Communicating with your supervising teacher…
When you start your practicum at the University, it is your first glimpse into the classroom. You may feel a combination of excitement and nerves as you start your journey in education. This classroom experience can teach you if education is something you want to pursue or if another career might be best for you. The practicum is also your first opportunity to forge your budding professional communications and working relationships with your supervising teacher. You will have the chance to learn, practice and hone your skills in proper, positive and professional communication. Here are a few tips as your start this unique relationship with your supervising teacher:
- Ensure the supervising teacher has had time to sign your practicum contract (ED 209 only) which specifics the days and times you will be in her classroom. Ideally the time must work best for her and give her the maximum help and support from you.
- The unexpected: Life can throw you curve balls and there may be times during the term when you wake up so sick you can’t get to your practicum site. The first thing you should do if you are unable to go to your classroom to volunteer is contact your supervising teacher. If you don’t communicate with your supervising teacher, it reflects poorly on you and the University.
- Ask questions: Use the time you have with your supervising teacher to ask questions so you can learn as much as possible. With this said, find appropriate times to ask questions when the teacher has a moment of time to answer the questions, for example before or after the students are there. Most teachers are happy to share their knowledge and experience. The teachers who are willing and eager to have a practicum student in their room are typically the most likely to want to share their knowledge with you. The practicum is a good time to ask questions about behavior modification, curriculum, or any other topic that comes up. Many times, a thoughtful question can send the message that you are engaged and interested in the students, their classroom, and teaching in general.
- Communicate clear expectations: When you fill out your practicum contract, it is a great time to talk about expectations. What would the teacher like you to help her with during your time in the classroom? Would you feel most comfortable observing at first before you jump in? Let the teacher know if you have any unique skills or interests, as she may be able to put some of your talents and interests such as arts and crafts or early childhood literature to work. If your supervising teacher would like you to spend time with the students doing small group reading for example, this is a great opportunity for you to start learning what is age appropriate for the grade you are volunteering in. Ask questions and make sure you understand what is expected of you before you start your time in class. It is much easier to be proactive and set these expectations before starting rather than have a discussion that feels uncomfortable weeks into your experience. The practice you get communicating expectations will translate well in any work environment and will start to build trust, respect and rapport amongst you and the staff at the school you are volunteering in.
- Lead with enthusiasm: It may feel awkward to lead with enthusiasm when you are nervous or unsure of what to do when you start your practicum, however, if you try to cultivate this type of attitude while in the classroom, it will pay off for you. Students and teachers will enjoy being around you and the enthusiasm you bring may be infectious, and motivating for the staff. If you asked a teacher if she would rather have an experienced teacher helping her with a negative attitude or an inexperienced practicum student with a positive attitude, she would likely pick the practicum student. The positive practicum experience you cultivate may end up leading to a positive teacher recommendation needed when you apply to the Elementary Education licensure program or Masters of Teaching program. Every positive exchange you can have within your practicum may end up being a source of strength for you in the future.
- Be open to feedback: Be as humble and open as possible during this experience. Start to use the practice of self-reflection to analyze yourself and your “teaching”. The self-reflection process you start now will be the foundation for rock start teaching down the road. When you receive feedback, thank the teacher for taking the time to give you the feedback and use the information to grow.
- Time management: Be on time or be a little early every day to your practicum. If you are on time or early and ready to start volunteering, it conveys a professional image. If for any reason you might be late, communicate this as soon as you can with the supervising teacher.
Creating positive, open and respectful communication with your supervising teacher will help set the stage for a productive practicum experience. If you need more guidance or support, please contact your practicum teacher.