School of Education students talk impact of K-12 school closures

Monday, March 30, 2020 - 3:13pm

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Design by Taylor Schott

The closure of all K-12 public schools in Michigan has left School of Education students — who were in the middle of their student-teaching or in-classroom internships — using alternative methods to complete these requirements.

Shortly after all K-12 public schools in the state were closed due to the threat of COVID-19 on March 12, the Michigan Department of Education announced that universities can now waive a portion of the required hours if they feel the student has met the expectations of the state and school.

Dean Elizabeth Moje said the School of Education was in constant contact with MDE as the outbreak developed. She said they have written confirmation from MDE that students will be able to receive the certification remotely.

Moje said Education students achieve the set amount of required hours needed for certification prior to student teaching. However, the school has students receive additional hours to be better prepared for their teaching career.

“I'm confident that although we all believe that the best education is direct face-to-face, clinical practice with children, (MDE) will support us as we work to provide the very best alternatives for our interns and student teachers,” Moje said.

In the first year of the two-year School of Education program, students serve as teaching interns two days a week for four to five hours a day. Students complete this internship, which is referred to as their practicum, for two semesters before serving as student-teachers in their final semester before graduating. This certification process is part of the Educator Preparation Program.

Though students will still achieve the  required number of hours, some Education students are concerned that their ability to advance through the program will be impacted as many are trying to achieve both a primary and secondary endorsement. An endorsement area is a specific area, such as English or Chemistry, that teachers are certified to teach. For students receiving an endorsement in two areas, they require additional time to complete the credits.

Education junior Alexa Moore said she was worried about achieving her secondary endorsement in a world language because she cannot travel abroad due to the current restrictions.

Moore said there are very limited offerings for online alternatives during the spring and summer semesters. She said she is worried about graduating on time.

“I think a lot of the world language people are in that same boat where they’re trying to figure out how to complete their endorsement during the summer so then they can be on track for graduation and it just doesn't seem possible,” Moore said.

Moore was in the middle of completing her practicum — the internship that precedes student-teaching — at the second of her three assigned locations before the University moved to online classes. While many student-teachers are still working to create lesson plans and teach their students remotely, the work is different for juniors who are completing their practicum. Moore said her work was based around reading, analyzing articles and writing essays. 

Similarly, Education junior Kayla Chinitz said it is difficult to complete the practicum remotely, as face-to-face interaction with students is the most beneficial way to learn. Currently, Chinitz is writing essays as an alternative method to complete the course.

“One of my assignments was on summative versus formative assignments and writing a 500-word essay on that doesn’t quite feel the same as being in the classroom,” Chinitz said.

Education senior Lauren Robisch, who is student-teaching at Pioneer High School, said while she is sad she will not be able to complete her student-teaching in person, she said she thinks this abrupt change is providing a learning experience in preparing for the unexpected.

“It’s kind of given me a lot of flexibility and thinking about what I need as a first-year teacher and what would happen if I was the one teaching right now in this circumstance,” Robisch said. “I don’t think any of us were ready for (classes) to end, especially the way that ended. But it’s not over. That’s the one thing that I think we all need to recognize and look at.”

Moje echoed Robisch’s statement, noting that while completing practicum and student-teaching online is not ideal, teachers across the country are all in the same situation. She said this is a learning opportunity for Education students to think about their future practice as teachers.

“We believe in the power of face-to-face clinical practice, so this is not our first choice,” Moje said. “But we are doing our very best work to ensure that our interns and student teachers are getting the preparation they need.”

Daily Staff Reporter Alec Cohen can be reached at cohenale@umich.edu