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Student teaching during quarantine

By Sachel S. Bise, NJEA Preservice

Teachers are being thanked for their efforts as they move toward making learning online manageable for all students and preparing them for the next year. Likewise, student teachers are experiencing a major change in the format of learning to be teachers. Student teaching is an important and memorable experience for clinical interns studying and working towards entering the field of education.

While they should be in the classroom preparing lessons, practicing leading, and establishing positive relationships with students, the interns are transitioning into online teaching while online learning for the remaining college courses still required. Online teaching could consist of working harder than ever before; creating lessons that are conducive for online learning, ensuring resources are accessible, learning new programs to implement online teaching, and more. On the contrary, student teachers may be doing less; not receiving word from co-operating teachers, reaching out for more information and being left in the dust, worrying about students, etc.

In addition, student teachers are still also working towards their degrees and certifications which means potentially continuing observations and applying for their teaching certificates (getting the application notarized, paying over $300 even though they may no longer be working using a bank check or money order, and locating every transcript from every institution where classes were taken) as well as the worry they experience with the rest of what is happening. It is important to recognize the student teachers for what they are doing and giving them a voice.

The following are three stories from real student teachers currently experiencing online teaching.

“In January, I was expecting to have the normal student teaching experience that all of my peers who had graduated before me endured during their last semester of college. Little did I know, my experience of student teaching was going to be anything other than ‘normal.’ Virtual learning being initiated was an experience that I will never forget. I had no idea that the last time I saw my students or taught them a lesson was the last time that would occur. I was under the impression that I had another seven weeks with them in the classroom in which I could help them expand their knowledge while also expanding my own knowledge prior to becoming a certified teacher. However, although virtual learning can be challenging at times, it is also quite enlightening as well. It gives me the opportunity to challenge myself to create lessons and assess my students’ learning through ways other than completing a worksheet during class. It certainly has been challenging to create virtual assessments, but it has also challenged me to be creative and assess my students in ways that I have not previously thought of. Even though my student teaching experience will be coming to an end in just a few weeks, I hope that I have the chance to see my students before the end of the school year. I miss them dearly and know that I will never forget this unique experience as a student teacher during a global pandemic. Even though I currently cannot be in the classroom with my students and wonderful cooperating teacher due to the circumstances, working with them virtually reminds me each day why teaching is the right profession for me. This is not the way I had expected my teaching career to begin, but I certainly would not change it because it has given me the opportunity to learn and grow from a situation that no one could ever plan for.”

-Jessica Phillips, Monmouth University, Third Grade

“Luckily, my cooperating teacher has welcomed me to help with the remote learning experience. Every week, I record read alouds, make vocabulary presentations, do a word work lesson, and attend writing conferences with the students. These writing conferences are so beneficial for the students and for us as teachers. We are able to see what they are doing, and give students support, new tools, and suggestions for their writing. My concern is that all school districts are doing remote learning differently and some schools that just did packets may be at a disadvantage compared to students who have had this support from teachers. We are able to see what work they complete via Google Classroom and Google Forms. We are able to hold our students accountable and see how they are progressing. Of course this is a different experience, however I am grateful that I have been able to still participate.”

-Amanda Beck, The College of New Jersey, First Grade

“This has definitely been a challenging experience especially with working with preschool aged students. With online learning it is hard to get students to continue with a play base curriculum. At first the school had given student packets of work to work on at home with families but later we had realized that’s not the kind of learning we wanted our students to have. Moving forward the school and teachers had decided to provide families with fun hands on learning activities with video example. The best part is that in my mentor teacher classroom she had started doing weekly zoom circle time with the class. It’s been a joy to get to see the kids even if it has been on a computer screen. Overall, I have learned a lot from this experience of how when we come together as a community we can make anything work. It was a pleasure watching everyone come together to help these families in the community during this hard time.”

-Becca Timpanaro, Stockton University, Pre-K

To the student teachers who are working as hard as they can, no matter the situation, thank you for everything you do. Thank you for learning something new, not being afraid of the challenge, stepping out of your comfort zone, and being you. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed, and you are appreciated. Congratulations for making it this far and being so dedicated to the field of education. I wish you safety, health, and the best of luck in your futures. Please allow me to close with this quote. Thank you, again. Great job everyone.

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”

-Vince Lombardi, Coach of three time NFL Superbowl Champions Green Bay Packers