Student teachers face new challenges as they re-enter the classroom

After missing out on a year of in-person student teaching, are these future educators prepared to enter the classroom?

Campus International School is one site for student teaching placements. Photo by Connor Mahon

Virtual learning was an experience many would call unproductive. Within only a few months of 2020, there were over 1000 cases of no-shows for online learning across Cleveland schools, and a more than doubling of their absentee rate. Mental drain from a full day of class on a computer screen may be to blame, but students aren’t the only ones feeling the pressure.

Students studying Education at Cleveland State University had to take on the role of both student and teacher, as well as the challenges of both. At CSU, the CSUteach Program prepares students to teach children in a variety of age ranges and subject specializations. Students enroll in both fieldwork and required courses designed to prepare the student teachers for the real world.

This field work is a prioirty from day one. “From their first semester, students are engaged in teaching grades K-12 or 7-12,” the CSUteach website reads, “Candidates will participate in a course of study with over 630 hours of clinical experience. CSUteach partners with urban classrooms within the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and the greater Cleveland area.”

With a year of reformatting the way schools teach, many students have shared their concern of feeling behind. The Cauldron spoke with a few students about adjusting back into their education based classes. Mal Pagano, a student studying English for secondary grades, shared his frustration.

“The biggest failure I noticed over COVID was when professors attempted to wholesale replicate their classrooms online,” Pagano said, “But really, I don’t think students suffered as much from that difference as they do from the institutional neglect and bureaucracy rampant in our outdated systems of education.”

Although lacking a year of in-class fieldwork, Cleveland State’s Department of Teacher Education saw success this year. Its Title II Exam passage rate grew significantly compared to previous years, according to the 2020 Educator Preparation Performance Report Data.

Mason Repas, a student majoring in English and minoring in theatre, also still found success despite the lack of student teaching. For her, the online field work experience was a glass half full experience, although it still led her to feel behind. 

“My professors and advisors have been supportive through it all, and I am thankful that I was given the chance to complete the virtual field work I did during these trying times. My online field experiences taught me a great deal about classroom management and engaging students in the virtual space,” Repas said.

Education is constantly evolving, and its teachers must keep up. By presenting the same information in new ways permitted by the online spaces, we saw a glimpse of this evolution in real time.

Although anxious, Repas ends with hope. “I worry the pandemic has caused me to fall behind the, “typical” education student, but I understand it has not been a “typical” few years. I am looking forward to spring semester, when I am supposed to reenter the field, with hope that my peers and I will be able to safely experience teaching in person, in its entirety.”

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