Completing Field Experience Hours While Working Full Time

Most teacher licensure master’s programs require students to complete field experience hours. During this time, students are expected to observe experienced teachers in the classroom and practice implementing lessons on their own. Depending on the course, you could be required to do 10 to 25 hours of field experience. For career changers who are working full time in a different industry, it can be difficult to find time to get away from work and into the classroom.

Subject-specific field experience hours

Field experience hours can be particularly challenging because they are often subject-specific. For example, if you’re taking a methods course related to math, you need to spend your field experience hours observing and teaching math lessons. If your course is about teaching students with special needs, your field experience hours most likely need to take place in a special education classroom.

Get a head start

Often, students are tasked with reaching out to possible field experience placement schools on their own. Because some course assignments might be based on your classroom observations, many teacher licensure programs require students to finish their hours while they’re enrolled in that course.

To prevent having to do all my field experience hours during the last week of a course, I would often reach out to the instructor before class began to find out the requirements. Then, I could contact principals early and be matched up with a teacher to work with so I wasn’t stressing over where I would complete my hours when the course started.

Take advantage of your lunch break

During my last year in publishing, I had the luxury of hour-long lunch breaks. After doing some research, I located an elementary school within five minutes of my work and was able to complete my field experience there.

After factoring in the time it took to get to and from the school, I was left with about 45 minutes a day I could devote to the classroom. This ended up being the perfect amount of time because most of the lessons I observed or taught were about 40 minutes in length.

Completing my field experience requirements ended up taking longer than it would have if I observed and taught for larger chunks of time, but it was nice to get into the classroom multiple times a week. It was a good reminder of my ultimate goals, and it was nice to see the students evolve over a longer period of time.

Save up those vacation days

When all else fails, the best way to complete your field experience is to take time off from work. If you’re able to take half-days, I found it was best to take mornings off instead of the afternoon. Most school days typically end by about 3 p.m., so if you take the entire afternoon off, you’ll only be able to observe or teach for a couple of  hours.

For field experience that isn’t subject-specific, I really enjoyed being able to spend the entire day in the classroom. You get a better idea of what a typical day in the life of a teacher is, and you can develop a stronger connection with the students. And, while people tend to prefer using vacation days for real vacations, I was so happy to be doing what I loved that I didn’t mind using the time.

Lisandra I. Flynn spent 2012 to 2014 working toward a master’s degree in elementary education while working full time as an editor. After seven years in publishing, she recently transitioned from corporate life to student teach fifth grade in an elementary school. Flynn shares her journey from the office to the classroom and offers insight and advice to those seeking their own career change.