Bachelor of Education teacher candidates expected to move to Vancouver — but for infrequent practicums

BC public schools are expected to be open and operating in the fall, meaning bachelor of education students will be back in the classroom completing their practicums.

The catch this year, however, is that fall classes in the program will be online. But students were told by the faculty that they are still expected to be present in or around Vancouver for their practicums, which consist of a two-week stint working in a school and one day per week for the majority of the term’s remainder.

Students in the program are struggling to decide how to move forward, with the expectation of moving to Vancouver for a practicum which may not happen, along with mixed messages from the faculty.

Alex Chow, an incoming secondary teacher candidate in the program, said he’s “not convinced” he’ll be in a classroom in the fall term. He’ll have to move from Ontario to Vancouver for the program if schools are in fact open in the fall.

“I haven’t committed to housing. I haven’t searched for an apartment or anything because I don’t want to pay for 12 months of rent in Vancouver — one of the most expensive cities in the world — and then not have to go there last minute,” Chow said.

In a statement to The Ubyssey, Associate Dean of Teacher Education Dr. Marianne McTavish said the faculty is “working on the assumption that schools will remain open.”

According to McTavish, to meet the standards of teacher certification in BC, secondary teacher candidates must complete a two-week practicum from late October to early November, along with a one-day-a-week observation practicum in November and December. Elementary teacher candidates must do the same, but with their observation practicums occurring between October and December.

But the projected “second wave” of COVID-19 could disrupt this plan. Chow thinks this may again end up closing schools in the fall.

“I’m really counting on staying in Ontario for the fall, but [also] keeping my options open without committing to moving to Vancouver,” Chow said.

Mixed messages

Clinton Birnie, another incoming secondary teacher candidate, has chosen to move to Vancouver in September despite the extra costs and uncertainty.

“I guess I’m being a little optimistic … I’m thinking January to July, the rest of our program will be in person, so I’ll already be settled in Vancouver,” he said. “A lot of people are just waiting almost day by day for new information to find out whether they should move or not.”

Birnie noted that ideally he’d prefer to stay in Kelowna, where he currently resides, to “save thousands of dollars on rent” and complete his practicum at a local high school.

McTavish clarified that this could be an option, but only for those in BC.

“Secondary [teacher candidates] may request a placement elsewhere in BC; we will do our best to accommodate these requests, based on availability of partner schools,” she wrote, adding that elementary teacher candidates did not have that option.

However, an email McTavish sent to Birnie and other secondary teacher candidates did not mention the option of requesting a placement elsewhere, but clearly stated in bold that it is required that students be in the Lower Mainland for the start of practicums.

The email does note that if students have difficulties with this requirement, they can contact the practicum program manager to discuss their options. But Birnie said that the email was “still pretty vague” and continues to have trouble figuring out what the right move for him is.

Despite the mixed messages, Birnie said he’s “thankful that UBC is going forward and not delaying everything by a whole year.”

“This is a really tricky situation and we don’t know what the world’s going to look like a month from now,” he said. “I understand why they asked us to move to Vancouver. But in a perfect world with an online course, we would … just stay where we are, do our practicums where we are and then just [take] our classes through Zoom.”