An Interview with Sarah Lalonde

Screenshot 2018-01-13 at 17.30.01Sarah Lalonde is a teacher-candidate at the University of Ottawa and is also the Community Manager for voicEd Radio.  I imposed on her studies to have her take part in this interview and am so glad that she did.

Here’s a chance to look at the future of education in the province.

Doug:  I always start by asking people when we first met.  But, we haven’t met face to face (unless I’m wrong) yet!  Most certainly, we’ve met online.  Do you first recall when you first  “met” me?

Sarah: I think the key word here is YET! One of my favourite things about connecting with people online is the in real life (IRL) meet ups. Although we have only been connected virtually, I believe to have “met” you through Stephen Hurley, when we were coming up with Graphics for the shows on VoicEd Radio. He was telling me about your live show “This Week in Ontario EduBlogs” and I thought it was one of the most ingenious ideas, and so I’ve been following you ever since.

Doug:  So, you’re in Year Two of your studies to become a teacher.  How are they going?

Sarah: They are flying by. Hands down, the quickest two years of my life. Getting a B.Ed is a rollercoaster of emotions. You have to juggle many different elements at once and it’s funny you ask this because I recently posted, for National Sketchnote Day, a representation of The “Balanced” Life of a Teacher Candidate. So, when people ask: How is Teachers College going? I could simply show them this sketch in order to help them understand all of the things that are on a preservice teacher’s mind and plate on a day to day basis. Don’t get me wrong, I love every moment of it and I am so eager to be at the final leg of the race to becoming a certified teacher and member of the OCT, finding a job and ultimately guiding, mentoring and changing student’s lives.  

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Doug:  Most of us graduated from a one year program at a Faculty of Education.  What more do you think you’ve learned than we would have?

Sarah: I am genuinely grateful that I have an “extra” year of training to becoming a teacher. I still believe that the Faculties are adjusting to this two year program transition, but ultimately, in the long run, many preservice teachers benefit from the in class and practicum experience. Especially because you simply can’t go wrong with more placement time – which is invaluable experience that we will be able to bring with us into our teaching career. And, on average, I’ve probably accomplished 10-12 more classes than those who would have graduated from the one year program. However, it’s not really about the class time at the University. That extra year of the B.Ed allows you more time to find yourself as a future teacher. You have the chance to ask more questions, connect with more educators, experience more classroom time with your Associate Teacher… You build your classroom management, your teaching style. It allows you to figure things out within yourself before walking into a classroom on your own. Don’t get me wrong, you still figure things out as you go, but I am thankful for this second year as it is building my confidence for walking into interviews and being a supply teacher.

Doug:  I recall the many practice teaching and volunteer experiences that I had at the Faculty of Education and the wide variety of classrooms that I visited.  What placement (and why) would you consider your highlight so far?

Sarah: My first placement in a grade 5 classroom in a French elementary school in Ottawa was most definitely the highlight of my B.Ed so far. I say that because I spent +7 weeks with those students and was able to build incredible connections with them. As a student teacher, sometimes it is difficult to connect with your students because of your title “Student” Teacher – doesn’t give you much authority. But I learnt that it wasn’t about authority. It was about relationships and respect. Once the students learnt who I was and I learnt who each and every one of them were we became like a family; we supported each other; we laughed and cried with each other and we create a safe space in our classroom to learn. We had our ups and downs but this class allowed me to take risks as a student teacher, they made me question some of my strategies and challenged me to grow. They threw me a surprise graduation at the end of my placement. They made me a bouquet of flowers with a special thank you note from each student on the stem and a graduation cap. It was really special.

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Doug:  You’ll soon be a graduate in search of a job, I’m assuming.  What are the job prospects?  Are your prepared to move to take a position?

Sarah: Yes, you’re so right! I will be completing my degree in April and will officially be on the job hunt. Nonetheless, this is a tough question and one that comes up often. I know what my end goal is: teaching in a French language catholic school, preferably grades 4 through 6 or 9 through 10. I am not fussy when it comes to grades, but at the same time, as a new teacher I would just like a stable position.

I am a homebody. I’ve contemplated moving but have realized that I will most likely end up coming back home eventually, so why not stick out the supply list in my area (although there might not be as many job opening as the GTA for example) and in the long run I truly believe I will benefit from this decision.

Doug:  As a bilingual candidate, you have to be pretty attractive to a school district in search of teachers.  In a perfect world, would you prefer teaching in a French language school or an English language one?

Sarah: As I mentioned, my ultimate goal is to teach in a French language school. This is very important to me. Especially having grown up in the French system, I have only know French language schools my entire life. Being a Franco-Ontarienne is in my blood; it is my culture. That being said, preserving the French language in Ontario is entrenched in me and I believe it is important to continue educating future generations in that language or else it will perish.

Doug:  You’ve embraced new technologies via Twitter, Podcasting, Blogging, etc.  Were you inspired to do so because of teaching aspirations or would you have gone this route anyway?

Sarah: I ultimately started embracing the new technologies after attending my first ever EdTechTeam Summit Featuring Google for Education and Future Ready Schools at the Montreal Summit in April 2016, only a few months before starting my B.Ed at the University of Ottawa. After having attended that conference, listening to the speakers, connecting with the educators, participating in the workshops – my entire perception and philosophy on Education shifted. I was hooked. I immediately understood the power and importance of EdTech and knew that it was going to be something that I was going to learn more about. Now I present at Google Summits and am a Google Certified Educator!


Screenshot 2018-01-13 at 17.30.57

Doug:  Your abilities and enthusiasm led to your position of Community Manager with voicEd Radio.  What does that mean?  Do you get paid at the same rate as we on-air personalities?

