Practicums Play by the Pandemic Rules
by Sydney Beecher Contributing Writer
During the COVID-19 pandemic, students majoring in Elementary Education have been completing their practicums through placements in online programs and in-person placements.
All students majoring in Education must go through practicum, a combination of seminars and hands-on classroom experiences, in order to graduate within their program. The seminars are designed to teach students educational theories and practices that they can apply to their future classrooms. Students are also placed in a classroom in the Farmington region where they will spend up to 10 hours a week working with students and a mentor. The main goal of practicums are to bridge the gap between education courses and student teaching.
Because of the challenges COVID-19 presents to in-person learning, practicums have undergone a handful of changes in order to adjust to online learning. Ashley Clark, a junior majoring in Elementary Education and completing her practicum this fall, said one of the biggest changes that were made this year was the placement of students. “There wasn’t a lot of in-person placement,” she said. “Out of the 24 of us in my seminar, half of us were placed in Mallet [Elementary School] and the other half were placed in this new online academy.”
This online academy, which Clark was placed at, was introduced by the Mt. Blue Region for students whose parents did not want them attending in-person schooling.
Within the online academy, there are 12 advanced practicum students from UMF, teachers who will act as mentors, an administrator, and reading, writing, and math specialists from Mallet Elementary School. One of the biggest issues Clark worries about is the communication, as she believes she’ll have trouble effectively communicating through technology. “I asked to be placed in kindergarten,” Clark said, “so for me, it could mean that I join the classroom for morning meeting, I read a book out loud to them, or help students one-on-one if they’re having trouble.”
On the other hand, elementary education students who are completing their practicums in-person, such as senior Elise Guerrette, are attempting to adjust to the new reality of being in a classroom environment. “I had to wear a mask and face shield whenever I was closer than three feet to a student,” she said, “and it was hard to read facial expressions.” Guerrette, who was placed at Spruce Mountain Elementary School in Jay, also mentioned how bare the classroom was since most things had to be put away.
Despite all of the challenges and adjustment practicums face this semester, Guerrette feels that her unique practicum experience will benefit her in the long run. “My practicum experience will really help me in the future, especially since I am going to be teaching next year!” she said.