This “Summer Practicum”- What is it?!

I should have started off by providing all sorts of information about the practicum, but organization is not my strong suit, and I am quickly learning how important it is to make sure you logically sequence everything in teaching!

The Summer Practicum is part of a required Education course for my Secondary Education Masters to obtain my teaching certificate. (My certification will be in French specifically).

To quote Wikipedia (a source teachers are supposedly not supposed to use):

“A practicum is a college course, often in a specialized field of study, that is designed to give students supervised practical application of a previously studied theory. Practicums are common for education majors.”

I have no discrepancies with that definition (it’s better than I would have said it). Basically we just spent 5 weeks planning a 9-day, 72-minute-class-period unit that incorporates the theme “Reach for the Stars”.

The students are coming to this Summer “Enrichment” Program not because they did poorly in school, but because it is a fun way to learn (I’m sure most of their parents coerce them to go, but I have already seen in the first few days that they really do enjoy it).

They are middle-schoolers from all over Philadelphia, from a wide range of backgrounds, and most are between 11 and 13.

I teach first period from about 9:10-10:20am everyday, and then observe other teachers in the second and third period, and receive feedback on my teaching during the rest of the day as well. There is a short break called “advisory” where the students have a snack before 3rd period, and we watch them closely to make sure they are not misbehaving or getting too close (oh the budding romance of pre/adolescents).

If you have one of these practicums- do not take it lightly. They don’t call ours “boot camp” for nothing. We have to arrive by 8am, have a faculty meeting at 8:30, and go meet the students in the lobby at 9. They are only at the camp from 9-1 (four hours) but those four hours can feel like 8 or 10 depending on how the day goes.

As you read my blog, you’ll see that the toll it has taken on me is not just physical (from the long day of working and teaching), but mental (with the unbelievable amount of time it takes me to reflect, re-plan, and re-adjust the whole unit every night), and emotional too (I am way too sensitive about the feedback I receive. I can view it objectively, but combined with the exhausted and overworked state I keep being in throughout the week, it all combines to make me feel like quitting). It takes a toll on every part of you.

But every day I get more out of it than I might have imagined I would get out of the whole two weeks! It’s worth it. Because it can help you see that you either want to be a teacher, and it will help you know how much work it can be, or conversely, it will show you that teaching is not for you. As I go through it I feel both sides of this, and as my adviser told me- wait. Wait until this is over to even begin to collect my thoughts on that subject.

So there you have a brief and simultaneously rambly definition of a practicum (it’s obviously my definition, because I make words like rambly up)

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