So, you’re going to be a student teacher? You are undoubtedly excited, nervous, happy, scared, and above all else, you are just ready to jump in and start teaching! You have prepared your whole college career for this special time… So now what? As veteran teachers, we’ve seen some good student teachers, some great student teachers, and some really tragic student teachers too! So, here at Teacher Sweepers, we’ve assembled an exceptional panel of veteran teachers to help you through this exciting time. We’ve created this unofficial list to help you impress all of those who matter during this extremely critical trial period of your upcoming teaching career. Without further ado, here are the do’s and don’ts of student teaching:
Do make sure you are a good fit with your supervising teacher before you even agree to a placement. If you and your potential supervising teacher have totally different personalities or you sense you might not be a good fit, go with your gut feeling and see if there are other options available. You will be spending a lot of time with this person, so it will be wise to make sure you can work productively and cohesively together for the duration of your student teaching. Also, be aware that sometimes a teacher may turn you down as a potential student teacher if he/she feels it won’t be a good fit. One panel member here at Teacher Sweepers actually turned down a potential student teacher because he knew it would not be a good fit when the potential student teacher asked if she would need to do her own lesson planning. Yikes!
Don’t come into the classroom ill-prepared. You’ve been in college for years now learning about lesson planning, educational pedagogy, and all of the latest and greatest instructional practices. Now is your time to shine! Bust out some of those spiffy new lesson plans you’ve worked so hard on all of these years and impress your supervising teacher and your students. As veteran teachers in the classroom, we love to see your new ideas, and we may even incorporate your ideas into our own lesson plans next year (with your permission, of course). As a student teacher, you have the potential to breathe a little bit of new life into our classrooms, and we appreciate you for that!
Don’t rely on your supervising teacher for lesson plans and materials. Remember, you are practicing for the real world of teaching. In the real world of teaching, you have to come up with your own lesson plans and you have to figure out how to best implement those plans. Your supervising teacher can be a great resource for you, but you should really be prepared to create and implement your own lesson plans instead of just regurgitating your supervising teacher’s plans. Your student teaching experience will be much more realistic (and rewarding) if you rely on your own lesson plans and materials. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the curriculum as soon as you can so you are knowledgeable about what you will be teaching. Never ever just try to “wing it” when it comes to lesson planning and prepping for your classes. It is always better to be over prepared than it is to be under prepared. It’s okay to have too much planned for one class period, but you never want to have too little planned. You can always save something for the next day if you overestimated how far you will get in a lesson, but if you don’t have enough prepared, students can and will go wild during an extra five to ten minutes of downtime in a class period.
Do more listening than speaking when it comes to interacting with other teachers and administration. This is especially important when you first start your student teaching. Your supervising teacher will likely have a lot to tell you to help you get started. You need to take everything in that you are learning. Bonus advice – be proactive and take notes! That way you can refer back to your notes when a question comes up in the future. This is especially wise at staff meetings as well. There is a lot of information to glean from these meetings, so make like a sponge and soak it all up so you can be as knowledgeable as possible about the rules and procedures of your host school.
Do ask questions – and lots of them! Just like your students, you are here to learn. Lean on your supervising teacher for support, advice, and guidance, but don’t forget to ask the other teachers at your host school for advice and help too. Administrators, secretaries, custodians, and even the lunch ladies will also be invaluable resources to you during your student teaching. Get to know as many people at your host school as you can. You will be surprised how helpful and friendly everyone will be, trust me. We are here to help you, and we can’t do that unless you ask questions.
Don’t be afraid to try something new in the classroom. You’ve likely observed your supervising teacher before you actually start teaching, so you will get a sense of their teaching style, classroom management, and how they interact with the students. Now is the time to experiment and develop your own style of teaching, so you can find what works for you in the classroom and what doesn’t. If you are unsure about trying a new activity, run it by your supervising teacher first. Your supervising teacher may suggest a few changes or give you some advice, but most supervising teachers are happy to have you try new ideas. Your student teaching experience should be full of trial and error in the classroom – that’s what student teaching is all about after all. It’s easier to experiment during student teaching when you can get that precious feedback from your supervising teacher. Before you know it, you’ll have your own classroom, and you won’t have that other teacher to help you craft and implement your best classroom practices.
Do go above and beyond in all that you do during this early stage of your teaching career. Volunteer for as many extra opportunities and experiences as you can. All eyes are on you during your student teaching; every interaction you have will be observed and evaluated. The students are evaluating you, the parents are evaluating you, your supervising teacher is evaluating you, the administration is evaluating you, and of course, your college or university is evaluating you too. One administrator said it best when he stated that student teaching is basically an interactive job interview for the duration of your student teaching. Many of us here at Teacher Sweepers were hired on as full-time teachers after we graduated because we had exceptional student teaching experiences and we made a name for ourselves. If you truly impress those around you during your student teaching, you can really do wonders for yourself and your future career as a teacher. If there are openings for teachers after you have completed your student teaching, you will be in a better position to possibly be hired on if you had an outstanding student teaching experience. Also, on the opposite end of the spectrum, if you do poorly during your student teaching, you can really seal your fate in the opposite way and make a bad name for yourself. This is unfortunate, as you won’t be considered for teaching jobs or likely even substitute teaching at that school. A bad reputation right after you are done student teaching is not a good way to start your actual teaching career.
Do be prepared to struggle and possibly fail. Whether it is classroom management, lesson planning, or discipline issues giving you fits, relish in the struggle and know that it is part of the learning process. Here’s a little secret from your veteran teachers here at Teacher Sweepers, we still struggle after all of these years with certain issues too. These issues change from year to year based on our clientele (the students), and we rely on each other to help one another. Learn from your struggles and failures, and ask other teachers for advice. Your fellow teachers will be the best resources for how to best deal with any issues or situations you may encounter whilst student teaching.
Do remain open to feedback and constructive criticism. Your supervising teacher will be observing and evaluating you quite a bit and your student teaching supervisor from your college or university will be as well. Be open to their suggestions, implement changes as needed. While we are on the subject of feedback and constructive criticism, why not invite the principal in for an observation? Or, if possible, have other teachers observe you teach and give you feedback. Try to videotape yourself at least once during student teaching as well; it will be a very eye-opening experience. Even veteran teachers tape themselves while teaching students to evaluate their instructional practices. It will give you a unique perspective of what the students are seeing and hearing when you are delivering your lessons. You should also try to observe other teachers in their classrooms as much as possible. You will learn so much about teaching by watching others do it!
Don’t overstep your boundaries as a student teacher. You must remember that you are a guest in the classroom and at your host school. Please be very mindful that you are only there for a limited amount of time, so don’t get too comfy! Never rearrange anything in the classroom (especially your host teacher’s desk) without explicit permission from your supervising teacher. I personally know one teacher who came back to his desk to find that all of his belongings had been moved by the student teacher and placed on the floor! You can imagine his shock and anger upon finding this situation. Most supervising teachers are really and truly thrilled to have you in their classroom and will likely extend a very welcoming attitude by allowing you to have your own work space and give you free reign of the classroom. But, you must always remember that it is not your own classroom. Make note of what you do and do not like about the classroom set up and the teacher work space, that way you can tweak it to your liking once you have your own classroom.
Well, there you have it – expert advice from veteran teachers about what you should and shouldn’t do during your all too brief time of student teaching. Comment below with your own advice to student teachers, or if you are getting ready to be a student teacher, ask your questions here!