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Why does it seem to take so long and be so difficult to make a practicum placement? I could easily find a placement for myself in my home town!
Wilson: Teacher Candidates absolutely must not try to make their own practicum placements. If you do, the school principal or the Board office will call my office and ask what is going on! Boards have a procedure to be followed and must work through the Faculty, just as the Faculty has procedures to be followed and must work through the individual Boards. If you know a teacher who would like to be an Associate Teacher, tell us. We will happily try to recruit him or her through proper channels.
You can appreciate that managing four practicum placements for over 600 Teacher Candidates every year is a big job. And we can’t give you just any placement—you need placements that are acceptable to the OCT and fulfil the requirements of your program. We have to track all your placements carefully and keep accurate records for you. Further, we try to take your transportation needs into consideration. There are a lot of factors to try to balance!
We work with more than 30 school boards and hundreds of schools every year—and each board has its preferred way of managing Teacher Candidate assignments. Some Boards permit us to contact principals and potential Associate Teachers directly while others prefer to make practicum placements from their central offices. In either case, the Faculty does not have full control over the process. We are fortunate to have excellent relations with our local school boards, and work hard to maintain them.
Why am I placed in an English classroom for my practicum? I am in the French specialty.
Wilson: French Teacher Candidates must have at least one placement in an English classroom in order to be eligible for certification—this is required by the OCT. We try to place Year 1 Teacher Candidates in French classrooms for one of their Year 1 practica, but we give Teacher Candidates in Year 2 priority for French placements because Year 2 has the longer practicum blocks. It would be nice if we could give every Teacher Candidate a French placement for three of their four practicum blocks but that depends upon many variables, particularly on how many French Teacher Candidates we have in the program and how many Associate Teachers are available. We also have to make sure you have experience at both P and J (or J and I) levels, another legislated requirement for certification.
Why am I placed in a grade 4, 5, or 6 class for my practicum? I am in the ECE specialty.
Wilson: To be certified as a Primary/Junior teacher, the OCT requires that you have at least one practicum at each of the two levels—one Primary and one Junior. We try to place Year 1 Teacher Candidates in primary classrooms for at least one of their Year 1 practica, but we give Teacher Candidates in Year 2 priority for such placements because these are the longer practicum blocks. It would be nice if we could give every Teacher Candidate a primary placement for three of their four practicum blocks but that depends upon many variables, particularly on how many ECE Teacher Candidates we have in the program and how many Associate Teachers are available.
There’s a PA Day scheduled during my practicum. What should I do on that day?
Wilson: During a PA Day, you should participate, if possible, in activities with your Associate Teacher. If your AT is attending a conference or other event with limited enrollment or which for some other reason you are not permitted to attend, then check to see if there is another PA option you might attend. Otherwise, spend the day at the school, marking, planning, or otherwise preparing for the next week.
What if there is bad weather or a snow day during practicum?
Wilson: Sometimes when we have snow, school buses are cancelled but the schools remain open and teachers are expected to be there. Check your school district’s website, or listen to the local radio or TV station for an announcement. You might also contact your Associate Teacher or the school to confirm. If the school is open, though, your Associate Teacher will be expected to be there—and so will you—because the students who are not dependent on bussing will be there. Do your best to get there. Don’t make weak excuses. (The Teacher Candidate who stayed home because her Dad didn’t want her to drive did not impress anyone.) If you must be absent (perhaps because the only road between your place and the school is closed), let your Associate Teacher and the Teacher Education Office know as early as possible.
This week’s Expert Contributors:
- Carolyn Wilson, Practicum Manager