HOD interns and student teachers Zoom to graduation

Students whose internships and student-teaching positions were disrupted by COVID-19 are still able to graduate on time and receive full credit.

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Jessica M. Barker, Deputy News Editor

Student teachers and HOD Capstone students will still receive credit for their student-teaching positions and internships, even though COVID-19 responses cut in-person experiences short. 

Peabody College has received positive feedback from students and faculty regarding online transitions, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Catherine Loss and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Anita Wager said in an email to The Hustler. 

HOD Internships

For HOD students completing their Capstone internships this semester, all will be able to receive full credit, per Wager and Loss. The Capstone internship is a graduation requirement for HOD majors consisting of coursework and culminating in an internship. The associate deans added that students worked with their employer to accommodate all requirements for the program.

Junior Dailey Nichols was a Wealth Management Intern at UBS for her Capstone internship. Nichols had already been working remotely before the week of March 9 when Vanderbilt transitioned to online classes. After the announcement, Nichols successfully completed her internship online April 15. She appreciated both her employer’s understanding of her changing situation and Peabody faculty’s commitment to keeping students updated.

“I think it’s been an interesting learning experience,” Nichols said. “The faculty is figuring it out as they go just as much as we are, which is very comforting.”

Nichols and other HOD Capstone students had worked with organizations located in places like Nashville, D.C., New York City, Boca Raton, FL and other international locations. Every site was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most students moved to an online format, but there were a few students unable to complete their internships online. Wager and Loss said that these students were still able to work remotely and keep the major Capstone components even in their remote format.

“For the handful of students not able to move to an online format with their site, the student still finished their projects by building on the experiences and data gathering processes established prior to social distancing policies, under the supervision of their capstone Instructor,” Wager and Loss said.

Capstone students, including Nichols, were supposed to present their Capstone projects, a graduation requirement for HOD students involving coursework and culminating in an internship,  in the Wyatt Rotunda April 17 for their Spring Presentation Day. Instead, the student cohorts created PowerPoints to present in Zoom meetings for faculty advisors and other Capstone students.

Student Teaching

Student teachers in Peabody’s education programs were unable to complete their time in Pre-K-12 classrooms. Wagner and Loss said that faculty members have provided support as well as a variety of extended learning opportunities for these students. 

 “Although students were not able to complete the full semester of student teaching, this will not interrupt their ability to receive certification or graduate,” Wager and Loss said.

Some of the various learning experiences brought in to supplement student learning included bringing in experts and having a parent of children with disabilities speak to special education student teachers.

Like their HOD peers, students in the secondary education program were supposed to present inquiry projects looking into specific aspects of their teaching styles. Virtual presentations took place instead on April 14 with teachers, principals and family invited to watch.

“I think it was almost more intimate than the original plan,” senior Jessica Maruri said, who participated in the Peabody secondary education program. “That kind of took some of the pressure off but also made it much more worthwhile.” 

Maruri said that student teachers started to see changes during edTPA week, a week when student teachers are supposed to submit videos of themselves teaching then analyze your work to submit for an objective national assessment. Student teachers already had required daily half-hour advising sessions with mentor teachers, but mentors reacted to changes by allowing students to stay longer and ask questions about changes within their own school districts as in-person classes were cancelled. 

Maruri also said that the administration was supportive and forthcoming about what was happening within the Metro Nashville school district where she taught. In place of working with her students face to face, Maruri sends home packets and paper assignments because Metro Nashville cannot enforce online learning due to unequal technology access within the district. She added that she believes that her district will use the COVID-19 outbreak as a learning opportunity so that they can be more prepared for crises going forward.

“In the early childhood and elementary education program students meet weekly with their University Mentor to discuss best practices and implications for their own work as new teachers,” Wager and Loss said in an email to The Hustler.

Peabody As a Whole

Wager and Loss report both success stories and challenges from Peabody faculty as they adjust to balancing home and work life while also using Zoom tools like breakout rooms and polling in their digital classrooms. Peabody faculty members with expertise in remote teaching developed a support team for their colleagues, conducting Zoom drop-in office hours to assist in the transition. Faculty also utilized VUIT, Center for Teaching and library staff resources to move online.

In phone calls and town halls conducted by Peabody staff and graduate students, undergraduates reported both feelings of uncertainty and gratitude for the time that faculty take to check in on them, Wagner and Loss said in their email. Wager and Loss also said that the greatest challenge comes in the fact that students miss sharing in experiences with their peers and with their teachers, but are inspired by students’ flexibility.

“The kindness and resilience of Peabody students and faculty is inspiring.” Wager and Loss said. “Studying how people teach and learn is at the heart of what Peabody does as a college and is also the focus of many of our students in various organizational settings. For all of the negative aspects of our current pandemic, it has also been an opportunity to put theory into practice.This is a new environment for all of us, but Peabody people have been better prepared than many.”