The Fourth-Year Ego

Lately, I’ve developed into a keen people watcher and observer of the human condition. Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but I’ve definitely become more aware of my surroundings, especially my social surroundings. Experiencing internship, where I was transplanted into a real school for four months, then transplanted back into university with many aspiring teachers, has been a bit of a contrast. My people watching began in internship–learning to emulate teachers, figuring out what traits I wanted to develop within myself based on certain teachers, and figuring out what traits I didn’t want to develop–and has continued back into university. I’m especially keen on observing the phenomenon that I deem “The Fourth-Year Ego.” Before this sounds like I’m going to complain about “egos,” I should remind everyone on Sigmund Freud’s definition of an ego where he suggests that the ego is what helps us to define reality, helping us make sense of our world. I’m not going to use it exactly as Freud did, but I do want to highlight that the ego I’m talking about has a lot of positive use.

For starters, a Fourth Year Ego (FYE) is the self-confidence and perceived knowledge/experience acquisition of post-interns. FYE is particularly helpful when reflecting. My FYE is huge. I’ve got a big ego about my beliefs, what I think will work in my future classrooms, what I think won’t work in my future classrooms, my opinions on assessment and evaluation, my beliefs about personal PD, and so on. Basically, FYE is the manifestation of the beliefs system that we’ve been developing over the last three and a half years in the Faculty of Education. Actually, my beliefs system probably started developing the day I told my parents I wanted to be a teacher (so about 15 years ago?). FYE is rooted in passionate beliefs, which is key to understanding how and when to make use of it.

Having a FYE is key in engaging in conversations and reflections. It helps ground us with some experience and strong morals regarding education. It’s a powerful tool. It helps us speak confidently and honestly in job interviews, it leads to great reflections, fantastic conversations, and inspired projects. It lets us dream about our utopian classrooms. It lets us debate and converse on a whole new level that wouldn’t have been possible before internship.

Now, a FYE is a double-edged sword. It does cause a few problems. Firstly, strong opinions all trapped in one room can be, well, a little intimidating. As in any environment, opinions can be taken personally, things can get heated, and people get frustrated. Recipe for disaster, I’d say. I’ve been in many situations where I’ve felt uncomfortable or unable to express my opinion for fear of being shot down. Because people are so passionate about their beliefs, they will defend what they perceive to be right. Sometimes that defense does get personal. Sometimes it does create conflict. Sometimes things don’t end in harmony.

Sometimes, FYEs may result in a bit of head-butting. Flickr photo credit to Steve Courson.

So far, the most deadly case of FYE is when combined with a lack of motivation. This manifests itself as an attitude of “I’m right, so why do I have to be here.” There’s no arguing with that. It’s impossible. It would be a “Hunger-Games-esque” dual — a fight to the death. I’m not about to do that!

So I guess I really am looking to make sense of all this. I know I’ve got a pretty strong FYE, to say the least. It comes in quite handy when I want to reflect. I’ve had the opportunity to watch it develop, evolve, and grow over the last few months by perusing through my blog entries. It came in really handy when I wanted to explore flipped classrooms, and it is coming in even handier now that I working through the viability of “normal” assessment (blog post coming soon) for my Moral Ed class. I know that I’ve been on both ends of the heated debates in class, and I’ve also been one of the people sitting and watching a debate unfold, terrified to jump in.

So what am I getting at? It’s all a matter of perception and regulation. As for perception, it’s hard to do, but I need to remember that everyone has a FYE. These people aredeeply passionate about all things education. They may come across as a bit abrasive or aggressive, but only because they are fighting for what they believe in. As for regulation, this is my job. I need to remember that I have to check my FYE at the door some days and just be a student. Some days, I need to bring it in full force. Like everyone, I need to use my FYE for good, not evil. This would imply respectful debating, thoughtful reflection, and careful contemplation. It’s easy to get aggressive and jaded — it’s like our armor when we are defending our beliefs systems.

I’m always reminded of one last tidbit: Keep an open mind. I preach life-long learning (part of the beliefs system that my FYE defends), and learning from others is one way of doing that. A good, healthy discussion can yield a lot of useful information, if nothing other than helping you to question, confirm, and extend your thinking.


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