The Deal With Practicums

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By: Kaleb Price – 11_17_14.-018

prac·ti·cum (praktikem) noun -a practical application of a course of study.

Most of us have gone to school, been taught by a teacher, and, hopefully, learned something. Whether that something is exciting such as learning that Benjamin Franklin established the first library and that Quantum Physics are the stuff that dreams are made of, or frustrating like if a=b, and b=c then a=c and X never, ever marks the spot. Whatever it is, we are programmed to constantly learn; we learn facts, rules, how far to push the limits of these rules, and also when to run when your girlfriend is mad and you don’t know why. We learn.

Statistically, we will learn more from our time in school than anywhere else. Simply put: learning and education are the main reasons that schools exist, and they are filled with people who have dedicated themselves to teaching. These individuals are commonly known as teachers.

It is always strange to think about teaching teachers. It is even somewhat difficult to say. Certain people just are not born with knowl- edge of everything and so are destined to become teachers. Potential teachers need to be educated just like any other professional.

One of the many career paths offered at RMC is the education program. There is Elementary Education, Secondary Education (5th grade-12th grade), and an array of specialized education fields such as English education, Science, Math, Music, to name but a few. Rocky takes pride in instructing, mentoring, training, and preparing young minds to be the best teachers that they can be for the future generation of young, eager minds. One of the more misunderstood and less recognized aspects of the Education Program is an instructional and hands-on course known as the practicum.

In general terms, the practicum is an opportunity for future teachers to observe experienced teachers in their classrooms in school districts in and around Billings. This isn’t a formal operation; the hosting teacher does not put on an act for the visiting student. The purpose of the practicum is for the Rocky student to observe, note, and learn from a living, functioning classroom.

The course syllabus for all the practicum courses states: “teacher candidates will demonstrate their readiness to assume responsibility for classroom teaching by using appropriate teaching practices including effective communication, effective classroom management skills, developmentally appropriate instructional practices, curriculum planning, implementation and assessment.” In other words, this is a time for candidates to be exposed to a classroom setting in order to observe and learn for their future classrooms. During their sophomore, junior, and senior practicums, they will increase hands-on involvement with the students and also teach lessons in these classrooms, preparing the candidates for their future teaching careers. In order for a Rocky student to pursue a career in education they actually have to take the first practicum course first, to even apply for the education program. The candidates are not automatically accepted into the education program simply because they sign up; they have to be exposed to the classroom and to classes that introduce the fundamentals of education. This stresses the importance
of field experience and commitment that Rocky places on this program; Rocky does not want candidates to go through the whole education course and then enter their own classroom and then realize they didn’t want to be a teacher because they didn’t fully know what it would be like. The practicum gives them this valuable experience.

Classes in the education program at Rocky incorporate a lot of theory into the instruction. Theory is good, but a fair amount of field experience is needed as well to promote steady growth and maturation as potential teacher. These two elements work hand-in-hand in the education program.

prac·ti·cum @ Rocky Mountain College (praktikem) noun -an opportunity to experience the everyday problems, solutions, and joys of a classroom.

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