Secondary education field experience is an essential component of every semester of the MS education program. I have also found it to be the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect of the program. My field experiences in a special education classroom have helped me apply the theoretical learnings from class readings and think critically about where and how I can apply them to teaching.
In my opinion, the most important part of the field experience is starting early! At the beginning of every semester, you should carefully review the field observation requirements for each course. The requirements change for every class you take, and the professors are very good at providing detailed information about the required fieldwork in the syllabus.
Managing Class Load
Start brainstorming right away and ask your professors any questions you may have. Make a list of local schools in your area and see if they meet the requirements for your course. After you have narrowed down your schools, begin calling administrators and teachers to set up your observation sessions. Again, remember to start early. All schools and school districts are different, and they have different rules regarding on-site observers. It is important to have several options because not all schools may be able to accommodate you.
If you are taking two classes a semester, finding observation opportunities that meet both requirements may take some juggling. When contacting the school, be polite and professional and explain the program and the nature of the observation requirements. I have found that some school administrators are a little confused by this request at first. However, remember that your request is fairly routine. Framed correctly, your request should not sound like an imposition, but don’t be surprised if some schools politely decline to allow you to observe their classes.
Meeting SJU Requirements
This is why I suggest building a list that includes several possible schools. I have found some teachers and administrators are slow to get back you at first, but do not hesitate to call or email them again as a reminder. Many school staffers are understandably busy, especially at the beginning and ends of their grading periods. It is okay to follow up with them. Most teachers and administrators understand the needs of education students because they were once in the same place. Remember also that because all schools are different, the school may not exactly fit the wording of the requirements described in the syllabus. Talk to the school and to your professor. See if the school supports equivalent programs or whether the professor will allow you to alter the assignment for a unique experience that still meets SJU requirements.
Once you begin your observations, be sure to take diligent notes. Small details you observe in the classroom may prove essential for completing your assignments. Because the field experience assignments can become pieces in your portfolio, try to think of the observations as more than just course work.
Field experience can be a valuable professional experience. Make connections with teachers and administrators. While observing, think about the kind of teacher you want to be. While it may be tempting to complete all of your field experiences in one school, I suggest visiting multiple schools during the course of the program. This variety will expose you to a more diverse group of teachers and students – and better serve you in the long run.