Practicum Perspectives: Special Education Mild/Moderate
The Special Education majors at BYU have the opportunity to dive right into their practical experience in their first semester of the program. The experience gained in practicum is invaluable and students tend to call it the highlight of their studies. Let's take a look at what these two Special Education Mild/Moderate majors have to say about practicum!
Mild/Moderate students, Katie and McKenna:
What does a typical day at practicum look like for you?
Katie: In our high school setting there are usually A and B days, but typically we go into a geology class because they have a lot of students with IEPs (Individualized Education Plans that determine the accommodations a student needs to access school material) so this is a push in class (special education teachers meet the student in their general education class to provide support) so we go sit next to them or near them so they don't feel to singled out. We help them with their work making it more accessible to them; reading anything they need read out loud or talking through answers figuring out how to reword it. After that, we have a transition class (helping students prepare to exit high school) which is all students with IEPs working on their social skills.
McKenna: Elementary school is very hands-on. Every single period I would be in a classroom, I was working with an individual or a group of students. My practicum teacher would say "I'm just going to tell you what to do," and she showed us one day what she does, and the next we were thrown in. At first, I was nervous, but I actually did well because I remembered what she said to do. It wasn't a lot of pressure because she was always there to help me. We would work on reading, math skills, and with individual students. When we had a bigger group of five students my mentor teacher would teach and then she would turn it over to me and I would teach. It was a good co-teaching (when two or more teachers work with a group of students) experience. We would stay in her classroom and the kids would come to us and we got into a routine so I knew exactly how each day would go. At first, it was disorienting, but after the first day I felt really confident in what I was doing every single day.
What is your favorite part of the practicum experience?
Katie: I really like interacting with the students, which I think is probably everybody's answer. I've figured out this semester that I really want to work with high school students and that was because of the connections I make with the students. It seems kind of hard at first, but then it clicks and you see how things that weren't accessible to them before, are now.
How has Practicum influenced your learning in your major courses
McKenna: I think our classes are so good and our professors are great and they're able to explain things really well, but practicum is amazing because I'm able to apply what they're teaching about in real life. Something might happen in practicum and our professor will say something and I'll think, "Oh my gosh! This literally happened to me!" It's very much this crazy learning environment where I'm learning things in my college courses and also in the classroom. It's been really beneficial in helping me solidify what I should know as a teacher.
Katie: It makes everything applicable. It makes things we learn fun because it's not just listening, but it "oh, ok, I see how I can use this next week whenever I get into the classroom."
What advice do you have for students preparing to be Special Education majors?
Katie: Do it! Don't back out. I think it's easy to be a little put off by practicum because it's early and it takes a lot of time out of your day, but once you get into it you get used to it, and then it is worth it. It is super fun. Just know that the professors in Special Education are the most caring, understanding people, so when things get overwhelming don't be afraid to talk about it and advocate for yourself.
McKenna: I would say if you have experience working with people with disabilities it can be so beneficial because you have lots of knowledge going into it. You can say, “Ok, I know how to act around someone who has this type of disability." But it's not a requirement because practicum is set up in a way where you could jump in never having worked with someone with disabilities and know how to help them because of the support we have. I would say this program is so supportive because your classmates are going through the same thing, but we all have different experiences so we can really draw on each other. At first, it can be really intimidating, but after about two weeks you can say that you love it and it's really awesome.