As I come to the end of my last practicum, I am filled with bittersweet emotions.
On one hand, I am so excited to begin this next chapter of my life: I was hired by a local district during my practicum and will begin working after the successful completion of my course next month. On the other hand, I will miss the students with whom I have been working on this practicum. But such is life: we must shut the page on one chapter to open the page of the next.
The practicum experience itself was eye-opening, to say the least. Prior to beginning practicum, my classmates and I were sitting in class five days a week, learning the theories that we would put into practice after the completion of our classes. At times these theories seemed abstract and overwhelming. There were so many developmental theories, behavioural approaches, learning strategies, and exceptionalities to learn about; how would we ever be able to remember all of that information, much less apply it?
Then we took a class with Mark Kerr on Applied Behaviour Analysis. Suddenly, everything clicked. This is how behaviour works. This is why our students (and spouses, and children, and coworkers, and pets, and mothers-in-law) do what they do. Learning about Applied Behaviour Analysis allowed me to plug all of the information which I’d stuffed into my head into a framework from which I would be able to support my students.
When I started my practicum, the usefulness of the theories that I had learned was immediately apparent.
I worked with students who were below the expected developmental stages, whether cognitively or physically, and based on what I’d learned in Life-Span Development, I had an understanding of how to help them through the strategy of scaffolding. My ABA training was quickly put to use, as I worked with a student whose IEP included the DRO strategy (Differential Reinforcement of Other). Other students’ safety plans had specific setting events and antecedents to be cautious of. All of this was directly based on the behavioural model of Applied Behaviour Analysis.
Our course on Observation and Recording was also very useful in the real world, especially when coupled with ABA: when one of the classroom teachers I was working with couldn’t understand why one of her students was constantly distracting his classmates, I was able to objectively observe the student’s behaviour, accurately record it, and use ABA to determine the setting event, the antecedent, the behaviour, and what reinforcement he was receiving that was perpetuating the behaviour.
As I write my final blog post, I feel ready to strike out on my own.
I know that the training I’ve received during my time at Stenberg is practical in the real world, and I am ready to continue learning in the future. I want to be the best education assistant that I can be.