Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Ole Miss Student Teachers Are Overcoming COVID Challenges

Student teacher Kam’Ron Bracey is assigned to Oxford Elementary School for his practicum. Photo courtesy of Bracey.

Education has a much different look this year as the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Mississippi schools have faced outbreaks of unexpected proportions, and that makes things more complicated for those University of Mississippi students who are learning to become teachers themselves.

Education majors at UM must go through a full school year of practice under the supervision of an experienced classroom teacher. The student-teachers assist with lesson planning, problem-solving, and any other challenges that may arise.

Education major and student-teacher Kam’Ron Bracey goes to Oxford Elementary every Monday and Wednesday for his senior practicum.

“I’ve gained a lot of experience as a student and think this prepared me for the real classroom when I graduate,” Bracey said. “Keeping them under control is a challenge, but in a pandemic, it’s pretty difficult. Having to remind them after they do everything to keep their mask on is hard because they want to take it off every time they do something.”

Right now, several school districts counties are reverting back to remote learning. Oxford Middle School and Lafayette High School have all of their students learning remotely right now, but Bracey thinks the elementary school has things under control.

“I feel like the school takes the necessary measures to ensure that we are safe. They have had probably ten coronaviruses in all since we’ve been here and they make sure that they quarantine everybody that’s in contact. I think they’re doing a great job in keeping the cases low.”

Dr. Susan McClelland oversees the student-teacher program at UM. She says there’s a silver lining in this strange environment because these aspiring teachers are able to observe different classroom settings, whether it’s face to face or hybrid-online learning.

“While it’s been a challenge in a lot of ways, I think in the long run it’s going to be a tremendous opportunity for learning how to balance multiple platforms,” McClelland said.

According to McClelland, some of the challenges are particularly unique for those teaching the youngest students.

“One of my students was saying how it was so difficult to keep some of her first graders engaged in class work on Zoom. Sometimes, they’ll pull out their stuffed animals and just be like ‘Do you want to see my bear?’ in the middle of class and that’s a very realistic issue to have with young children stuck in front of the computer all day.”

McClelland says the School of Education has prepared students to return to the classroom for another semester of senior practicum in the spring while continuing to follow the University guidelines in the classroom.

“We have our students social distance, sanitize every surface they touch and sanitize their hands, even if their assigned schools don’t have this in place. We tell them to act like they are still at the university and to follow our protocols.”

Story contributed by School of Journalism & New Media student Amirah Lockhart.