How do I complete student teaching while part of an online early childhood education degree program? This is a question you will want to ask before attending any school where a practicum is a requirement. Because education is changing at a rapid pace, the needs for teachers is also changing; distance-education programs make it easier for passionate students to become professional teachers. Here's how to fit in student teaching with your education.
Determine if the Degree is Licensure or Non-Licensure
Virtual degrees are similar to traditional degrees in that some come from accredited schools and some don't; this is something that you should be aware of, especially if you're going to school to become a teacher. Accredited schools are more likely to have licensure programs for teachers than non-accredited schools, leading to a career path in which you can work in public schools in your state. If you earn a degree from an accredited school with a pathway towards licensure, you will most definitely have to take on a practicum of at least 90 hours in order to graduate. Other online degrees that don't offer licensure will grant you a degree, but not licensure, which is required in most states for teachers.
Learn about Program Requirements Prior to Enrolling
Once you know whether or not the program you have chosen is accredited and leads to licensure, it's time to take a look at the program requirements. Each school lists degree requirements on the degree page of their website, so it should be easy to find. This work experience often comes up listed as practicum and can be anywhere from 60 – 100 hours of real-world teaching experience in a classroom. If the program you've selected requires this, you will not be able to graduate without satisfying these requirements. Rarely, if ever, do department heads waive this requirement, especially for teachers, who need the experience in order to become professionals.
Take into Consideration Your Work Obligations
If you work full-time and are studying when you have the chance, a practicum may cause a problem for you. These are unpaid work experiences that often call for you to be in the classroom two or three days a week for the entirety of at least one traditional semester term. It can be stressful to manage a full-time job, studying, and a practicum, but take solace in the fact that the practicum is often done in the last year of a degree, so plan accordingly. You may find that you can work full-time during most of your degree and then do part-time work while completing the practicum. Because it will be at the end of your degree, you will already need to be searching for a job as a teacher, and the work experience can help you learn about job openings.
Talk to Your Advisor About Opportunities
If you do have a practicum, your advisor will most likely have a network of school districts in your area that will fit the requirements for that experience. They will also advise you on what experience is best, what you can expect, and how you will be graded on your experience.
Find a School for in Your Area
If your advisor doesn't have a school lined up for you, then it might be up to you to call up local school districts in your area and inquire; public schools are always looking for student teachers, so it shouldn't be difficult to find one. If you do find a school, contact your department head and advisor to ensure that it's a good fit for your degree. If it is, make the arrangements to begin as soon as you're available.
Now that you're aware of the practicum process for virtual students, you're more prepared for the challenges that lie before you. You can also put to rest that lingering question, how do I complete student teaching while part of an online early childhood education degree program?