TASC Practicum Experience at Jennie Elliot Elementary School
Sandra Grenier is a fourth-year student in the Bachelor of Elementary Education program. For her final practicum, Sandra experienced a TASC classroom at Jennie Elliot Elementary School. TASC stands for teaching of attitude, social skills and communication. Read more about Sandra's experience below, and please visit this link for more information on Jennie Elliot's TASC program.
1. How has working in a TASC classroom for your final practicum placement contributed to shaping your professional identity?
Working in a TASC class this semester has been the most unique and special experience of my university career so far. The TASC (Teaching of Attitude, Social Skills and Communication) class is made up of 6 students with moderate to severe cognitive/developmental disabilities. In terms of professional identity, I have found that my passion really does lie in special education, and I feel very grateful to find a role that is so rewarding and enjoyable. I am a firm believer in being a constant learner - even as a teacher. Taking on the TASC class this semester and knowing I had so much to learn about student needs was a challenge, but deeply worthwhile. I feel so fortunate to work with a group of such special students - they have taught me so much and I have experienced so much joy in our time together, even if they can’t communicate in a conventional way.
2. What were your initial thoughts when you found out your placement?
I was always interested in special education, as I have worked in that field through part-time work. However, I did feel anxiety entering the TASC class - I had never worked with non-verbal students before and felt overwhelmed. There was a moment after the first couple of weeks where I felt like it was going to be too much for me to grasp the routine of visual schedules, assessment and their daily routine. However, I have been so fortunate to have an incredible support system of MRU faculty, the principal, EA’s and my mentor teacher. My mentor has demonstrated her strengths regarding lesson planning, classroom routine and patience/kindness when working with complex needs. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with her. As the weeks progressed, I found myself more comfortable in my role and deeply connected to all my students. I found myself excited to go to practicum every morning in a way I had not experienced before.
3. Can you give one example of a breakthrough moment this semester?
A breakthrough moment I had was a few weeks after beginning. I found my nerves had begun to fade and I was already very attached to my students and classroom. I had the opportunity to teach an integrative Grade 2/TASC class lesson for the Exploring Liquids (Grade 2 Science) unit. Seeing how the Grade 2 students worked alongside our TASC class was such a great moment for me - seeing firsthand how integration is really possible even in such a complex needs environment. The students are so understanding and open to working with one another, and the TASC students deserve to be included in the school environment.
4. Has this placement made you feel more prepared for your future teaching career?
As my placement comes to an end, I feel prepared for any new opportunity that lies ahead in my teaching career. This semester has taught me so much about communication, patience, and the value of having support, especially as a new teacher. I feel very fortunate to have spent time in the TASC class, and I will miss them greatly. It has only furthered my love for special education and I plan to continue my career in that field. I feel confident about taking on new challenges as a teacher and continuing to learn for the sake of my students. I believe every child has a right to learn regardless of disabilities, and should be treated with respect and understanding.
5. How would you define the word 'resilience' regarding your practicum and field experiences?
Resilience is something I had to grow in during this final semester. As the weeks went on, I knew that I had to allow myself to make mistakes, while still pushing forward. I would encourage any student going through practicum to take a chance and challenge themselves - it can feel at moments like an impossible task, but there is so much value in these learning opportunities, especially when working alongside a mentor who is supportive and knowledgeable. Special Education can seem like a daunting task to those who have had little exposure, but I hope all students can take the time to even observe what it is like in these classrooms. It may appear intimidating or complex, but the focus is the same as any classroom: the well-being, learning and happiness of the students.