As teaching candidates you may have to do a practicum experience as part of your coursework. Going into your first practicum experience can be a little scary. It can be hard to know what to expect, or sometimes even what is expected of you. The following are some tips for you to get the most out of your practicum experience.
Have an open mind.
On the first day of your practicum you don’t really know what to expect and I think this is a good thing. Even if you have had some phone or email conversations with your cooperating teacher, it is so important to keep an open mind about your placement. I have been very fortunate with all of my placements and have seen a lot of great teaching at work, but some of my peers haven’t been as lucky. If you get placed with a teacher who has different teaching styles or methods than yourself, embrace it as an opportunity to learn. Some placements will show you methods that you want to try in your classroom someday, while other placements will show you methods that you absolutely don’t want to use in your classroom, and this is okay! If you get placed in the second type of setting in order to get through it, it is so important you make sure you keep an open mind and look at it as a valuable learning experience rather than a placement that is teaching you nothing.
Know what you need to do for coursework in the field.
It is very important to know exactly what you have to complete for your courses the first time you step foot in the classroom. I know that this can be sometimes hard information to get because the syllabus isn’t quite clear on what you exactly you are supposed to be doing, but even if you don’t know the specifics of the assignment, it is important to know it exists. The amount of coursework that you need to do while in the field can sometimes seem overwhelming from time to time. The best way to ease some of the stress is to start early. I recommend making a checklist for yourself and your cooperating teacher before your first day in the field with all of the assignments you need to complete. This will make it easy to stay organized and stay on track (and will likely impress your cooperating teacher). When you complete an assignment it is also very important to type up your lesson plans and reflect on the lesson as soon as possible. Otherwise it is easy to forget specific details that will help you in the future. If you put off typing lesson plans, you will be very overwhelmed when you come back to school. For instance, this semester I would have about 20 lesson plans to type and this is not always a short and easy step even if you have already taught the lesson.
Collaborate with others at the same site or in the same grade.
In my past placements I have not had any other teaching block students in my school in the same grade level. It was kind of lonely, but I got through it. There were students in my block who were in the same grade, but at a different school or in the same grade at my school but in a different block, but I did not take advantage of this. This semester, however, I have two fellow block students in the same grade at the same school. We have done a lot of collaborating and lesson planning together and it is amazing what a difference it has made! This semester I have felt so much more confident in my lessons and happier in my placement. Being able to bounce ideas and suggestions off of one another has been the most amazing and helpful part of this experience. This is something you will have to do with grade level teachers once you are in the field. By collaborating with your peers in a similar situation you are gaining experience as well as keeping yourself sane throughout the semester! If you don’t have peers to bounce ideas off of, your cooperating teacher is also an amazing resource. They are there to mentor and guide you, so don’t be afraid to show them a lesson or bounce ideas around with them for lessons. Ask them as many questions as you want, and need, because that is the best way to learn.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect.
The practicum experience is part of the program so you can learn and grow as a teacher. It is okay if a lesson flops; now you know for next time. You can reflect and see how to change it so when you try it again it is successful. Having a lesson not go as planned happens even to veteran teachers. You will get more out of your experience if you take a risk to try something new or innovative than you will by just playing it safe so that it goes smoothly. Now is the time to try something you really want to try because if it doesn’t go as planned you have someone experienced to give you feedback for the next time you try the lesson
I hope that these four tips will help you to have a successful practicum experience and to get the most out of your practicum experience. The most important tip is to have fun and learn as much as possible! It can be stressful, but your experiences are where you will learn the most about teaching in a classroom and everyday is preparing you to be a better teacher!