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Saint Mary’s education students reflect on fieldwork

| Friday, September 17, 2021

All Saint Mary’s students majoring in education are required to work in local schools to complete their fieldwork — around 700 total hours — before they graduate from the College and enter the workforce.

Typically, fieldwork begins for education majors during their very first class in the department. In the education department’s introductory course, students are placed in a school for 30 hours over the course of the semester.

“We often get students who have always dreamed of being a teacher,” associate professor of education Terri Suico said. “They sometimes have an image in their mind of what being a teacher is like, and it’s informed by them being a student in a classroom. We want them to start shifting their mindset and looking at being in a classroom from a professional standpoint.” 

Currently, the education department at Saint Mary’s has every student that has declared the major participating in fieldwork in some capacity. 

Students’ fieldwork placements vary depending on their goals and availability within the local schools. In addition, students’ placements change each semester. 

“We make sure that they have a variety of different field experiences,” Suico said. “We put them in a variety of school districts or school corporations as well as different grade levels. This semester, for instance, we have quite a few students in the South Bend Community School Corporation. Those schools range anywhere from Madison STEAM Academy to Clay High School. We also have them in Mishawaka public schools, and some students in Penn-Harris-Madison schools, which tend to be more suburban in nature. We also have students in the Catholic schools.”

Senior Alexia Flores is currently at Beiger Elementary School in Mishawaka, Indiana. In past semesters, she has worked with students at Kennedy Primary Academy and Walt Disney Elementary in various grade levels.

“Fieldwork has helped me to realize that every kid is different,” Flores said. “Nothing can really prepare you for being in a classroom besides just being in one.” 

Flores says she was initially hesitant when she found out that she would be working in a kindergarten classroom. Before this year, she hadn’t worked with students below the third-grade level. 

“In kindergarten, students are a little more dependent and need more guidance. I wasn’t really wanting to work in that environment, but I love it now. I’m happy that this is my senior year field experience because I think it’ll be a good experience for me to have before next year when I’m a first-year teacher,” Flores said.

Senior Niamh Brophy has completed fieldwork at Walt Disney Elementary, and Clay High School. Currently, she is working with students at Beiger Elementary School in Mishawaka. 

“Before I did fieldwork, I didn’t realize how many different ways there were to manage a classroom. Now that I’ve been with different teachers, I can see that teachers are different in the way that they base their instruction,” Brophy said.

The high amount of fieldwork at Saint Mary’s is unique to the College. At many other schools, Suico said, there is limited fieldwork prior to student teaching during their senior year.

“We definitely do more than the norm,” she said.

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About Veronica Navarro

Veronica Navarro is a junior at Notre Dame from South Bend, IN currently serving as The Observer's Social Media Editor. Navarro is also a member of the Notre Dame Mock Trial team and a resident of Flaherty Hall.

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