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Education Majors Testing Skills

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December 17, 2015

UMD Education Student Maranda Berndt

"Sometimes when we learn about new things to teach I think, how am I ever going to be able to teach this to a student?, and then finding out ways that I can. It’s challenging, yet rewarding," said UMD education student Maranda Berndt.

During the home stretch of fall semester, students of Assistant Professor Burke Scarbrough’s Teaching Language, Cognition, and Writing class had the opportunity to visit a Duluth school classroom and get a taste of what being a teacher looks and feels like. A majority of the class will be entering the first of three teaching blocks for the Teaching Communication and Literature Arts major, and getting some pre-official classroom time might have been just what they needed. Implementing the project was fairly simple; Scarbrough connected his students with a middle or high school teacher willing to let the students in on the class for a few days to teach a writing lesson, and one group was even able to help carry out plans for an online classroom.

Students were allotted three weeks to plan and execute their lessons in the classroom. The details about their experience were to be documented and included in their final projects. Students of Scarbrough's class approached the assignment with no prior experience making lesson plans; they expressed their uneasiness about how unfamiliar the whole process was.

Nick Vang, a junior double majoring in Teaching Communication and Arts and English explained that, "You need to make sure that you can find things to teach kids that’ll adhere to Common Core State Standards while also trying to keep the lesson engaging and fun for your students. You also have to find tangible ways to measure a student’s learning, which is extremely tough to do because sometimes tests, quizzes, and worksheets don’t accurately measure a student’s understanding of the topic that you’re trying to teach."

Getting UMD education students to practice these skills before being assigned to a classroom for a practicum is a very rewarding experience. It gives students a chance to explore and apply what they already know and recognize what they still need to learn. In a way, it allows them to get some of the wrinkles out.

Vang was placed in a sixth grade classroom at Marshall School; he said, “It was really cool to have been allowed to have that much freedom in what I taught. It made me feel like a real teacher. Up until this point, I haven’t worked with students in any grades lower than seventh in an academic setting, so this was a real treat. I absolutely loved the energy and excitement that they all brought to the table.” 

Maranda Berndt, a junior majoring in Teaching Communication and Literature Arts, worked with a teacher that is an instructor for online classes. Berndt explained, “Online school isn’t impossible to teach. In fact, it’s kind of fun. You get to teach kids in a different way than is usual, and even though there are some barriers, it’s a great time!” 

Technology is changing and it is sometimes hard for even college students to keep up with it. Students in middle and high school are now utilizing the technology of iPads, an opportunity that most students that are in college now just missed after graduating from high school. There are different modes of teaching, and some more intimidating than others. Berndt comments, "Sometimes when we learn about new things to teach I think, how am I ever going to be able to teach this to a student?, and then finding out ways that I can. It’s challenging, yet rewarding."

This short time in the classroom offered students the opportunity to reflect and prepare for what is to come as they enter their major next semester. Prospective teachers in action within local classrooms is just the beginning; the real change will come when "I can teach kids how to effectively communicate with those around them, as well as teach them how to become better readers. I think that they could go extremely far" said Vang.

For more information on education majors offered at UMD, visit the Department of Education Homepage.