By Samuel Carignan – Contributing Writer
The end of the semester has Education majors rushing to prepare for their student teaching placements that may start as early as this coming January.
The final and largest hurdle of the program, students have a lot to do before they can start student teaching. Despite the challenges, Education majors are eager to take what they have learned at UMF into the classroom.
Excitement and nervousness filled the Student Center in late November as Education majors learned their student teaching placements after months of waiting. These students now must start working on their responsibilities before the placement even starts, including setting up meetings with the mentor, preparing for interviews, and starting their large Contextual Factors Assignment.
Although it is a lot of work, Education majors are ready for the challenge. Senior Elementary Education major Ashley Hinkley recently learned about her placement. “I know that it is going to be hard, but I feel prepared and am ready to start teaching,” said Hinkley.
Student teaching may seem daunting, but it is one of the highlights of the Education program. On top of the benefit of it looking great on a resume when applying for jobs, it also makes UMF students some of the most prepared teachers when they graduate.
Shawna Oliver, a 2017 UMF graduate, is currently teaching fourth grade at Belgrade Central School. Her student teaching placement was in a fifth-grade classroom in the same district. Oliver gave some advice for anyone getting ready for student teaching. “Advocate for yourself,” said Oliver. “If you have wishes, communicate them to your supervisors.”
For many Education majors, student teaching is a way to test what they have learned over their time at UMF. Student teaching can only be done after all methods classes have been finished, so many are eager to take the knowledge they have learned out into the field.
Leah Boucher, a senior Elementary Education major, was excited about her placement in a third-grade classroom. She is one of many students who has been waiting for years for this experience. “UMF has made me feel ready to start student teaching,” said Boucher. “I can’t wait to start this next adventure.”
Much like a capstone, student teaching is the final test of a person’s skill in their field of study. It is a sixteen-credit course, meaning this one class has an entire semester worth of work involved with it.
For any students who are uneasy about student teaching, Oliver has some experienced advice. “As long as you are meant to be a teacher, you will love it,” said Oliver. “The praise that you have heard about the teachers that UMF prepares is true. UMF does prepare its pre-service teachers as best they can.”
By Collin Regan – Contributing Writer
A crowd of UMF faculty, students, and community members recently packed Emery Arts Center to listen to professor Rhonda Jamison’s talk about Teacher-Student Relationships.
Jamison, also known as Dr. J around campus, talked about three studies she did, including one on UMF students and the impact of mandatory office hours.
During the 2015-2016 school year, Jamison wanted to see how the relationship between her students and herself impacted the classroom environment. To do this, Jamison conducted an experiment between three of her Child and Adolescent Development classes (PSY 225). In one of her classes, Jamison required two mandatory fifteen minute office hours during the semester, one class had one set of mandatory office hours, and the other had no mandatory office hours.
“The goal of the office hours was to get to know students as individuals,” said Jamison. “This was one avenue for connecting with students outside of the classroom, where I could get to know each student as an individual.” Jamison had a theory that when she got to know students as individuals, they would do better in the classroom.
Lydia McDonald, a junior Elementary Education major, remembers having two required office hours over the course of her second semester of freshman year.
“I really enjoyed going to visit with her and chat. It made me feel very comfortable around her and in class,” said McDonald. “I felt pretty neutral about office hours before this, but now I think they’re great.”
During the office hours, students would have a conversation with Jamison. Sometimes, Jamison used conversation starter questions found online to ignite conversation. “I always made sure that I answered the questions too, so that I got to know them, and they got to know me,” said Jamison. Office hours took place in the second and third weeks of the course, right after students had taken a survey.
Over the course of the 2015-2016 year, Jamison gave the same survey to 159 students who had either one, two or no mandatory office hours. This survey was given once at the beginning of the semester before the office hours and once again at the end of the semester. The results showed that students who came to office hours–whether it was once or twice–showed a significant increase in perceptions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness to concepts in the class.
While Jamison was most interested in the findings of a teacher-student relationship, she was surprised that the experiment showed an increase in autonomy and mastery or competence in the class.
“I didn’t know that coming to office hours for fifteen minutes would change how students felt about the content in the course so dramatically,” said Jamison. Having a relationship with students outside of the classroom improved the content knowledge, confidence, and participation from students in the class.
Daniel Picard, a junior Secondary Education major, remembers his experience in PSY 225. “I remember the class having a lot of participation, more than most of my other classes I’ve had at UMF,” he said. Picard was a member of a class that had one mandatory office hours.
Jamison also made an impact on some future educator’s careers in the process of this study. “One great way to learn how to be a great teacher is by observing great teachers,” said McDonald “Dr. J is definitely one of the professors I enjoyed watching teach because her way of handling the class is excellent.”
Jamison will soon be presenting her research and results at a national level. In January of 2018 Jamison will explain her findings at a conference for the National Institute for the Teaching of Psychology (NITOP).
“This conference is different because everyone is presenting on teaching psychology, which everyone in the room does,” said Jamison. “I’ll be in a room of people where everyone does it, which is pretty cool.”