On-the-job experience make teacher candidates work-ready
Constantly growing. Always learning. Hard work. For students going through the Bachelor of Education program at Western University, they must have these characteristics to succeed during their practicum.
The practicum – or practice teaching – allows teacher candidates to put the theories they’ve learned at the Faculty of Education and apply them to elementary and secondary school classrooms. But, the practicum is more than practice. There’s pressure on the teacher candidates to perform because their supervising teacher is evaluating them. What’s more, they’re giving lessons that students must learn as part of the curriculum.
Students have four practicums during their two years in the Bachelor of Education program. In the first year, students have two four-week practicums while in the second year, teacher candidates have two-six week practicums.
Teacher candidate Nancy Singhla is wrapping up her final practicum before graduation. The final few weeks of the program have allowed her to reflect on her time as a student teacher. Looking back, she realizes her practicum has given her additional experience, which has prepared her to enter the workforce.
A practicum is more than just showing up at the front of a class. There’s preparation and it starts before the first day of practicum. Usually, teacher candidates email their supervising teachers about their past experience, including jobs, as well as any goals they have during their time at the school. Usually the supervising teacher and teacher candidate talk about goals on the first day, said Singhla.
She added most teacher candidates observe during their first practicum but it depends on the relationship between the supervising teacher and teacher candidate. Some teacher candidates observe the entire time while others jump right in and teach. For Singhla, she taught math and then science starting in her second week.
Once a practicum has started, teacher candidates need to spend time preparing lessons. Once they’ve been prepared, some supervising teachers check the lessons before they’re taught, which allows the teacher candidate to receive feedback. Other supervising teachers let the teacher candidate teach the lesson and then at the end of the day, they discuss the lesson plan and how it was executed. During this discussion, alternative methods might be suggested to the teacher candidate, said Singhla.
Singhla’s advice to the incoming class of Bachelor of Education students is to keep an open mind and use the practicum as a learning tool. Singhla feels her practicums have made her a well-rounded teacher because teaching at academic and technical schools gave her a variety of experiences, which she’s used in the classroom.
“Not all practicums will be the same. All four of my practicums have been very different from each other,” said Singhla.
Incoming Bachelor of Education students also need to know their students will observe and talk about them. Singhla learned this lesson when she met one father of a student, who is also a teacher, at a mathematics coding session. The dad told Singhla that his son talked about her to the family.
“Even though you’re only there for four weeks (in the first year) you do make an impression on them,” said Singhla.
Teacher candidates also need to be prepared to answer questions from students about their lives outside the classroom. Singhla said her elementary school students asked about her teaching experience in Thailand, Kazakhstan and China. However, she added high school students aren’t as interested in the teacher candidates’ lives.
“It’s very different as kids aren’t interested in you as a human being as they are in a grade 8 class,” she said.
Once Singhla’s program wraps up, she’ll head to Kuwait in April to teach for four weeks. When she returns from Kuwait, she plans on getting onto the substitute list at the Thames Valley District School Board and teach next year in South Korea or Australia.