Hello to anyone reading, my name is Ruqayyah, and I am an OISE Student Ambassador. I am in the Master of Teaching program here at OISE, and I am going to take you through what being in the program is like, specifically with respect to practicum.
Practicum at OISE
As a student in the Master of Teaching program at OISE, you will need to complete three practicum placements as part of the program requirements. These practicums are to help you gain experience teaching in a classroom setting and will go towards your certification as a teacher in Ontario.
As an intermediate/senior (I/S) teacher candidate (TC), the goal of my practicum placements is to gain experience working with students at the elementary and secondary level, because my certification allows me to teach Grades 7 through 12. The three practicum placements are spaced throughout the program, where you complete two practicums in your first year, and then one longer practicum in your second year.
My teachables are Health and Physical Education (HPE) and Biology. This means that my practicum placements can be in either subject area, or a combination of both. Right now, I am in my third and final practicum, teaching HPE at a secondary school in Thornhill, a neighbourhood north of Toronto.
So, what does practicum actually look like? Once you find out what school you will be placed at and who your Associate or Mentor Teacher (AT) is going to be, you have a few observation days where you get a feel of the classroom, meet the students, familiarise yourself with the school environment, and meet other teachers and staff there. After that, the number of classes you teach during practicum gradually increases. So if you are at a secondary school, you would start with teaching one class a day, and then move on to two classes per day, ending with teaching all three classes in a day.
Now that you have some background about practicum, I will take you through a day in the life of a practicum student. Please keep in mind that I am at a high school and teaching healthy active living/physical education, so my experience will vary from others, but this is just to give you an idea of what you can expect.
A Day in the Life of Practicum
My practicum school starts at 8:20 am, which means that I aim to get to school between 7:30 am and 7:45 am, that way, I have enough time to prepare in the morning. Usually, the expectation is to get to your school at least 15 minutes before the first bell. Once I get to school, I head over to the Phys Ed. office, because that is where my AT and I are stationed. I have a nice little area where I can store my stuff, like a pair of indoor shoes, tests and assignments I’m marking, extra resources, etc.
Every morning I check in with my AT. For the most part, we go over what I'm going to cover in each class. For me, it is a little bit easier this time around, because I am teaching three Grade 9 Phys Ed classes which all follow the same unit plan, and then I just adjust the plan for the day and modify it for each specific period. Once we've gone over the activities for the day, and for each class, I get set up with any equipment I might need or do any photocopying if we are in health that day. My goal is to get set up before the students even get there, and that usually takes me until about 8:20 am, which is when the morning bell goes.
Our morning class is ready to go at 8:20 am, and since we are doing badminton this week, it involves the setting up of the nets. On the first day of each unit, we teach the students how to safely put up the nets, from that point on, the students are expected to set them up themselves, which counts towards their participation mark, and social skills like leadership, showing initiative, teamwork, etc. Then we go through the class, with various drills, mini games, and a full game if there is time, which lasts about 75 minutes, making sure that we give the last 5-7 minutes for students to change. Then the next bell goes, and the students are off.
Since my school has a five-period day and no common lunch, my second period is my lunch period and my third period is my prep period. I usually try to bring leftovers for lunch and then have about 2.5 hours to myself, which I use to either grade assessments, develop activities or drills for the next day, create homework assignments if needed, or add to my Google classroom.
After my lunch and prep period, the fourth-period bell goes at 1:20 pm, and then we are back in the swing of things. All of my Grade 9 students have the same lunch, so every day my period 4 and 5 classes have a little more energy than my morning class. This just means I have to adapt my lesson, making sure the same content is there but adapted to what students are interested in, their physical abilities, their energy levels, etc. Period 5 is the same as period 4, but just requires the taking down of the nets, which also goes towards their participation marks, showing initiative, leadership, etc.
After all that it's about 3 pm, and then the final bell goes which means that the students get to leave. Then I go back to the Phys Ed office, cleaning up along the way and locking away all the equipment. The last thing that I do at the end of the day, is just go over with my AT what the plans are for the next day, if there are any students who have messaged that they are going to be away, if there are any special events like assemblies, and planning out the course for the rest of the week.
If I need to, I will stay behind for a little bit and just do any final admin work, input participation marks for the day, note down for my own records who was absent, etc., otherwise, I will pack up and usually go home by about 3:30 pm. The expectation for a teacher candidate is to usually stay for at least 15 minutes after the final bell goes. I find that for me the sweet spot is about 30 minutes. That way, I have enough time to debrief what happened that day, go over what worked well and what didn't. I also plan for the next day what I want to work on with my AT, and then adjust my weekly plan based on what I didn't get done, what got done faster than I expected, and what skills I want the students to work on next. And that's about it! That’s a day in the life of a teacher candidate on practicum.
I hope you enjoyed following along, and this helps you picture what your daily life will look like once you are in practicum as well. Good luck to anyone thinking about applying to the Master of Teaching program, and if you have any questions about what the program is like, please do not hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org