiliar with it and with teaching certification in Ontario, let me give you a brief run down. Instead of completing my mathematics degree and then doing a one-year education program ("consecutive education" or colloquially known as "teacher's college" around these parts), I have for the past four years been enrolled in concurrent education. As the name implies, I'm taking education courses concurrently with the courses I need for my math degree. So at the end of the five years, assuming I complete the program, I'll have an HBA in Mathematics and a BEd. In Ontario, teachers are certified to teach in a specialization defined by grade level. Mine is "Intermediate/Senior," or I/S, which means grades 7-12. I really want to teach high school, but of course, those with seniority will get to choose what they teach first, and I'll get what's left over.

In the I/S specialization, I need two "teachables." Mine are math, naturally, and English. This is usually where I get odd looks from people and something along the lines of "that's an unusual combination." Maybe it is in practice, but I don't think it is in fact. Mathematics and English share in common a need for clear, precise communication. I love rigorous proofs; I love grammatical constructions. Mathematics is about exploring the beauty of abstract thought; English is about exploring the beauty of our minds, bodies, and hearts. They are complementary.

So anyway, next year is my "professional year," the big culmination of my education degree. I'll take courses related to my two teachables, as well as a few more general courses like "classroom management" and some electives. Yesterday I attended an information session run by the Faculty of Education's Department of Undergraduate Studies (mouthful, that) where they told me about what I could expect prior to and during my professional year. I was sceptical about how useful this session would be, but I actually found it very enlightening. The speakers provided precise information, both written and oral, about what I could expect; I no longer feel like my understanding of professional year is vague at best.

Oh, when I got to the session, the woman at the door asked me what my teachables are. When I said "Math and English," she looked at the combined teachable schedules she had printed off, and then said, "Email me for your schedule."

I'm looking forward to professional year in the sense that I still don't really feel like I've learned much about teaching. My education classes thus far have run the spectrum from "absurdly unhelpful" to "academically interesting, with some practical applications." Educational Psychology is an example of the former and Educational Law the latter. For the most part, however, I don't feel like I've learned much about the more practical parts of teaching, like preparing lessons and lesson plans, ensuring I meet curriculum expectations, etc. So I'm hoping those tantalizingly-practical titles like "Classroom Management" will indeed contain the golden nuggets of truth that will set me on my way. By which I mean, I know there's a lot I'm going to have to figure out for myself, but at least this should give me some idea of what my options are.

Of course, the counterpart to these classes is my student teaching, or placement. My year will consist of two blocks of 9 weeks of classes followed by 5 weeks of placement, with Christmas holidays sandwiched between them. I'm very nervous about placement, and the information session went a long way to quelling that trepidation by assuring me that the department offers as much support as it possibly can to teacher candidates, especially in the field. Hopefully, after those 9 weeks of classes, I will feel slightly more prepared to re-enter a classroom, this time as a teacher.

Between now and then, I will once again be researching for the summer. I received another NSERC USRA, and I will be re-revisiting the spreading and covering numbers. Once again, I will miss working with my coworkers at the Art Gallery over the summer, but I'm also excited to spend another summer thinking about math. I start my research on April 26. Until then, I have to finish this year, of course, and try to find time to relax before my summer begins.