By Clara Pusey
What is a Practicum?
This is a practical, teaching and learning experience and one of the first opportunities in their major to get out into the public schools.
When does it take place?
In the elementary education major, it is the two semesters before student teaching.
When do I sign up?
After students have signed up for all their classes, and once university registration is open to all, students have the opportunity to sign up for their desired school district on the date given to them in an email which is sent out a couple weeks in advance. Students attend practicums in Nebo, Provo City, Alpine, Jordan, or Wasatch County District.
How long is a practicum?
Each practicum lasts one month.
How many practicums will there be?
There are two practicums.
How do the practicums differ?
They involve different grade levels. The first practicum is centered around kindergarten through second grade. The second practicum is third through sixth grade.
Is there anything connected to the practicum?
There are two field Fridays where students have a seminar (this semester’s seminars were advisement and a career and planning workshop).
What happens during a practicum?
There are course assignments to do in the classroom, including teaching certain lessons, practicing literacy tests through a case study, learning about the technology in the classroom, and writing lesson plans. You will attend two seminars, often at the district building with your practicum seminar class professors to help you along the way. You will also be observed by your Clinical Faculty Associate (CFA). A CFA is a BYU faculty member who is connected to the school district. He or she attends your practicum seminar class the two months leading up to practicum and visits you in your classroom. Your CFA will observe two lessons at a time you sign up for and gives you great feedback about your strengths and what you can work on in the future. Finally, if you are lucky like me, you might be there during Teacher Appreciation Week and get to scooter on your stomach across the gym floor in front of the whole school.
What do I want others to know about a practicum?
While it might seem daunting now, practicum is a fun and real learning experience that is whatever you choose to make of it. In my practicum, I wanted to teach as much as possible, so I did 2–4 lessons every day so I could experience the true highs and lows of the profession. Some days I have felt breakthroughs in new ways of teaching, new materials used, and new assessments, while other days the students would NOT STOP TALKING. In contrast, I know a lot of people who are happy just doing a lesson or two a day, and they are enjoying it as well. I got paired with a mentor teacher in the school who has specifically been chosen to guide and advise practicum students as they plan and execute lessons. I have loved having a teacher with vast experience who knows everything from how to get children to actually be excited about a PowerPoint on money word problems to how to make a student who talks like a baby when she wants attention to actually do her work. Notwithstanding this, she has also taught me how to be flexible in teaching because without flexibility in the classroom, teaching would not be fun.
The month you are in the schools will be a busy one, but you have such a line of support behind you. Professors, CFAs, facilitators, principals, mentor teachers, and many others are ready and willing to help you in any way you need. While it seems like practicum will be very overwhelming, and sometimes it definitely feels that way, it also goes by in a blink of an eye. Enjoy practicum—because it is really experiencing what you want to do with the rest of your life. Play freeze tag at recess when your students ask, plan that extra lesson when it’s a topic you’ve never tried teaching, and say yes to any and every opportunity because practicum is an experience you will never forget.