Obviously there are loads of great reasons to do prac (pre-service teacher practical experience) which “…includes supervised professional experience, wider field experiences and/or internships and involves actively engaging in all aspects of the teaching process, in different school settings, and with a range of learners” (Department of Education, Training and Employment, 2009). Prac allows pre-service teachers to experience teaching with all of its complexities and also experience different school cultures and settings.
I have learned a lot on my prac placements so far BUT the reason for my motivation to teach and the philosophies/principles behind it are rarely able to show in a prac setting, at least not to a personally satisfying extent. Yes, I am able to show my technical and content knowledge/skill and I’m also able to develop my style of teaching (to an extent ~ this really depends on the mentor teacher’s flexibility). Yet, my underlying motivation to teach, which can be simplified to showing that I care and want to help young adults become critically thinking citizens, is difficult to show in a 3-week experience. It might be possible in a primary school where you teach the same students everyday but in high schools I may only see the same set of students 3 times per week for only 70 minutes.
Imagine being thrown into a classroom of 20+ teenagers/young-adults, you don’t know their names and you really don’t know much about them at all except for maybe hearing snippets of often biased viewpoints from other teachers. You’ve also found out that you have to teach a programming language or use software that you don’t know (ahhh!) and don’t forget the massive 70% Uni assignment that’s linked to the lesson plans, just to add more significance/pressure to the whole experience. What do you have to do? You have to shine! You have to experiment with different teaching styles, techniques etc. You have to reflect and ultimately become a great teacher while desperately trying to not neglect your young family. Oh and it helps if you get along with your mentor/s too. 🙂 Overall the experience at the end is usually good and there is always lots to reflect on afterwards.
BUT is it possible to foster an ethic of care in a democratic classroom (or some other philosophy that you might hold dear) if you’re “thrown” into this type of situation? No, in my prac experiences so far this has been impossible to accomplish. There have been glimmering moments, highlights, where I know I made a great impact on an individual student’s learning but nothing compared to what you could achieve in a classroom over several months or terms. I guess that’s ok and I’m sure it’s not expected (or else we’d all fail!) but does this mean that possibly there is something missing in teacher training? Are we getting the full-picture of teaching? Or am I more sensitive to this because I have taught previously? Or maybe it’s just an individual thing that is part of a teacher’s pedagogy and something you just can’t judge or practice in the limits of prac.
I can’t help but wonder how pre-service teachers are assessed and interviewed for becoming a teacher. Admittedly I am still quite oblivious to what actually occurs during the interview and internship process for Secondary teacher qualifications; that’s still a year away for me. I think my personal philosophy and motivation for teaching is very important to me, obviously, but is it important to the Government and schools that will eventually hire me? Will the focus of my employment criteria be similar to prac expectations, which seem to be based on my classroom behaviour management skills and my level of content knowledge/skills?
Of course, I know things change and it’s very possible that my experience of teaching at the secondary level will impact my personal philosophy of education. I can’t help wonder how my personal philosophy might change and why…..
Here is my personal philosophy of education written in 2010 for you to read if you’re interested. Please note that this was written in the context and structure of a University assignment, so it would probably be better termed as “part” of my personal philosophy of education. Since writing this I already have some minor things that I would add/change but the overall idealistic view of education is still true for me today.
Department of Education, Training and Employment. (2009). Professional experience (webpage). Retrieved on 18 April, 2012 from http://education.qld.gov.au/hr/recruitment/teaching/pro-exp.html