Sarah: First of all, a big shoutout and thank you goes to Stephen Hurley for trusting me in this position as of July 2017. Words cannot describe how many amazing opportunities and doors this position has opened for me… It has truly allowed me to become a member of this passionate community of educators who share one sole purpose; the betterment of themselves for their students.

So, this summer, Stephen and I made a big push to contribute more content and graphics to our Social Media accounts by letting people know what shows were coming up and keeping everyone up to date on our newest content and blogs. I helped Stephen with the scheduling, he taught me all the ins and outs of what truly goes on behind the curtains at VoicEdRadio. My role has shifted a bit since I’ve gone back to school – I do more of the creating than the publishing. I love designing the graphics for shows and Twitter promotes you see floating around social media on the @voicEdCanada account!

Doug:  You have your own show – Que Sera Sarah?  What’s the focus of this show?

Sarah: I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that I have a show. Its surreal.  

The premise is that – I am currently a Teacher Candidate studying at the University of Ottawa, wanting to share my journey into education with the world. Yes, that’s very broad and allows me to do whatever I please with my show. But overall, my podcast consists of a variety of episode styles:

  • 1:1 interviews with educators from Canada and around the world who inspire me
  • panel discussions on topics that I want to know more about
  • discussions with other Teacher Candidates from all over Canada about what their experience is during their B.Ed program

I can admit that I never know what I am going to get when I invite someone on the podcast, but ultimately it is all about learning, sharing and connecting.

Doug:  Suppose you have your own classroom next fall – does Social Media of any sort have a place in it?

Sarah: Social media must have a place in my classroom next year – without a doubt. Depending on the age group, this will take different forms but I realize the importance of teaching beyond the 4 walls of your classroom. Thus, allowing students to connect with experts, allowing students to share their work with authentic audiences, allowing students to learn about what is going on outside of their village, town or community is critical these days. We want our students to be global learners. That being said, there are a lot of preparation to be done with the students before incorporating social media into the classroom, for example, teaching them digital literacies and the importance of being a digital citizen and their digital footprint.

Doug:  Is Social Media and its use part of your Education program?  Is so, how?

Sarah: No, social media is not used as part of my Education program and I think it is very unfortunate. I had one, and only one teacher, speak about and incorporate Twitter in one of her courses and there was tons of pushback. This says a lot about the lack of awareness about Social Media in my program and I think that Teacher Candidates need to be taught how to properly utilize these digital communities that can be ever so helpful. Brad Shreffler, from the Planning Period Podcast, always says that I should be the poster child for Social Media for educators because of all of the really cool things I’ve been able to do because it.

This interview is also the perfect example of the power of social media! We would certainly not be connecting if it wasn’t for Twitter and our PLNs.

Doug:  Recently, you retweeted this:

Screenshot 2018-01-13 at 17.31.12
How would you answer that question on a personal level?

Sarah: This sparked so much self-reflection when I saw and retweeted this. A) because I feel as though at the Faculty, my professors are teaching us, not for our futures, but for their pasts which really upsets me and is a conversation for a whole other day & B) because I wholeheartedly believe that we should be preparing students for their futures, however that future is so uncertain. These students will be working jobs that we don’t even know exist yet! And, that is why I believe we should be teaching and working on competencies with them, such as critical thinking, problem solving, entrepreneurship, creativity, collaboration and so much more.  

Doug:  Could you do it for 30/35 years?

Sarah: I could do it, but I know it won’t be easy. Preparing students for their future for 30-35 years means that I would continuously be changing my practice and my teaching. It means that I would have to keep up to date and stay in tune with the world, adjusting to the new technologies, new jobs, etc. It means that I couldn’t go back and use old lesson plans from years back – I would constantly be modifying them to adapt to my students and their needs. I think that is why educators are not preparing students for their future because they teach what they know, what they are comfortable with.  

Doug:  You blog both on your site and on the voicEd Radio site.  How do you decide which goes where?  How do you decide what language to use?

Sarah: To be honest, most of my blogs are on both my site and the VoicEd Radio site with the exception of my most recent 2018 – Practicing Lagom post which was a little more personal than professional, so I decided to strictly keep it on my personal website.  

Being bilingual, I’ve grown up with a linguistic duality. This has allowed me to live my life basically 50% English and 50% French. This may seem strange to some, but it is my reality. That being said, when I blog or podcast, the experiences I live in English – I write about in English. The contexts of my life that I want to write about in French, end up in that respective language. It also depends on the audience I am trying to reach…

Doug:  Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Sarah.  For those of us who have gone the route you’re taking, this has been an interesting look and has brought back memories for me.  I know that we all wish you every success in the completion of your studies and look forward to seeing you blogging/vlogging/podcasting/broadcasting from your own classroom soon.

You can follow Sarah on Social Media:

This is part of a periodic posting series.  You can read all the interviews I’m done here.


2 thoughts on “An Interview with Sarah Lalonde

  1. great interview, Doug. And I really liked the way Sarah’s voice came through. Her ability to communicate in one of her two languages is amazing. I am astounded, and disappointed, that a program for B.Ed students is still choosing not to incorporate teaching about social media. It’s a total head-desk moment for me!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I only wish such motivated candidates learned about ed tech and game-based learning other than by accident. These topics should be at the forefront of teacher training:

    ||Sarah: I ultimately started embracing the new technologies after attending my first ever EdTechTeam Summit Featuring Google for Education and Future Ready Schools at the Montreal Summit in April 2016, only a few months before starting my B.Ed at the University of Ottawa.||

    Liked by 1 person

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