I’m always keen to have a prac student. I find them super useful because it means that I can get on with my own work whilst they teach my classes. I’m joking, obviously. I like having prac students because they help me to think critically about my own practice. I also learn a lot from them – they are in the guts of current edu theory (or should be) and eager to try out new things in the classroom (or should be). The best types of prac students are those who aren’t afraid to take risks. Usually if I have a timid prac student my whole focus during their placement is to make them relax: with the content, their lesson planning and with the kids. I like to remind them that this is the time to make mistakes, to try new things, to have epic failures and unexpected successes.
I have been very fortunate to have an awesome prac student with me for the past month. Having a prac student this late in the year was not something I had planned – in fact, I can happily say that I was ‘head-hunted’ by my prac student, Peter, because he wanted to experience PBL in a high school setting. A public high school setting. How cool is that? I have to admit, it was a really cool time of year for him to observe PBL because three of my classes were at the pointy end of their projects – the production and presentation end. Year 8 were working on creating short films for our annual RockFest, Year 9 were composing fantasy stories in collaboration with a Year 2 class at another school and Year 10 were composing their products for the English Composition Project. There was a LOT happening for Peter to see and be a part of.
The cool thing about having a prac student is that they are another human being in the classroom – this means more knowledge, life experience, opinions and support to contribute to each project. Peter did this and more! His experience as an educator at the Powerhouse Museum was invaluable. He taught my Year 8 students and I about the importance of production management when making a film – you gotta have lists and keep things organised! He reminded us all about the importance of delegation of tasks and the reality of time-frames. His expertise when it comes to editing – especially sounds – was really valued by my students. Just having him there in the room gave a degree of authenticity to their projects. Year 8 managed to produce some great short films because of Peter. But because Peter was there, my students were also happy to discuss what didn’t work (their failures) and why. Their post-project debrief today really demonstrated their learning as well as their appreciation for the process over the perceived quality of the final product.
Having another adult to share the anxiety and stress associated with the end point of a project is absolutely essential to your sanity! I do project-learning as a solo teacher and mostly use this blog and twitter as my outlet when things get all too much. Having Peter there to reassure me, and to kinda share the pain so to speak, helped me survive a week of potential mayhem. I guess the cool thing about prac students is that they kinda have to share the journey with you, otherwise you can just write on their final report that they’re not cut out to be a quality teacher, right? Haha. Peter happily ran crazy errands for me: today he did a round trip of about 50kms to buy a replacement microphone clip just to save me from the wrath of the executive; last week he drove 20km to support the Year 2 teacher I was collaborating with as she tried to use Skype for the first time. He was so patient with me!
I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with prac teachers. I think that we teachers really need to become more willing to open up our doors to training teachers. It’s not enough to demand better teacher training from universities – it is our responsibility as professionals to offer challenging, rich, exciting and memorable learning experiences for preservice teachers. If we don’t, how can we expect them to get into the classroom and be awesome educators willing to take risks and try cool new stuff? So … what are you waiting for? Contact your local uni and tell them you’re keen to get a praccie for next year! I’m sad that I’m losing Peter (I already asked my HT for a personal-Peter to keep for good, lol) but I know that next year I will get the opportunity to meet another pre-service teacher who will be just as keen to shadow my craziness.