Students who pursue a career in education are eager to begin working in the field. The University of Lethbridge honours their enthusiasm by having prospective students complete 60 hours of practicum in real-world classrooms before they apply to the Faculty of Education. This allows students to determine whether the teaching profession is right for them, and the Faculty to gain confidence in a student’s suitability as an educator.
Thus begins a unique education program bookended by field experiences.
“On campus, students learn about theories and philosophies of education, but they need to enter classrooms to see how the concepts come alive. It’s a reciprocal relationship,” says Interim Dean of Field Experiences Dr. Robin Bright. “If we didn’t work collaboratively with teachers and administrators in the field it would be impossible for students to get a strong preparation for teaching.”
Practicing teachers who invite pre-service teachers into their classrooms welcome fresh voices, talents, ideas and up-to-date research. Many recall and expand upon their own experiences as practicum students to further enhance their student teacher’s development.
During three Professional Semesters (PS), students gain broad-based experience in rural, urban, elementary, secondary, and cultural environments such as Hutterite and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. Practicums are structured to ease them into the profession as they advance from classroom observation to honing developing skills and philosophies. A continuum of support is ensured as Faculty follow students into the field and work closely with Teacher Associates and administrators. By the time pre-service teachers complete PSII they have enough teaching credits for certification in Alberta. In PSIII they serve as interns assuming half their mentor’s duties while still enjoying the support and guidance of university and field-based supervisors. Having completed more than double the required practicum hours, students graduate as confident, competent educators ready to teach.
“It’s really for the students,” says Bright. “That’s the final goal. We want the educational experiences of students to be positive, empowering, challenging and worthwhile.”
If you are interested in becoming a teacher associate, please visit: becomeateacherassociate.ca
Dr. Robin Bright’s Top 5 Takeaways from her Days as a Practicum Student
— The importance of developing good relationships with the people around you — children, Teacher Associates, other teachers, educational assistants, administrators, parents, children’s siblings.
— Risk-taking was encouraged, even if it didn’t turn out. TAs were waiting for me not to do things exactly the way they did.
— Children react to who you are, not who you are trying to be. As soon as I started sharing my interests rapport developed.
— Everyone approaches teaching slightly differently. Respecting differences and trusting the people around you aids in successful teaching.
— Every day is a new beginning. Children are enormously forgiving. They approach the next day like it’s your first day with them.