Panelists dole out sage advice to EdCon attendees
Teacher candidates told not to be afraid to make mistakes and to put children first as they start their careers
Bachelor of Education students attending this year’s EdCon were treated to various panelists who provided different perspectives on their teaching careers.
In a departure from the setup of previous EdExpos, on Feb. 17, teacher candidates had the option to attend presentations from various professionals, including: new teachers, teachers outside the classroom, policymakers, administrators and consultants, and teachers nearing retirement.
Teacher candidates attending the various presentations listened enthusiastically, with questions being posed to the panelists on everything from how they got their jobs to interview tips to what they wish they had known as teachers just starting out.
During the new teacher panel, students had numerous questions, especially on how the relative newcomers had attained employment. Panelist Andrew Smith recommended that students “have confidence in their interview” while Kaitlin Miller, who was a female math major while at U of M, advised differentiating yourself from other candidates by having unique specialties, such as being a female in sciences.
She also recommended using practicum time as a time to try new things. “It’s a safe space to try stuff and make mistakes.”
The new teachers also told teacher candidates that they should not feel pressured to take on too much at the beginning, as it can be overwhelming.
“Be very careful you don’t overextend yourself. Try to do two things very well instead of five things halfway,” Miller (who spent her first year coaching two different sports teams at two different schools and found it exhausting) told the audience.
Three panelists who are education grads working outside of the traditional classroom also spoke to students at EdCon. They were working in a range of fields, from inner city outreach to Fort Whyte Centre to a resource teacher.
They spoke of a number of advantages to being outside of the classroom, including the obvious (no marking of papers required) to the more subtle (not taking the emotions of the stressful classroom environment home with them).
Tracey Cathcart, who works as a resource teacher, said she enjoys the aspect of her job which allows her to not be “tied down to one room. To be able to experience different things that other teachers are doing. As a resource teacher, you get to see lots of different things that other teachers are doing. It’s a little freer that way.”
Those working outside the classroom also said that there are things they miss—especially the close relationships with children that develop within a classroom setting.
The three panelists also recommended that those looking for jobs begin volunteering with children, if they haven’t already done so, as a way to add valuable experience to their resumes.
During the panel with several teachers nearing retirement, the discussion centred on how to handle many years in schools and classrooms while maintaining a life balance.
Students were advised that teaching can be a draining profession, and to ensure to develop interests outside the classroom and to take time for themselves and to relax.
They also emphasized that while technology is an important device, it must not take over a classroom—especially in the early years. The greatest connection, the panelists said, should be face to face, not via screens.
The career fair following the panel presentations was extremely busy as teacher candidates mingled with representatives from approximately 25 schools, divisions and agencies.
The final day of EdCon, Feb. 18, was set aside for interviews with prospective employers.