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Running head: ADULT LEARNER

My Journey As An Adult Learner Amarpreet K. Chatha EDUC408 University of Calgary

ADULT LEARNER From the start of elementary school until high school I had excelled in school and always thought that I would one day become a doctor. I did not know the countless career possibilities that were out there for me, but had set my mind on having a career as a doctor. I had always had a passion for helping people and for a long time, I had thought that going into a career that made a lot of money was the right choice for me. I had valued the salary that doctors make and the fact that they help people out. Therefore, I wanted to pursue that career. So naturally, in high school, I took all the science courses including biology, chemistry, and physics, only to learn that that was not where my passion lied. Even though I did well in the

subjects and understood the material, for the most part, it did not really interest me. I pictured my life several years from then and saw myself going through all the years of science related courses to become a doctor. I could not see myself truly being happy every day I went to work. I could not see myself looking forward to every day. I did not understand how I would spend several years in a career that I knew I would not enjoy, and that I knew I was not passionate about. So then, I decided to do some research and career searching, before applying to university. After much research and taking several career-related tests, I thought I had found what would be my ideal job, that I would truly enjoy and still make a lot of money with. I then set my mind on becoming a Psychiatrist and decided to go into the Psychology program at the University of Calgary. After discussing this over with my family, they thought I was making a mistake and told me that I should maybe become a teacher because my personality suited that career choice. This only confused me further.

ADULT LEARNER Through university, I made several switches from one program to another, trying out various courses to find where I wanted to be and where I wanted to go in my life. I struggled through my first few years of university and came to find myself in a hole. I felt everything collapsing around me as I struggled to fight a constant personal battle. One day I ended up falling into an open-hearted conversation with a friend of mine. He told me to forget about the money, to forget about what others wanted me to do, and to look

inside and realize what would truly make me happy, and just go for it. Such simple words but for some reason that was an eye opening moment for me. I came to realize, something that I had always known but did not allow to surface, that my true passion lied in teaching young children. I had worked with kids a lot, from coordinating and supervising summer camps, to teaching martial arts and language classes and had always enjoyed it throughly. From that moment on, I knew that that was the career for me, that teaching was the journey meant for me, and it didnt matter how much money I made but that I was helping others out and who other than the greatest joys of life. That was how I ended up in the pre-service teacher education program at UofC. That was also a significant learning moment for me that impacted and influenced my

choice to become a teacher. But another significant moment occurred for me within the preservice education program that confirmed my choice to become a teacher. When applying to the program, there were several options, and one of them being the Inclusive Education specialization, but honestly, I did not know anything about inclusive education and after doing some research I was still unsure of everything it entailed so I stuck to a safer option for me, Math for Elementary School. We were told within the program that after going through our first field experience we could switch specializations if we wanted.

ADULT LEARNER Both of the schools that I visited during my first field experience (an elementary and junior high school), were two of the lowest SES schools in Calgary and had a high number of students that were coded with learning disabilities, ADHD, behavioural/emotional problems, among others. Beyond all the tantrums, difficulties, struggles, set-offs, I saw a great potential in these kids. Having the chance to observe them and work with them showed me just how bright and capable each and every one of them are. I noticed that many of them needed that extra help and attention to encourage them with their learning. But, unfortunately, that was not always available to them. After speaking to a behaviour strategist at one of the schools, I learnt that specific strategies are implemented for the coded children that can help them promote their learning. I observed several teachers using such strategies in their classrooms, such as giving those kids a

timer to take a short walk in the hallway and come back to class focused, or having the option of sitting at their desk for a while and then joining the rest of the class on the carpet when they felt ready. To my surprise, these strategies seemed to be working well and I observed these children much more focused and paying attention. However, the behaviour strategist also noted that many of the teachers now do not have any kind of training in inclusive education or learning how to work with students with learning disabilities. She said that expanding our horizon as teachers and gaining skills and strategies of working with such children will help us improve our classrooms and help these children excel. I feel like this whole experience was a blessing in disguise for me. I felt such a love for working with all of these children and want to be able to include every child in the classroom and help them reach their own potential. Seeing so many kids with learning disabilities opened my

ADULT LEARNER

eyes up to how important it is to understand how to work with them and make them successful in their learning process. This led me to switching my specialization to Inclusive Education. This just goes to show that we as pre-service teachers are continuing to learn as adults. Our learning did not just stop and we are not these static, unchanging individuals but rather we continue to grow and shift through our experiences. This was one of the topics we discussed in this course. As MacKeracher (2004) discusses in her reading, adults accumulate past experiences and prior learning over the course of the life. So, the older they get, the more experience and prior learning the can bring to current learning. She notes that past experiences are an important part of learning because they mold the ways that adults will approach new experiences, help decide which information to look further into and interpret, and determine which skills and knowledge will be used in learning. This topic is meaningful to me because as I gave one example above, my past experiences have shaped me into who I am today and will continue to transform me. Just as other individuals, I have been through my own fair share of significant experiences throughout my life that have had an impact on me in one way or another. They have helped me become more aware of my surroundings and actions and have broadened my perspective. I find myself often reflecting upon certain experiences when I am faced with new experiences, challenges and moments of learning. These prior experiences have helped guide me forward and continue to do so at every corner of my life. For a few years, I had battled depression. It was a very low point in my life and I faced many difficulties, struggles, and challenges. However, reflecting back, I see it as a blessing in one way. It was one of the greatest learning moments of my life and an experience that cautions

ADULT LEARNER me while I move forward and helps determine many of my life choices today. As MacKeracher (2004) says, Adults learn more productively when the learning content bears some perceived relationship to past experience, or when past experience can be applied directly to new

situations. As I continue my journey as an adult learner, and develop my professional career as a teacher, I know that past experience is something that will help guide me along the way. Not only that, I believe it will be very important for me to incorporate my students prior experiences into their learning to help them better connect with and understand the subject. Another concept that resonated with me from the course is identity and integrity in teaching. In a simple premise, Palmer (1998) claims, Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher. He says that the ability to connect with students and connect them with the subject does not depend on the methods used as much as it depends on the extent to which one knows and trusts their selfhood and is willing to make it vulnerable in the service of learning. Palmer notes that by identity and integrity he does not mean only our noble features or good deeds, rather, Identity and integrity have as much to do with our shadows and limits, our wounds and fears, as with our strengths and potentials. He further goes on to say that a call to teach ultimately comes from the voice of the teacher within. The teacher within is not the voice of conscience but of identity and integrity. It will say things like This is what fits you; This is who you are or are not; This is what gives you life or this is what kills your spirit. This topic is meaningful and significant to me because, as I discussed earlier, during my undergraduate career at the University of Calgary, I bounced from one degree option to another, trying out various courses along the way. I went from thinking I was going to become a

ADULT LEARNER psychologist to a professor to an optometrist to an accountant and possibly a couple of other

options. I could never set on one thing because I never felt like thats what fit me or gave me life. A few of my family members and friends had thrown out the idea of teaching as a career for me. They said that with my personality they could really see me being a teacher. As I previously mentioned, I have always loved interacting with kids and had experience working with them through summer camps, language classes, and martial arts classes. After much thought and debate, I finally realized that teaching was my true calling. That voice spoke from within me and I knew that teaching was fit for me, was who I am, and would make me feel alive. That feeling was reaffirmed during my first practicum last semester. As I progress in my professional development, as a teacher, knowing and trusting my selfhood will help me connect with my students and engage them in their learning process.

ADULT LEARNER References MacKeracher, D. (2004). Making sense of adult learning (2nd ed.). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Palmer, P. J. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teachers life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.