Having grown up in sunny Arizona, it can be difficult to adjust to life in Provo during the winter months. Snow is almost foreign to me since winter in Arizona is comparable to Utah’s springtime. I have many friends who share my lamentation over the colder months, and many of them have looked for ways to escape Provo so as to avoid the snow, ice, and general gloominess. Some of these friends have taken a semester off to study abroad, teach English overseas, intern in warmer regions of the United States. This leads many education majors to wonder if there is a way to spend time away from Provo and still get college credit towards their education program requirements.
The McKay School offers two distant learning opportunities that education majors can take advantage of during their student teaching experience. These are opportunities for students finish their education programs with real schools and in real classrooms outside of Utah.
The first program allows students to complete their student teaching in Houston, Texas. The Aldine School District hosts this program, and takes student teachers from universities all around the United States including BYU. This program offers students the chance to work in culturally diverse classrooms making it a great option for those who plan on completing their TESOL K-12 endorsement practicum alongside their student teaching. While students who choose this option are required to find their own housing in Houston, the school district offers some assistance in finding suitable apartments in safe, convenient locations. The Aldine School District also requires students to bring their own vehicle to Houston.
The second program is hosted in Washington D.C. This program allows students to experience inner-city schools first hand. Currently, the mentor teacher who oversees this program is a BYU graduate who acts as a liaison for the student teachers and the public school system. She also offers BYU students tours of the city’s major historical sites. Since housing is a large expense in D.C., the McKay School offers to subsidize a portion of this cost. Students also do not need to have a vehicle for this program since public transportation is the most efficient way of traveling to the schools. It is also important to note that while Washington D.C. does offer a culturally diverse teaching experience; students who plan on completing their TESOL K-12 practicum experience cannot do so in Washington D.C.
Student expenses for these programs include the cost of travel, housing, food, transportation to the school and normal BYU tuition. Those who are interested in either program should attend a general information meeting that is typically held during the first few weeks of each semester. They should apply for student teaching just like any other education major. In addition to applying for student teaching, candidates for these programs should obtain two letters of recommendation from faculty members. The forms for these letters are found with the student teaching application form.
For a long time, I was very interested in the Washington D.C. program. Since I am a TESOL K-12 minor and plan on completing my practicum alongside my student teaching, I am unable to take advantage of this opportunity. Many who have taken advantage of these programs find their experiences at inner-city schools very rewarding. Additionally, there is a certain feeling of confidence that comes to student teachers who succeed in these programs. While teaching out of Provo might seem like a ‘trial-by-fire,’it is an excellent way to gain added experience. For those looking to take a semester away, whether to avoid of the impending winter or just to get a break from the campus life, I would add this as an options. It is a great way to experience a the world without getting behind in your education program.
I would like to invite any of you who have applied for one of these programs to share your experiences. Where do you wish to do your student teaching? What factors helped you decide to apply? For those currently in one of the programs, how has your experience been so far? I would love to hear from you.