My first practicum was 6 weeks in a high school, with a full-time teacher (associate teacher, or AT) and their classes. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a rocky start. I was given one placements, but I receive word a couple days later (the Thursday before I was supposed to start) that it needed to be changed. I received my second placement the Friday afternoon before I was supposed to start. Luckily, my AT checked their email and we were able to get in touch before I showed up Monday morning.
My AT was teaching one grade 9 academic science class and two grade 11 university level biology classes. My initial reaction was YAY for the first…WHAT? for the second! The last time I took biology was in grade 10! Needless to say, I was worried, but I wasn’t about to complain (some other students didn’t receive their placements until the Wednesday/Thursday of the first week of practicum).
My worries were for naught, because as soon as the teachers found out my astronomy background, they jumped on the chance for me to teach the grade 9 Earth & Space unit. So, I ended up developing and teaching an entire unit – start to finish- for two grade 9 classes with two different teachers!
It was an awesome experience! There was SO much about it that I loved…almost like this is what I was supposed to do, and I felt like I was “at home”. The staff were amazing, and I felt like I made great connections with the students. Like I found my calling!!
Working with two different teachers was a great and unique experience, especially since their teaching styles were on opposite sides of the spectrum! This pushed me out of my comfort zone in both directions, and I’m really thankful for that. It was also tough though, because sometimes I felt I was teaching more to the teaching style of each teacher, and not developing my own. But, that’s really part of the process, and I think it made me a stronger teacher.
There were definitely some ups and downs, especially in the last few days when I needed to deal with some unexpected behaviours and issues on assignments (like plagiarism). I found that I am definitely fairly strict when it comes to such things – probably a little too much. I blame too many years in the”academy”!
It was a very self-reflective experience…similar to becoming a parent. You can talk all day long about what you THINK you would do in theory, but it’s a whole different ball game when you’re in the field. By the end, I started to think about what my teaching philosophy really is, and it will probably keep evolving for as long as I’m in this profession.
All I know for sure right now is I made the right decision to get my BEd!