Student teachers face new challenges amid pandemic

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Orem Junior High School is one of the many locations where BYU students are completing their student teaching.
(Ashley Irwin)

Challenges in the classroom have arisen for BYU student teachers as they learn to juggle a classroom setting while maintaining distancing guidelines for the safety of students and teachers across Utah Valley.

However, despite current circumstances, student teachers are making the most of their situations and learning all they can to serve their students.

Haley Barton, a student-teacher at Pleasant Grove High School, said throughout her teaching program as an undergraduate, she learned to move away from teaching lectures and that more collaborative task-based and inquiry-based work encourages students to work together and teach each other. However, now students must maintain distance and remain in their seats for possible contact tracing.

“Now it is really hard with physical distancing. I feel like I can’t even have students turn and talk to each other,” Barton said.

Diantha Lemon, a student-teacher at Orem Junior High, said being able to move the students around the classroom can help with group work. However, now teachers are limited in options to move students because they need to track where students sit in case of an outbreak.

Not only is it hard for student teachers to be creative in thinking of new ways to teach concepts, it is hard for them to enforce preventative guidelines for COVID-19. Lemon said the priority guideline for student safety is for them to always be wearing a mask, which the students usually do well with. “Sometimes we have to remind them the mask also needs to cover their nose, not just their mouth.”

Mountain Trails Elementary principal Carl Stubbs said it has been hard for teachers and students to build a connection behind masks. This has created a barrier in the classroom, but teachers and administrators are working to maintain a student-teacher relationship.

Stubbs said the administration is working with student teachers to help them better their teaching skills. “The key for a student-teacher to grow is when we release the student teacher to learn and do, mistakes and all.”

Despite these current circumstances, Barton has used this time as a learning experience. She explained how she is learning to be versatile in her teaching skills.

“We are learning to be adaptable. I am learning what resources are available through technology and what online games and quizzes there are. I feel like I am learning a lot more about what resources are available that wouldn’t have otherwise known,” Barton said.

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