If you are thinking about going into an education major, or have even started one, you may have heard the word "practicum" thrown around. What is practicum? What do you do during it? Why is it important? I had all of these questions, all the way up until the day I started!
What is practicum? Every practicum experience is different, but here I will give you a quick run-down of what it is like to participate in a practicum experience for Elementary Education. It is basically a mini-internship experience. Every student is matched with a mentor teacher and left to work with them for a month to observe and TEACH!
What do you do during practicum? You teach. Every day, you head into the classroom and observe your mentor teacher. You get to watch how he or she enacts their daily routines, teaches new lessons, implements their management, and deals with spur-of-the-moment problems and challenges. After a couple of days learning the ropes, you get to jump right in! After discussing with your mentor teacher (and having time to plan and prepare) you get to start teaching the class. Typically, you will teach one or two lessons a day. It is an amazing experience, and allows you to get a taste for teaching in a controlled environment.
Why is practicum so important? Honestly, I learned SO much in practicum. It gives you a chance to work with a real class. It gives you an opportunity to learn from an experienced and accomplished teacher, one-on-one. It allows you to put theory into practice. And it gives you a taste of what your future job will be. Other perks are: you learn tips and tricks from your mentor teacher in both teaching and managing a classroom; you learn more about different books and resources that can be used in your lessons; you can experiment!! You can try different ways of working with a class and teaching a group of students without having to worry about "failing".
What is the best part of practicum? This might sound cliché, but the best part of practicum (for me) was working with real people. In the classes throughout the major you learn how to write lesson plans, work with other teachers, and more. Yet, it is almost all hypothetical! You create lesson plans for fake students and discuss how you would plan with fake teachers. It is really helpful to practice, but there is something about working with real people, with real kids, that just feels so amazing!
For example, I created a lesson about perspective taking (in their writing) for my class. I knew that many of the students loved dogs, so I made that a theme of the lesson. They were to write three sentences from the perspective of a dog and decorate a dog mask. They could then read what they wrote with their dog mask (as if they actually were the dog!). It was my first lesson, and I was still in the "hypothetical" mindset. I wrote it with my specific class in mind, but it just didn't feel real. Until I taught it. The kids were so excited and loved the activity! They came up with some really clever ideas and each decorated their masks in different ways.
My lesson really could have been better, but the enthusiasm and excitement from the students changed how I viewed teaching. Of course it is difficult. At times it can be tiring or discouraging. But working with children and helping them understand something new is so fulfilling. They make everything worth it!
So, what is practicum? It is an amazing, hands-on experience in the classroom. If you have any other questions about it, contact us here, or come in to visit us in MCKB 175E.