Online learning changes practicum formats as pandemic affects students and schools

Justin Zabel, Staff Reporter

Imagine being a senior in college, knowing some are supposed to graduate in a few months. Having to get their practicums, student teaching and internship done, but can’t because they’re in the middle of a pandemic. Knowing the time is ticking down, stressful hours behind a computer, and then that ticking clock has come to a halt. How are these seniors supposed to start their future careers if the clock has just halted to a pause. 

Many CWU students are trying to finish their course work and get their practicums, student teaching and internships done to graduate. However, many of these students are falling behind with elementary schools doing mostly online learning. 

Keleie Haugen, a junior majoring in elementary education, is in her second practicum of three, which is when she would typically be student teaching. 

Practicums are supposed to be in person, but now her assignments are all online. She said that since she hasn’t been in a school, it is hard to kind of say how the practicum goes.

“Some of my teachers say if I have experience somewhere else or spending time with elementary kids in a different setting, I can log those hours and those can count as my hours and I can get out of those assignments that would make up for the hours,” said Haugen. 

The process is usually spending time in a school, starting as a playground supervisor for a quarter, then spending time in the classroom setting and helping out the teacher by running different stations. Since COVID-19 set her back, she has not gotten to spend much time in the schools. 

“If I was in person it would be different,” Haugen said. “But the classroom experience, watching what the teacher does, you would learn more than just from a course.” 

Even though Haugen is missing out on the in-person practice at an elementary school, she still is able to get some experience under her belt from her job outside of class. 

“One thing that is really nice is I’ve been able to work at the CWU Early Childhood Learning Center, so that is helping me get some hours,” Haugen said. “It is giving me the experience, which is nice. And I am working with kids ages two to eight there, so that is very helpful, but I wish we could actually be in an elementary school right now.”

Alayna Schuchmann, a junior majoring in elementary education, is another student that is having her practicum put on pause. She said she is taking 18 credits this quarter to keep her busy and on track, however, she is not able to be in an elementary class due to state and local school protocols. This makes it harder for her to learn the process of what it will be like for her when she is student teaching full time, she said.

“I learn better in class, but my second best option is over Zoom. I don’t do well when it’s no communication with the professors at all,” said Schuchmann. 

Schuchmann is in her first practicum, where she would have been placed into an elementary class and started logging hours.

“I haven’t had any time technically in the classroom, the most we have been able to do is do a teacher interview online over Zoom,” Schuchmann said. “That’s about as far as we have gotten. I don’t know what the plan for teachers is right now for practicums goes, because they are not letting us in the classrooms.”

Schuchmann said CWU is preparing her the best they can despite being in the middle of the pandemic. 

“Under all the circumstances, I am pretty prepared. I wished that obviously there was no COVID-19, but I mean if I have to student teach online, I guess it is what it is,” Schuchmann said. 

Jessica Olivera-Barragan, a senior majoring in elementary education, is in the process of finishing up her student teaching program at Karshner Elementary School in Puyallup. The program she was put into is a dual language program for Kindergarteners. The dual language class is taught 80% in Spanish and 20% in English. 

Olivera-Barragan started her student teaching at the beginning of winter quarter when the school was mainly online. After two weeks, it became an A/B hybrid schedule, eventually becoming fully in person. The school had it set up that student teachers would start out by having five students twice a week, and another five students would go the opposite days, twice a week. Olivera-Barragan explained what her schedule looks like for her final quarter here at CWU.

“For the first five weeks, I’m mostly observing the teacher, and helping around the students. I just started this week, on teaching a subject, so I did teaching literacy. Next week I will be teaching math,” Olivera-Barragan said. “And then the week after, I will be taking over the classroom, so pretty much teaching the classroom all day, until the end of the quarter on my own with the support of the class cooperating teacher.”

Olivera-Barragan felt her cooperating teacher at Karshner Elementary School has prepared her well to teach on her own. The teacher has slowly been easing her into each subject, so when she begins teaching on her own, she could properly educate the students she is teaching.