COVID-19 shakes up student teaching placements


Photo credit: Jeremy Stanton

Briana Ryan, News Editor

For some students school was canceled not only once, but twice this year.

Before Marywood announced its closure for the remainder of the semester, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all K-12 schools to close for two weeks. Now that two-week period has turned into an indefinite period, leaving students in Marywood’s education program without field placements.

Senior Early Childhood/Special Education major Sam Haack was preparing to start her second placement of the semester in a seventh-grade learning support math class at Wallenpaupack Middle School. Although she is unable to do her placement, Haack said she is still thinking about her students.

“In each of the schools that I have been working with, there are students that do not have the luxuries that most of us do,” said Haack. “Many students are happy to come to school because they are able to get the care and necessities that they may not get at home.”

While Haack has been thinking about her students, Marywood’s School of Education Director James Sullivan has been working with his students to ensure this situation does not interfere with them achieving the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s (PDE) required competencies.

Both the PDE and School of Education’s requirements for field experience depend on the student’s status in the degree program. The requirements increase as the student moves through the curriculum. Field experience is divided into two categories, pre-student teaching and student teaching.

“In both of these categories, the program’s field experience requirements are set to ensure that our students are successful in their careers and that the students they teach receive outstanding instruction,” said Sullivan.

While Marywood follows the PDE’s required competencies for pre-student teaching, the university requires students to complete 15 weeks of student teaching each semester, three weeks more than the state mandated 12 weeks.

“Our requirement is a bit higher for the benefits of the experience to our students, but also to accommodate any issues a student might encounter during the semester, such as falling ill,” said Sullivan.

Due to the closure of all Pennsylvania schools K-12, the education program has lowered the field placement requirement to the minimum 12 weeks. However, Sullivan said this may change as the PDE continues to evaluate the situation.

In a statement posted on the PDE’s website the department said they are working to adjust the requirement as the situation evolves.

“The Wolf Administration is committed to working with the General Assembly to enact legislation that will provide the Secretary with authority to adjust field experience and other requirements impacted by school or educator preparation program closures resulting from COVID-19 response efforts,” according to a statement from the PDE.

While Sullivan and other educators work to adjust their classes for an online format, Haack said she sympathizes with what they are going through.

“Most of teaching is reading your audience, if they cannot see their students, there is no way of them knowing if their instruction is working,” said Haack. “Teachers are doing everything they can right now to ensure that their students are not falling behind during this difficult time.”

Haack also said she has noticed an increase in appreciation for educators via social media posts since schools have been out of session.

“Let me tell you, from the reactions I have seen on social media and by knowing what it is like to teach children, these parents had no idea what goes into being a teacher,” said Haack. “For many parents, they are now realizing that it is not easy to keep their children entertained all day while also teaching them academics so that they do not fall behind.”

According to Senior Secondary Education and English major Shea Olszewski, another reason why parents and guardians may be starting to sympathize with teachers is because they are now they are responsible for the continuation of their children’s education.

“As parents are forced to home school their children right now, this could be their first taste of what it is like to get a child to willingly sit in a chair and remain focused,” said Olszewski. “I’m sure some parents are struggling and they only have their children, let alone a full class of students.”

Olszewski said even though some parents and guardians may not have a background in education, it is still possible for them to continue their children’s education. According to Olszewski, the best way parents and guardians can remotely educate their children is by working in short blocks.

“Children are known to have an eight minute attention span, which is why teachers often try to transition topics and activities frequently,” said Olszewski. “If children know that they only have to sit at the computer for a specified duration of time before a break, they will be much more enticed to get work done.”

As students, parents and educators continue to navigate through this situation, Haack said the circumstances have solidified her belief in the importance of education and the people who provide it.

“I am hoping that through this, people will have a new appreciation for teachers. It is by no means an easy or glamorous job; however, we do it because we love it and want to see our students succeed and go on to do great things,” said Haack. “Teachers are the foundation of every person in the world, and that is a big responsibility that we are willing and excited to take.”

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Twitter: @BrianaRyanTWW