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'We're getting creative' | What training future teachers looks like during a pandemic

University of Tennessee clinical professor Elizabeth MacTavish said all of her students have been placed in an internship for next semester.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It is no secret this school year will be unlike any other. University of Tennessee clinical assistant professor Elizabeth MacTavish said college students will feel that change, too. 

"We've even changed the way we present assignments or requirements to students," she said. 

But she is specifically talking about students training to lead their own teachers one day. She works in the College of Education's Department of Theory & Practice in Teacher Education.

"We are thinking about how can we design our assignments to be fit for what they can potentially be doing," MacTavish said. 

This month her team placed a number of teacher candidates in Knox County Schools.

"I think on average we can 100 interns in the field and my particular group has placed 13," she said.

But prepping them for the classroom means asking them to think outside the box.

"We have really had to redesign the assignments we want students to do, thinking about okay what is this going to look like for them in the classroom," she said. 

However that thought process won't just start in the fall. MacTavish said her summer classes are learning how to record lessons online and each and every teacher candidate is Google certified.

"We build a really strong set of tech skills that they can use in the classroom," she said. 

They are also learning how to spread their lessons across different platforms, to make sure they can reach everyone.

"We're gonna have some students who's parents don't feel comfortable sending them back to school this fall," she said. "We have to reach those students and make sure they are learning what the others are learning inside the classroom."

Though there is still a lot of uncertainty, MacTavish doesn't want aspiring teachers to give up.

"I would encourage people not to be scared of going into teaching just because it looks a little different," she said. 

Though the curriculum may be changing she said her goal for her students remains the same.

"We're all walking the same path and we all have the same goals and I think we all need to see that," she said. 

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