Saturday, December 26, 2020

Howie Balaban: Back to School - Time for a Short Break

Over the summer of 2020, while everyone was home or should have been home, I applied to, was accepted at, and enrolled in a teaching certification program offered through SUNY Buffalo State. I wrote about that experience in this virtual space on a pretty regular basis. The idea was to chronicle my life as a nontraditional student returning to school at age 40. 

The last time anything regarding this journey was posted here was in early August, as back-to-back summer sessions came to a close. At that point in time, I had completed four courses out of what I thought were a required 14 prior to earning enough credit to begin student teaching. 

I miscounted.

As it turned out, I only needed 13 courses. By doubling up in the second summer session, I somehow forgot to subtract a course to a tentative schedule this coming spring. When I went to see what I needed to register for this spring, upon finishing up this past fall’s full slate, I discovered what the Monopoly guy would call a bank error in my favor...and I was the banker. 

To recap, along with the pair of courses over the summer, I ultimately enrolled in six in the semester that just ended. For comparison’s sake, as an undergrad from 1998-2002, I never took more than 15 credits in a semester. I was happy to have been able to readjust to being a student over the summer, because I felt I was much better prepared once classes started a week before Labor Day. However, once parenting and a substitute teaching were thrown into the mix, full-time student-ing with a maxed out schedule proved to be no joke. Don’t get me wrong, because I did have fun. But, wow! There really wasn’t much down time. 

As I write this, it is Christmas Week. At some point this week or next, I expect the “Fall 2020” tab will materialize on the school website and I’ll be able to check on my final grades for the semester. I’ve shared what I’ve earned with a few close friends and family, so I won’t do that here because I don’t like how it would sound. That said, I will say I did well, because it was a delicate juggling act. There were a few major assignments that took up a lot of time and required some decent planning to ensure they were submitted on time. 

The last assignment I did required the most work, because it had the fewest guidelines. However, creating it forced me to stretch my imagination more than ever before in order to figure out a way to check all the boxes. This was the last assignment that I saw a grade on, and when it posted earlier this week I was ecstatic to see that I had indeed checked all the boxes. 

Overall, during this semester, I learned a lot about myself and the field I’ve chosen to enter once I’m done. Ideas were discussed with classmates and professors regarding various assignments dealing with a diverse listing of books. Teaching now and into the future is without a doubt significantly different from what it was like just five, 10, and 20 years ago, and you can be sure that the changing landscape of the field was a topic, too.

Summing all this up, the biggest takeaway from this semester was that I’ve never been more sure of a professional decision in my life. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I will begin two supplemental courses on January 4, and when the spring semester begins on February 1, I will only need to complete three more courses before earning my way into student teaching. The end goal is to be fully certified by the end of the coming calendar year. And I believe that goal is well within reach. 

So I’m sorry I didn’t update any curious readers over the past few months. I was quite busy. And the busy lifestyle isn’t really ending any time soon. But it is entirely worth it!

Howie Balaban wishes everyone a happy and safe holiday season. And in case anyone forgot, he also would like to remind everyone that it is never too late to start something new.