This is a sample reflection, although I am not using a list of questions to guide my post, like you are. Instead, I am going to reflect on my undergraduate career, in terms of learning to write academically. Sound exciting?! It is!!!
Here we go. When I finished high school, I decided to go to college. I wasn’t living at home, and college was simply cheaper than university. Plus, college seemed to offer more in the way of immediate employment upon graduation. I was fairly good at sketching and watercolours, so I decided to take graphic design at George Brown College. I loved it, but what I loved was not only the art and hands-on approach, but the experience of learning about typesetting, lettering, drafting, and the origins of these skills. I loved/love learning. Let me tell you, I despised high school with every ounce of my being, but this was different. Here, I could learn. Later, I would discover that learning, teaching, and researching are what I love to do. Certainly, high school did not give me a love of learning, which was as much my problem as the secondary school system’s.
So why couldn’t I learn effectively in high school? I think it was in large part the system itself. I figured out the system early on: if you went to a moderate number of classes, did the quizzes/assignments, and wrote the final exam, you could get a decent grade. It was formulaic learning. Most of my teachers were utterly checked out or wrote me off. I wasn’t worth their time, and I really couldn’t blame them. I was sullen, attended sporadically, and often reeked of weed. I now know that teachers are horrendously overworked. How can anyone create a unique connection with 40 students per class in a rotation of 3 or 4 courses?
Conversely, at George Brown, I was in a small class with like-minded folks and professors who loved their job. However, I had what I call a “life explosion,” and I ended up not finishing the program. I won’t go into details, but I ended up leaving Toronto and moving to live with family in North Bay. I went back to college a few years later to a small school called Canadore but this time for broadcast journalism. I had always wanted to be a journalist, and I did quite well. I actually worked as a reporter for a small radio station up north, and then a researcher at Global News in Toronto. I quickly discovered that I didn’t want to be a journalist but loved the research. Now what?
I ended up back in North Bay, but now I was a single parent, living far below the poverty line and wondering what to do with my life. In a twist of fate, I was working as a bartender in a dive when a regular customer of mine advised me to go to university. He said I was smart and would love it there. I thought about it, and realized that I could spend more time with my son as a student and that’s the main reason I returned to school! However, once there, I knew I was in the right place for me. All my other attempts at careers gave me the skills to work hard and succeed. I could critically analyze visual material and do research at an advanced level thanks to training in graphic design and journalism.
As I reflect back on my undergraduate career, I realize that it’s really what I made of it. My professors were not going to spoon-feed me, and I had to put the work in to get the benefit. That’s how I like to learn, with guidance. My favourite classes have always been the seminar style, where we all talk about ideas. No learning by formula or by rote. I really can’t think of anything better, except for playing through a massive open world video game.