Practicum Perspective: Elementary Education
I am an Elementary Education major, and I just finished my second practicum in the general ed classroom. I absolutely loved my practicum experience because it provided authentic experiences in a modern-day classroom. I was able to put what I had learned in my methods classes to practice. The best part of practicum was the students I met and the relationships I was able to build with them, even in just one month.
Some important things I learned from practicum were: the power of positive reinforcement, the importance of organization, planning, and talking to everyone at the school.
*This was a letter from a student I received my last day of my first practicum
Power of Positive Reinforcement
One of the most important things I learned when it came to building relationships with the students in my practicum class was praise! Not just praise, but specific praise where the student knows what you are praising them for. Specific praise inadvertently reinforces behavior so that the student continues demonstrating that behavior. When a student is given specific, positive, praise it motivates the other students to demonstrate that behavior as well. Lastly, when students are often told what great things they are doing, it builds strong, lasting relationships based on trust. Praise communicates to the students that you care about them and are aware of them. I learned a lot more about using praise from the Seek Learning podcast the McKay School records. If you want to listen to the episode, click here!
Planning and Organization
Every professor at the McKay school talks about the importance of organization and planning, and it's definitely true! Even as a practicum student, there's a lot to plan and organize as you'll teach 1-2 lessons every day. You also receive a lot of resources and ideas from teachers, keep a journal, and run assessments with students. In my experience, in order to stay organized, I bought a binder to keep all my resources and lessons in it to easily reference my practicum assignments. This allows me to use it in the future, maybe even for interviewing, and so that I could have everything I needed in one place. I knew exactly where everything was, and it was good practice for organization and record keeping when I am an actual teacher (on a much smaller scale).
Talk To Everyone At the School
Everyone at the school is a resource, not just your mentor teacher! When I was at practicum I tried to meet the front office staff, administrations, the other teachers on the grade level team, instructional coaches, the nurse, the custodians, even the cafeteria workers! It's important to know all the school's faculty and that they know you because they are all important resources that want to help you. Also, they are in elementary school, working with students every day, so they know a lot more about what it takes and love to share strategies they use. Most of all, it is courteous and important to make a good impression, as the school staff is a tight-knit community who will support you when you show you are ready to learn!
Dealing With Discomfort
I know that a lot of students, including myself, feel intimidated when going into practicum. Practicum is preparation! You're supposed to feel a little uncomfortable at first because it is a new experience with new responsibilities, but just be there to learn and absorb something new every day. After all, it's an inside look into what your career will be like. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, and have fun!