KNUE students must somehow, someday complete two terms of teaching practicum. For the first time in INDIGO, we have covered student-teaching of 2015. One of the INDIGO reporters has recently finished student-teaching as a German student teacher and she would like to describe the real scene of her entire 4-week.
1. Before teaching practicum
Unexpected spending - We do not know that we should pay by ourselves for things such as lunch or transportation until we reach the time of teaching practicum. The sum of these expenditures is an average of 170,000 won. That is already quite a lot, but to buy new suits for the practicum, it gets more expensive. It costs about 300,000 won. Additionally, money spent on student teacher’s party and farewell presents and cards is also unexpected. If there is such special day like ‘Pepero day,’ it doubles!
2. First week of teaching practicum
Series of special lectures - in the first few days we have to take a series of lectures: from an English teacher who overcame the walls between him and students, to a magnificent looking principal, those who give us lectures are various and the themes are also varied. After the lectures we have to pick one of them and write it down to submit at the end of take-over weeks.
Several bothersome things to do - There would always be exams at the start of the teaching practicum. That means that you must be more than once an exam proctor during this period and must stand hours without cell phone or talking. Yes, it is very boring and painful. Such exams continue usually for 3 days. This special experience is considered to be 1 of the top 3 awful tasks of teaching practicum. Furthermore, we have to write daily reports about our day in school and submit it to our mentor teacher. In the first week you write things that happened during the day and what you have felt about it.
Want to be close to you - In the first week, the best thing you can do is to memorize student names in your class. Because of special lectures and exam proctoring you would have little to no time to talk to your students or your mentor teacher, even if you do want to get close to them. So, if you want to eagerly make contact with them, make it during lunch time or every 10-minute break. Also, you have to be friends with your colleagues. Normally, the first student teacher’s party is on the first day of the practicum or Friday of the first week. If you want to make new friends, it is good idea to attend many parties.
First week at home - your days during teaching practicum start at 6:30 and end at 4:30. Therefore there is no choice, but to stick yourself in the bed. You will most assuredly be exhausted. You will realize what ‘exhausted’ really means. Even though you come home quite early - about 5pm, you do not have any time to do other things. I guarantee you this.
3. Second week of teaching practicum
Start of something new - from this week you start to participate in classes. You observe mentor teacher’s classes and what kind of teaching method is actually used, how students react to given teaching materials, and so on. You can also really give lessons to students, but most of the time you will begin to give lessons from the third week. After you observed the teacher's classes you must write your opinion about it and what you have learnt from it. You submit it with a daily report.
Preparing lessons - you are going to receive some class hours, but it is for third and fourth weeks. During the second week you should be perfectly prepared for your lessons or you are going to easily make mistakes and come back with mere embarrassment! From class-observation periods you could see that professional teachers do not use PowerPoint that much, unlike how we do all the time. Rather, they use black board or simple typing on the screen to illustrate important concepts of the lesson. Though, for us, it is better to use PowerPoint and get students' attention first; however, to be honest, even PowerPoint does not guarantee your students’ attention and concentration. I think the most critical ability to earn their eyes and ears is your specialty. How much you know and how exactly you have understood your subject is very important.
Several bothersome things to do - the most bothersome thing is preparing for ‘representative lesson.’ First, each subject must pick one person to do it and he or she ought to suffer from it. I was one of them. Who does the ‘representative lesson’ must write a long, seemingly endless lesson-planning-paper for it and take into account many things like teaching model, teaching materials, and even appearance on that day. Another bothersome thing is that now you have to lead the opening and closing class. Class opening starts at 8:20 and class closing starts at 3:30 after 6th class, but I guess class closing at 3:30 is especially in CFLHS (Cheongju Foreign Language High School). Normally class closing is at 4:30 after 7th class. Anyways, opening and closing classes are beautiful chances to make rapport with students, so I recommend you to be nice to your students in this precious period to get close to them. Your farewell cards and presents from students depend on this time.
4. Third week of teaching practicum
The most activated week of the experience - there are lots of chances to see one another’s classes. This is because there are almost, at every hour everyday, student teachers' classes. Therefore, you can see others’ classes whenever you want. It does not matter if it is physical education class or biology class, because you can simply ask their mentor teacher to be allowed and then you can go in and see. While the student teacher gives the lesson, other student teachers watch from the back taking pictures of him/her. The pictures usually come up on group chat room or Facebook. That is quite fun. Additionally, we slowly get to know how we ease ourselves and seize this practicum’s period. We are no longer so clumsy and hasty. Sometimes we feel as if we were real teachers. But, well, for me it was not like that because we, German student teachers, did not have that many class hours due to our big number: six!
Feedback - After some first classes you made, your mentor teacher gives you feedback. Most of the times it ends with cheerful words and kind advice, but sometimes for somebody it could be harsh. At worst you could even cry! So, hold your mental strength before you go listen to your feedback.
Participating in school events - these days schools have a variety of school activities and competitions in order to help students attend famous universities which are located in Seoul. For example, there was a school concert every single day to promote students ‘spec.’ We had to be their audience for every concert of them. That was quite bothersome. One day some of us had to take part in the concert! But, there are also favorable events in school, such as lunch or dinner with mentor teachers. They know not only excellent restaurants, but also pay for it! It could never be better.
Observance of actual schooling - Move of classroom and teachers' office on demand of principal was one of actual events during schooling, I think. A 2-hour safety training was also had. The best part of observed actual schooling was student counseling. I have almost forgotten that school cares not only about students' academic performances, but also their mental health and social behaviors in order to make them desirable members of society. There was a counsel center called ‘Wee class’ with some faculty of counseling and it seemed to be pretty often visited by students.
5. Last week of teaching practicum
Pressure of representative class - a student teacher who had to manage the representative class might have had huge stress! The class must be assessed by mentor teachers, and the class observers are not student teachers, but the principal or vice principal (or, at the very worst, both of them)! Therefore the student teacher has great pressure on his/her shoulders though must go on with the paper work related to the class. After it is done successfully, he/she should once again write a self-reflection paper and gather all the assessment papers from observers of the class.
The College Scholastic Ability Test, also called Suneung – I have once heard that student teachers of CFLHS had to arrange cheer-up ceremonies for senior students on the day of Suneung. Hence, we expected our fate to be like theirs, but amazingly, nothing was demanded on us. We had to, however, go to school on Suneung without any students nor teachers. But, do not worry, most schools close that day. Ours was a special case;-)
Farewells – We said goodbye to mentor teachers with some little presents. We all did not mean to cry on the last day, but we just could not help ourselves!!! Despite a real short term of 4 weeks, students have sung me “Grateful Teacher” and made some board work with ‘rolling paper’ for me. With complex emotion we left the school and held farewell party at IRIS for ourselves that night.
For us, for the beginning of teaching practicum, it was quite nerve-wracking and exhausting, but throughout the period we have learnt responsibility and the worth of teaching students in public schools. Well, I personally would like to say that this experience was pretty enjoyable, rewarding, and I am so thankful that it helped me making new good friends. It really took me by surprise that I found my teaching practicum colleagues in my pedagogy and other courses. I did not ever know that there have been so many ‘could-be-friends’ in those courses. Anyways, one experience is far better than a thousand views. I wish you happy student teaching!
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