“You’re the Inspiration”

I remember the day I fell in love.  With my discipline of educational psychology.

It was my first term of graduate school, and I was taking an elective course in “Gender and Policy Studies in Education”.  The first sign that something special was about to happen came when I did the supplemental reading – a book called “Women’s Ways of Knowing.”  I never did the supplemental readings.  I think that I somehow knew that the moment would be special.  I lit candles, got comfortable, and devoured the book.  Finally, there were words (like epistemology) for the ideas that had been drifting in my mind without an anchor.  There were people doing research the way I one day wanted to do research.  Another sign appeared when it came time to write the final paper.  I had a love/hate relationship with writing.  Writing papers was usually a long and arduous (but ultimately rewarding) task.  Somehow, this 20-page paper just flowed. I wrote in one sitting, hand-writing the first draft, rather than typing it.  Somehow I felt that this connected me more to the ideas.  The first draft was also my final draft.

There have been other such moments throughout my graduate work and my career that have confirmed for me that I chose the right field – moments that revealed how my research and my self and my relationships with others are interconnected. I now realize, however, many years later, that I never told the professor of that elective course how that one reading changed my academic life, opening up an entire field within my discipline that I had not known existed, shaping my future research, and shaping, really, the lens through which I view the world.

We rarely know when we’re designing a course which moments in the classroom, conversations outside the classroom, readings, or assignments might ignite a flame in learners.   But what if we asked learners to share these moments with us, so that we might intentionally integrate them into the courses we design?  As instructors, how can we take students on the journey of discovering their own passions?

Might our own stories of falling in love be important to share with students?  In the midst of concerns about UDLES, GDLES, and accreditation, how might we weave into the courses we teach the stories of how our passion for our discipline evolved – the stories of what continues to inspire our work?

Do you remember when you fell in love with your field?   Please consider posting a brief note about the ideas/encounters/experiences that inspired your passion for your discipline.


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As the Instructional Developer - Consulting and Research, Julie supports research on teaching and learning. She is Chair of the annual teaching and learning conference at uWaterloo: Opportunities and New Directions and manages the Learning Innovation and Teaching Enhancement (LITE) Grant program. She also collaborates on research projects, regularly reviews journal manuscripts, and works on publications. Most recently, Julie has had the opportunity to facilitate a week-long course design workshop in Japan and see first-hand how the questions, frustrations, and joys related to teaching are both similar and different across cultures.

One thought on ““You’re the Inspiration””

  1. Thank you for sharing how your passion for Educational Psychology evolved, Dr Timmermans. When I complete this message, I am going to contact the high school English teacher who inspired me to love all the nuances of the English language! He should know that he was the catalyst to what became a fulfilling career.

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