Special Education Practicum: What's it really like?
Updated: May 1
Are you nervous about starting practicum? Are you unsure of what to expect? So was I!
Since my first day of classes this semester, my view on practicum has shifted drastically. It has become the best course I believe I will ever take at BYU and I'll tell you all about it.
But first, what is practicum? Practicum is an opportunity to experience your specialized field of study with a supervised application. In education, this looks like a time set apart during the week to go into a school, observe, teach, and lesson plan.
When I looked at my schedule I saw a class that blocked out the first four hours of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I was scared. This was a lot of time to put into just one course. But those fears subsided and were replaced with giddy excitement. I'd finally get to do what I came to school to do! On the first day of class, I received my practicum assignment and my practicum partners. We were placed in an elementary school within the five partner districts in Utah for the next five weeks. Before entering our assigned placements, we quickly went through assignments and expectations before meeting with our "pod" or our partners to go over transportation to our schools.
My pod became a group I could consistently rely on for support through all of our courses and through our experience in a Special Education classroom. Our first day in the classroom was a shock to my system. It had been so long since I had set foot in an elementary and I had flashbacks to celebrating to 100th day of school and completing coloring worksheets. While these memories are fun and great, I was unaware of just how much time and dedicated organization goes into preparing a lesson for students. My practicum mentor teacher quickly made us aware. We were thrown into aiding students in their multiplication tables, sounding out letters, and reading stories. Before long we were developing friendships with each child that came into the resource room.
After the first day of warmup and logistical planning, we began our assignments from our practicum course and also our concurrent courses. I was planning a lesson that practiced Explicit Instruction while noting the behavior of a student for my Applied Behavior Analysis course. Every other week I would administer an assessment for my Assessments and Evaluation course. Once my lesson plan was prepared, I then taught my own lesson to a real group of students. This process was repeated several times allowing me to not only experience the field I hope to work in, but also to apply what I was learning in each class to a real-life classroom with real-life students whose learning depended, in part, on me and my studies.
After five weeks at my first placement school, I was moved to a new district to add a variation to the mentoring we received. I was distraught over leaving the students I had quickly grown to love, but the shift to a new classroom brought me an even greater sense of purpose. This change in location allowed me to observe a new teaching style and a new classroom dynamic and I realized that there isn't just one set way to teach. When I become a teacher, I will have my own style that will be heavily influenced by my practicum experience.
The greatest thing I have gotten out of practicum is the realization that I truly LOVE teaching. I love being a part of a student's life-changing discovery, whether that be the vowel sounds or the formula for the area of a triangle. The way a student's mind is opened is not something you can learn in a lecture. It's something you gain through experience and practicum provides that experience.
If you would like to learn more about the Special Education major, or any of the other McKay school Majors, check out our other blogs! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to a student ambassador here!