By Mindy McClellan
Field Experience Placement Specialist, WGU
If you are in the WGU online teachers college, working hard toward getting a degree and becoming a teacher, the light at the end of the tunnel is demonstration teaching. Maybe you can just see it way off in the distance; maybe it’s getting closer and brighter every day. Maybe it’s staring you in the face—and it could even be a little blinding.
Whether you’re just starting your online teaching degree program or your demonstration teaching is just around the corner, it’s smart to be thinking ahead so you’re prepared when the time comes. However, like most students, you probably have some questions about demonstration teaching and what it will involve.
Already signed up for demonstration teaching? Check out our previous post: Making The Most of Demonstration Teaching.
Demonstration teaching is a requirement to help you apply everything that you have been learning into a real classroom setting where you can get a feel for working with students, preparing lesson plans, and what it will be like to be a certified teacher. Here are five things you need to know as you prepare for your demonstration teaching.
- Deadlines: This is one of the first times in your program at WGU when you will run into solid deadlines. Demonstration teaching is done in two cohorts throughout the year: one starting in September and one starting in January. First, there are deadlines for turning in your demonstration teaching application. Your mentor can help you make sure you turn that in on time to get into the cohort that you want. Second, once you are in the cohort you will have three audit deadlines to meet. They specify the number of tasks you may have left to complete, when you will need to have certain tests taken, and when you need to have your PCE completed. These deadlines are on a document called the Timeline. Your mentor can help you find the correct Timeline for your cohort and program in the student handbook. There are also deadlines to have your content exams taken by. You can find all of these deadlines on your Timeline. The point of these audits is to ensure that you are done with your coursework and are prepared to start your student teaching. This really helps enable you to focus on making demonstration teaching an enjoyable and not overly stressful experience.
- The placement process: Getting a demonstration teaching placement is A LOT like job hunting. But lucky for you, you will be assigned a placement specialist, and they will do most of the hard work for you. The best way to think about this process is that the schools and districts are like the employers, who have a few positions open. The placement specialist is like a job placing agency or middle man. They will send your information and resume to the schools and try to get you one of those open positions. However, since the schools and districts are the “employers” they are the ones making the decision on whether or not they can take you. Unfortunately that means that WGU cannot guarantee any kind of placement. However, just like job hunting, the more schools you are willing to go to, the greater chance you will have of getting a student teaching placement.
- How long does the placement process take? Sometimes it can take up to six months to get a demonstration teaching placement. This is not because your placement specialist has forgotten about you. Remember that the schools and districts are the ones making the decisions, and sometimes it takes a very long time for them to work through their process and make that decision. It’s important to remember that they have a lot of things they are doing besides arranging demonstration teaching, and they often have hundreds of requests from many universities coming in. Your placement specialist will keep you updated, but they just can’t force the district to give them a decision within a certain timeframe. Once your placement specialist does have a placement arranged for you, they will send you an email to let you know that initial arrangements will be made. After you pass your final audit you will receive an email listing the full details of your placement such as the host teacher, grade level, clinical supervisor, and all contact information.
- The background check: You must have a current cleared background check to go into any school. Your background check that you did for PCE may not meet all of your state requirements for demonstration teaching. Also, if your background check is set to expire while you are doing demonstration teaching, it won’t meet the requirements. Background checks are valid for different timeframes in different states. Be prepared that you may have to get another background check done. If you do, get it done as soon as possible. Sometimes the results can take months to come back. It would be really unfortunate to have to postpone your demonstration teaching because you were waiting for the background check to come in.
- Demonstration teaching will be FULL TIME: In order to meet the program and licensure requirements you will need to make any arrangements necessary so you can do demonstration teaching full time. This may include taking a leave of absence, quitting your job, arranging for day care, or arranging for transportation. Your placement will be 12 weeks long (unless otherwise required by your state). If you are in a special education placement, your placement will be 16 weeks long. Demonstration teaching must be done in a designated cohort and may not be done in the summer. You will be in a guest in a classroom with a licensed teacher, who will be your host teacher. You will have a clinical supervisor who will come in and do observations of your teaching. The observations from the clinical supervisor and the host teacher will be how you are graded.
I hope this post has helped to clear up a few mysteries about demonstration teaching for you. As you get ready to start this next big step in your program your placement specialist will be happy to answer any other questions for you.