Friday, June 24, 2016

My first practicum experience!

Hey there!

Exams are done and dusted, and I have just completed my first practicum!
Now, you may be wondering, "What's a practicum?". A practicum is like practical work.
As I am studying to be a teacher, my practical work includes me going to assigned schools with tasks and requirements I am expected to complete.

The last 2 weeks have been quite hectic - with exams and practicum around the same period. Surprisingly, I managed to go through it all feeling better than 'fine'. Exams were average. I didn't do as good as an A, but I managed to exceed 'just pass'.

Without further ado, I'll be writing about my practicum experience!

Honestly, practicum is not easy. I have a couple of friends who told me their bad experiences with ATs (associate teachers) and VLs (visiting lecturers) involving tears and being scarred with not being competent or not meeting appropriate standards. I met a girl recently who failed her practicum during her first year, so she is now studying ECE (Early Childhood) because apparently it's 'easier'.

The fears are very much present. You have to meet requirements, complete tasks to an acceptable level, have a professional relationship with your AT and be qualified in the eyes of your visiting lecturer. Beyond that, you have a whole class to manage every single day. Not for an hour or two, but almost 8 hours daily. Apart from school hours, you have to set time for planning and marking. The list is endless. And I'm just getting started with university students becoming a 'teacher-to-be' and juggling routines of full-time students - YES, we have exams, assignments and studies to do too.

And my parents said being a teacher was easy. Boy, you have no idea.

(NOTE: From what I have learnt so far, nothing is easy. They say medicine is difficult, yes, I believe it is. But so is education. So is studying music. So is engineering, architecture, linguistics and so on. Everyone is so different in many ways; abilities, lifestyle, decisions and habits.. even the way we think and understand information varies, so how can we categorise one thing to be the 'best' and the 'hardest' when we do not have the capability to do what everyone does?)

I entered my first year of education thinking it'll be easy. Boy, I was wrong.


One thing I lacked stepping into university was purpose. (It wasn't the only thing I lacked btw). I didn't have a purpose for why I chose what I study, but I had reasons.

My parents thought a teaching degree would be perfect for me. They thought it suited me. They said it was within my capabilities. They drew a plan for me.

The plan looked something like this: Easy degree, high demand; Easy start up, high return; (LOL, I sound like a commerce student - I was). My dream was to be a housewife. They figured I should be independent with my own business in education but flexible enough to decide my working hours to fulfil that dream.

It was a good dream, but it was a lacking dream.

Why? Because I didn't actually want to study education. I didn't like teaching. I didn't want to be a teacher. I didn't feel like I had a purpose in what I wanted to do (teaching) and I didn't find joy or fulfilment in it.

Not until this practicum.

During this recent practicum, these are some of the things I learnt:

1. Teachers have to be an all-rounder (ideally). 

During one of our classes, we watched a video on what children expect from 'what makes a good teacher?'. Good teachers (according to children) are to be intelligent, good-looking, fun, smiley, friendly, able to help, caring and many things in between.

In a way, it's true. We are expected to know a little (or more) about everything. We teach Maths (okay, that one we need to know quite a lot about), Science, Reading/Writing, Language (English & Maori) and we have HPE (Health & Physical Education) too. On top of that, we need to be able to engage in Arts and be able to plan for creative activities.

Time-management and organisational skills are key to not being messed up - oh no, we can't afford a mess. Least we need to have the skill to clean up that mess before Block 2 comes around.

Don't you forget leadership skills. You have about 30 followers on a daily basis and you literally lead them from one thing to another.

Throw in life-skills of dealing with children's drama and attitude problems. While you're at it, you better have some psychology up your sleeves; because a child's wellbeing is essential and you're responsible for being aware of problems they may be facing at home or at school. Pretty much their lives as long as you're their teacher.

2. Teachers have the capability to change lives.

This was one of the reasons I had in mind when I applied for my course. I wanted to influence lives. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be that teacher that believes in Tom when no one else did. I wanted to be that teacher that showed Samantha what beauty meant. I wanted to be that teacher that Tamati could rely on. I wanted to be that teacher that helped Xiao Yun when she was struggling. I wanted to change lives, whether that meant a little push to get on the right track or hard work that required time. I wanted to be a teacher that changed lives, and I still do.

As a teacher, you're placed in a class for the whole year, and boy, have you spent 8 hours (and sometimes more) with a child for almost a year? You really get to know them - and sometimes, way more than you would like to.

The school, they say, could be a child's 'safe place'. It could be their getaway and their break from home. We, as teachers have the capability to teach a child in a way he/she should go. And that way means to guide them on a path based on their uniqueness and individuality.

3. Teachers learn double the amount they teach.

Teachers teach - that's just what we're supposed to do. Being on practicum didn't make me realise how much I was able to teach, but rather how much I am able to learn. Teachers are practically life-long (sometimes self-taught students). We're constantly learning. Learning what we have learnt before, learning what we need to know, learning what we don't know and learning even when we don't intend to learn. We learn what we have to teach. We learn from students all the time.


There's so much I'd like to say, but I can't seem to write all of them now. However, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed myself a whole lot. It's been really tiring, but it's been really exciting. I was super duper nervous prior to my practicum, and now I left feeling like I have squished these lovely children into a special place in my heart.

I found myself tearing up while singing cultural songs with the kids, and grinning from one end of my cheek to the other watching them singing and answering questions. That's when it hit me. I love what I do.

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