When I was an elementary education in 2008 it was a requirement to complete clinicals, which are a pre-student teaching experience for education majors. They are usually around three weeks long. There was a lot of discussion and movement toward eliminating clinicals to something that was much longer than three weeks. There was a focus and movement toward more time in the actual classroom with elementary school children and less book and theory learning and lecture courses. There was an option of a year long program instead of clinicals with a semester of student teaching back in 2008.
There was a option of a semester of student teaching in England also in 2008. That would definitely be worthwhile to consider or look into, but I am sure it costs extra money as there is the plane ticket and luggage and room and board and probably other extra expenses. It may come out to a similar price as the student teaching in the US, but ultimately it probably costs slightly more. It would be a great experience. Also, there were options to complete the student teaching for a year in another state such as Texas. That could be a really nice experience.
If you can be a teacher assistant before you become an education major I would recommend it. It is possible the school you work for may pay for your tuition if you commit to teach with them for a few years after graduation. This will also help you feel less overwhelmed when completing student teaching, and may help you decide if you even want to major in elementary education. Many people do not recommend this as they feel if you do not complete your degree within four years after high school you are less likely to go back and obtain and or complete a degree. As of writing this in 2012 it is generally fairly difficult to find even a teaching assistant job, but that is another issue. Schools are increasing class sizes and making budget cuts.
Also, an interesting fact is that if you are a male it is supposedly easier to get an elementary education job here in the US. Most of the elementary education majors are female, and affirmative action works to ensure diversity and thus they look for men to hire as most of the applicants are women. When I studied abroad in South Korea most of the education majors and elementary education majors were male and that really surprised me. In the US there probably was a time when most of the elementary education teachers were male. For sure most of the school principals in the US were men, and now there are increasing numbers of women principals if they are not already the majority.
Listed below are the skills and activities that were required for clinicals/pre-student teaching when I was an elementary education major in 2008.
- science lesson
- social studies lesson
- math lesson
- literacy lesson
- planned and implemented teacher-led lesson (learning facilitated by the instructor)
- planned and implemented activity-based lesson (learning facilitated by an experience)
- used multimedia during lesson (computer, VCR, CD, DVD, overhead etc.)
- curriculum display (learning center, interactive or class-generated bulletin board, mobile, work station, display case, etc.)
- one-on-one instructional interaction
- small group instructional interaction
- whole class instructional interaction
- other assessment participation (design, give quiz/test/alternative assessment task, write anecdotal or running records; participate in parent/teacher conference etc.)
- engaged in reflective dialogue – communicated orally and or in writing with cooperating teacher about issues related to teaching and learning)
- COLLABORATION WITH COMMUNITY – observe and or participate in an activity that reflects a school’s collaboration with a community organization
- positive attitude toward teaching
- professional appearance
- professional relationship with staff
- professional relationship with students
- awareness/responsiveness to diversity
- ability to self-analyze and correct
- written communication skills
- oral communication skills
- organizational skills
- voice clarity and volume
- attentiveness to the developmental abilities/needs of students
- number of times tardy (0, 1, 2, 3 or more)
- number of absences (0, 1, 2, 3 or more)
- completion status (passed, failed, incomplete, withdrew)
You had to write journal entries and inform the teacher, principal, and pre-student liaison if you were going to be absent. Good attendance was taken very seriously. If any of the areas above received a mark lower than a 3 out of 4 it was unsatisfactory and an explanation was provided in writing. It looks like if you were absent/tardy two times or more you were at risk of failing this, but there was an option to come back and finish and or repeat clinicals or go into a different field/major such as liberal arts. Before the experience they gave you guidelines such as:
- knowing the names of the principal, secretary, cooperating teaching
- asking about the class schedule and procedures for things such as gym, fire drills, what to do if a child became ill
- knowing the parking situation of the school beforehand, (in my experience you had to carpool or have your own car because the school was located in an area that had limited public transit)
- having interest and enthusiasm
Some of the lessons could be combined, they gave you more instructions that I have not placed above. There are always a few people that don’t make it through clinicals and I was one of them. I had a heavy course load and was a bit exhausted and the liaison thought I should consider not attempting to complete the experience. It was only about three weeks, but I had attendance issues which was unusual for me. I was staying up late to finish the project for the same course that required the clinicals and ended up tardy once and absent once in the first week. I also had too much on the plate that semester and was completing an honors project. The drive was long to the school and it made more sense if you were a few hours behind not to show up because by the time you got there school was over.
Sometimes it is the best students that do not complete clinicals. My one friend was a math education major and a honors student that received an academic scholarship and she ended up not completing clinicals and graduated with a math degree instead of a math education degree. Sometimes the best students are not good with teaching because they do not understand how to explain things differently or what it is like for kids struggling in school or maybe why some students are uninterested. It is not to say everyone that does not complete student teaching or clinicals or struggles with them is a bad student. Teaching is not for everyone, and sometimes it takes students an extra year to complete the process or it is just not a good time or currently working out for them. Sometimes people do fail clinicals and or student teaching because they are strongly disinterested and never show up and never attempt to complete any work, etc. Most people do complete the experience and go on to pass the required exams. Sometimes people go back to school and successfully complete a teaching degree at forty years old and become empathetic, competent, astute, and compassionate teachers. Hope this helps someone.