How school closures are affecting future teachers

April 7, 2020

 Colorado colleges have moved to remote learning and K-12 schools have closed until the end of April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

     These changes have caused uncertainty for students. Many are wondering how this will impact instruction or degrees, especially when the curriculum is intimately connected to the public school system—as is the case with the College of Education program.

     To obtain a state license for teaching, UCCS students in the College of Education are required to student-teach for one year.

      Before students can begin this student teaching process, they must spend a total of 90 hours observing the school classroom environment over a period of two years. This leaves many students in the College of Education wondering how they will get these necessary contact hours when all K-12 schools are closed for in-person instruction until the end of April.

     Timothy Callahan is an instructor for the Early School Diversity Practicum course, which requires students to observe public school classrooms. Callahan sent out an email shortly after the campus transitioned to remote learning, offering his students alternative ways to obtain classroom hours.

     Rather than observing in a classroom, students in Callahan’s class are required to watch school related documentaries and write reports on them.

     The course and the required classroom hours are specially designed to help UCCS students determine if teaching is the best option for them.

     “Can live field experiences ever be replaced? I hope not, as our students learn so much from students and teachers in our local classrooms,” said Callahan.

     He explained that students from past years have approached him, telling him how important this class was for them. It helped some students decide if teaching was the right path for them or not.

     “I am hoping this semester’s switch to viewing teacher-genre movies and writing reviews provides students some of the same ‘career a-ha’s’ I have experienced by viewing teacher-genre movies.” A few movies now in the curriculum include “Waiting for Superman” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”

     This virtual alternative is in place for students needing observation hours, but the course of action has been different for those already completing their year of teaching.

     Monica Yoo, associate professor in the College of Education, explains that the plans for student teaching have not officially been decided yet, as there is still uncertainty surrounding the rest of the school year and changes are happening rapidly.

     “Luckily, we require more hours than are necessary for certification in the state of Colorado,” said Yoo. “Most of our students already have their needed hours, but we’ll need to get creative for the other elements of their certification if schools don’t go back in April.”

     Yoo shared that the College of Education met on March 20 to discuss their response to the effects of COVID-19 and the shift to remote learning for UCCS.

     As of the writing of this article, the College of Education does not have official plans to alter the curriculum. They remain hopeful that K-12 schools will return to an in-class setting next month so UCCS education majors can resume their practical coursework. Regardless, they are determined to make sure that students in their professional year can graduate in May.