Field Placement 101 for the Aspiring Educator

classroom

By Cecilia Ware — For the newest crop of soon-to-be educators preparing to make the jump to the other side of the classroom (becoming the teacher instead of the student), experience in the field is crucial.

Spending time face-to-face with students in the classroom ensures that we develop and grow into teachers who are not only well-versed in our fields of study, but also in identifying and adapting to the many different needs of the children we teach.

The best way for us to navigate the complexities of identifying these needs and appropriately responding to them before we get into the classroom full-time is not to read about them from a text, but to observe them first hand. This is where Field Placement, a required component to the Education major’s undergraduate career at Marquette, becomes the most valuable tool in the experience box as we prepare ourselves for student teaching and ultimately licensure.

What is Field Placement? Field Placement is the opportunity for Education majors to go out into a school assigned to them in correlation with the level of academia they are pursuing (i.e. Elementary or Secondary) and observe and interact with the seasoned veterans at work, as well as students in their learning environment. Essentially, Field Placement is the practice round before we really get our hands dirty with student teaching.

This fall, I will be completing my second Field Placement experience, for which I will log forty hours of observation, interaction, and assessment in a 6th grade Social Studies class at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Lifelong Learning. I have already been around the block once with my Field Placement I, which I completed last fall at Pius XI High School in a few different classrooms, actually. While I can say it was certainly a learning experience for me, it was mostly an observational experience during which I observed my cooperating teachers more than the students themselves, and identified specific teaching styles, classroom management skills, and assessment practices employed by said teachers to gauge what their students were learning (or not learning). I reviewed their lesson plans and got a feel for a few different teaching styles I could potentially see myself utilizing. It was a solid foundation to begin building the framework of my own teaching goals. This fall, however, I have my reservations.

The two classes for which I am completing Field Placement this semester are EDUC 4217: Teaching Children With Exceptional Needs and EDUC 4037: Literacy in the Content Areas. Needless to say, the material I am expecting to encounter is considerably heavier than lesson planning and creating assessments.

This time around, I will need to be interacting much more closely with the students themselves, many of whom will be exceptional, diverse, or at-risk, while identifying learning and literacy levels and problem-solving skills. I’ll be expected to take on a much more active role in the classroom. Instead of just observing, I’ll be expected to really contribute to the learning experience of these students. My reservations are not so much in the material itself and are not necessarily even reservations, rather a general nervousness about letting these students down, but certainly also a  hopefulness that I will take away from the experience what I am supposed to take away from it and successfully progress toward becoming a good teacher, not just a teacher.

As I prepare for my first week at my new Field Placement assignment, a few questions ricochet like pinballs through my mind: Will I be able to properly perform the duties expected of me? Will I be able to identify and address any literacy deficiencies in the students with exceptional needs? Should I expect any behavioral irregularities from these students? Will I react to any such irregularities appropriately? Will the students take me seriously?

In my next blog, I hope to have answers to many or all of these questions, as I will have begun my journey in Field Placement II. I’ll be keeping you posted on my experiences at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Lifelong Learning, and addressing many of the issues that come up throughout the course of my placement, hopefully to give you some insight to the nature of the content being absorbed by one of the many aspiring educators at Marquette.

Stay tuned!

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