Students in the School of Education at Drake University began their practicum assignments in various classrooms in the Des Moines area this semester.
Grace Brunner, a first-year student majoring in elementary education, is one of the students who has a practicum this semester.
“I’m at Carver Community School, which is part of the Des Moines Public School system,” Brunner said. “I am in a kindergarten classroom which is fully online, so the students are online and I’m also online observing them.”
Reed Nenonen, an elementary education major, is enthusiastic about his in-person practicum at Morris Elementary School.
“I’m currently in a kindergarten classroom for my practicum experience, and I am fortunate in the chaos that is COVID-19 to be in-person and to be in-person with the students,” Nenonen said. “A lot of people are online and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to directly interact with students and directly interact with my peer teacher.”
Brunner and Nenonen both have specific goals for their teaching careers which they feel the practicum experience assists with.
“I appreciate that Drake does the practicum as early as they do,” Nenonen said. “That is very uncommon, especially among larger schools, and even among many smaller private schools. I think that going into your first practicum tells you whether you want to be in the career or whether you need to redirect, and Drake gives you time to decide if this is where you want to go or if you need to redirect.”
Brunner agrees with Nenonen, comparing her education experience to that of her cousin.
“My cousin, who is a year older than me, is also in the Elementary Ed Program but at a different school back in Wisconsin, and I know that her practicum or student teaching experiences don’t start until sophomore spring semester,” Brunner said. “I’m already like a year ahead of where I feel like most schools would be in terms of observing schools, and it’s good for the people who aren’t necessarily sure if they want to teach in the future.”
Brunner and Nenonen’s comments on the advantage of having a practicum early are exemplified by the experience of Victoria Laramy, a first-year elementary education major who is assigned to a fourth-grade classroom for her practicum.
“At first, I was a little bit iffy on if I wanted to go into education and so this really solidified that because I was between education and social work,” Laramy said. “The first couple of weeks, I was like ‘yeah this is for sure what I want to do.’”
Getting a more direct experience has a certain benefit for education students at Drake University.
Laramy said her favorite part is watching the students’ interactions with the teacher and with each other.
Brunner even had the opportunity to lead a lesson.
“I was able to run a St. Patrick’s mini lesson last week,” Brunner said. “I just did a YouTube read aloud of how to catch a leprechaun and I had them watch that and then I had a bunch of questions to ask during the video. It was a lot of fun being in the teacher role for that day because the previous days I had just been observing.”
Nenonen focuses more on how his practicum has allowed him to progress in his goals.
“In the kindergarten classroom I’m still uncomfortable, and I’m trying to push myself towards a place where I’m more comfortable there,” Nenonen said. “I’m learning through failure, I’m learning through success, I’m learning through observing, and I’ve enjoyed directly interacting with students because this interaction with the students is why I want to go into the career in the first place.”