Before beginning my second-year practicum, I established three major goals that I wanted to work on while in the field. These goals were to: (1) practice time-management while facilitating lesson plans; (2) work on my confidence while facilitating lesson plans, and (3) build strong, positive relationships with my students. Overall, I think I achieved my goals; however, I still have room to improve.
I set “working on my confidence” as a goal going into my practicum because I was nervous about teaching and facilitating lesson plans for the first time. As it turns out, my level of confidence in the classroom was never really an issue. Although I got nervous before I taught each week, when I was in front of the class, teaching came naturally to me. As a result of my confidence-level in the classroom, I was open to trying new things, such as different teaching strategies, classroom management techniques, etc. I also became more flexible and adaptable in my teaching––that is, I didn’t worry if things did not go according to my plan. Overall, I learned that confidence is not something that I struggle with as a teacher.
In terms of building relationships with my students, I think that I achieved this goal as best as I could in the eight short weeks that I had in the classroom. I believe that it is crucial for teachers to build positive, genuine relationships with their students, because it is through these relationships that we identify each child’s uniqueness in terms of personalities, strengths, social environments, developmental stages, abilities, cultural backgrounds, interests, and learning needs. My very first lesson plan was created with the intention of getting to know my students and building a foundation for positive relationships. From then on, my teacher-student relationships only continued to grow. I have learned that I have good relationship-building skills, but what I need is more time with students in order to establish solid relationships. Fortunately, I will be afforded more time in future practicums, as they continue to increase in lengths, and also as I move into the classroom as an actual teacher. I look forward to this very much.
I learned a lot about time-management during my practicum, and it is a goal that I need to continue to work on in future internships. I struggled with time-management this semester because I didn’t have the experience to know how much content could fit into a 45-minute period, especially if the content was to be meaningful, which is something that I strived for. What I learned this semester, which is backed-up by my co-operating teacher’s feedback, is that my lesson planning skills are strong, and my teaching abilities are strong, but I need to allow more time in the classroom to complete my lessons. For example, during my last three weeks in the classroom, I facilitated a science unit on the solar system, and I had the students create an inquiry project on one of the major components of the solar system. Although the students surpassed my expectations with only three weeks to work on their projects, I realize now that the project could have easily extended over another week or two.
One of the most valuable things I learned during my practicum was different classroom management techniques. Since this was my first experience teaching, I had no sense of classroom management when I first began my practicum, so I followed my co-operating teacher’s classroom management strategies. My co-operating teacher usually raised her voice to get the students’ attention; however, when I replicated this strategy, I recognized that the students did not respond to this sort of discipline. As a result, I experimented with positive reinforcement as a classroom management technique in my own teaching, and it worked amazingly––the students were much more responsive to compliments than scolding. I also learned to be flexible in my classroom management. I recognized that it was not beneficial to stop all chatting and that allowing chatting, within limits, was actually productive, such that it fostered learning and the sharing of ideas between students.
Another valuable learning from my practicum was in the area of differentiation. I used to think that differentiation required big, drastic changes to a lesson plan in order to be inclusive of all learners. However, I realize now that differentiation can be even the simplest of adaptations that work to meet the needs of every learner in the classroom. In my practicum, I focused on differentiating my teaching and assessment strategies by presenting lesson material in different ways and allowing for assessment in many different forms to ensure that they were inclusive of the multiple intelligences in the class. In addition, I had the opportunity to work with a student who is deaf, so I had to ensure that my teaching was inclusive to her and her learning needs as well.
Overall, my practicum this semester did not change my beliefs about education, teachers, or students, but it did reinforce my beliefs. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to practice my teaching this semester and to have done so under an experienced teacher. Most importantly, my practicum experience has reinforced in my mind that teaching is my calling––it is what I am meant to do. After my practicum experience, I am excited to continue my journey to becoming a teacher, and to continue growing both personally and professionally.