Interview: stories from practicum (block 1)

Updated: Jan 12, 2019

Oh practicum. It's a loaded word that seems to contain a lot of ambiguity and mystery. I think it's because everyone's experiences in their placements can be so different, and so no one ever experiences it the same way. Because of that, I have decided to trace the practicum experiences of three of my classmates throughout the year, to offer some glimpses into their experiences, and to see if they will evolve or change from one block to another.

A little bit of general info about practicum placements...

For MA-CSE students, our Block 1 placement was from September 10 to November 1 (I know, I know, this post is WAY overdue). It is the first of three placements that we will have this year, and we are all placed in either a JK/SK/FDK (Kindie), a Primary (Grades 1 to 3), or a Junior (Grades 4 to 6) classroom. And so, I've asked my friends to reflect on their first placements to share some insight...

Left to Right: Yan, Rosie, and Danielle. Thanks ladies for sharing! :)

DANIELLE (Grade 2/3 - Public School):

If you had to use three words to describe your practicum experience, what would it be and why?

Fast-paced, instructive, and rewarding. Fast-paced because I was always busy. Things kept changing, whether it was the student learning needs or the work load from my classes, and so I found that I really needed to adapt on a constant basis. Instructive because I feel like I already learned a lot in such a short period of time. And rewarding, because when you see your students learn and understand something that you taught them, those experiences are extremely rewarding and make all your hard work worthwhile.

What was one challenge that you overcame?

Managing my time to fit in practicum, classes, lesson planning, coursework, and a job. I needed to schedule my weeks in advance and book off time to work on things, but I made it through!

Recount your favourite memory from this practicum placement.

Teaching the science experiments on liquids with the Grade 2 class. It was the first time I taught and planned an entire unit from start to finish, and I got to see it through. It was a lot of fun; it was so hands on, and I could see from the students' expressions and energy that they really enjoyed it.

ROSIE (Full Day Kindergarten - Public School):

If you had to use three words to describe your practicum experience, what would it be and why?

Rewarding, challenging, and grateful. My class had a diverse range of abilities and barriers. I entered my class at the start of September, and a lot of the students were coping with traumatic experiences from the summer. (In their neighbourhood, many of the houses were affected by a huge fire, and so many of my students' homes had to be temporarily relocated.) Amidst all of that, I needed to find myself as a teacher, while being accommodating at the same time. It forced me to put in a lot of effort to foster relationships with my students, and as a result, it made my entire experience so wonderful.

Recount your favourite memory.

When working with a SK student who the AT (Associate Teacher) and I believed to have selective mutism, it is often difficult and discouraging when he does not advance much or show any progress. One day, I was working with him one-on-one for a writing task. He was showing signs of frustration, had folded his arms on the table, and his head was resting in his arms. So, I gave him a way out by saying that if he is tired, he did not have to continue. But he suddenly raised his head up and whispered to me, barely audibly, 'try again'. So I continued to work with him on his letters, and he was able to write his name that day!

On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best, how would you rate your practicum experience?

Five. Maybe that's too nice of a rating, but I really loved my students. Working in a low-income and diverse community was all the more rewarding. In that kind of an environment, you're really helping the students and families to have this love for learning. I really enjoyed working with my AT who truly cared about her students. She let me learn how I should be as a teacher.

YAN (Grade 2/3 - Public School):

Recount your favourite memory:

During my last week of placement, I was having a talk with a child who got picked on a lot at the beginning of the school year. He was misbehaving at that time and acting out. Now around this time, our class had a group discussion on the theme of respect as the school principal wanted to give out monthly 'respect certificates' to a child in every class. This child in particular was upset because he thought he would never become a student who could get this reward. And so, I pulled him aside, and we had a good heart-to-heart about how he has been changing. I loved it because I could see in his eyes that it was a learning moment for him. I reminded him that if he continues to improve and work hard, there is no reason why he could not receive a 'respect certificate'. At the end of the conversation, I made him tell me some things that he thought he was good at. At first, he couldn't think of anything, but as the day went on, he kept stopping by me and mentioning little different things that he was proud of. It was a happy moment for me!

What is your biggest takeaway form this placement?

How to be flexible and on your feet, whether it be in the classroom or in learning. You need to meet the children right where they are, and not where you expect them to be. You have to be the one that changes depending on their needs, and have to always be ready to extend their learning.

On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best, how would you rate your practicum experience?

Four. I think I was really spoiled. For this block, I only had 20 kids. I did not really receive any students with huge behavioural problems either. I also appreciate how my AT was really on top of things, and she also gave me permission to experiment and learn and grow. Though I didn’t do everything she wanted or in the way she suggested, she allowed me to experiment different teaching methods and lessons so that I can better understand my mistakes or the 'whys' behind teaching. She was always very supportive and gave me good advice.