You have been in college for more than three years, studying education. Now is the time you have been waiting for throughout those years… your student teaching experience! This is one of the most exciting times in the life of a young teacher because it is the time when you get to apply all the things you have learned and actually be with students on a regular basis. As exciting as this time is, you are also probably feeling pretty nervous. I remember barely being able to sleep the night before my first day of student teaching because I was so excited and nervous about what student teaching would be like. So, here are 10 tips to ensure that you get the most out of your student teaching experience and that your time spent as a student teacher is a great one!
1. Take on the Roles and Responsibilities of a Teacher
Being a teacher is not a nine to five job. Most teachers come in early and take work home in the evening. They also stay after for PTA meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and school events. If you want to get a true picture of what it is really like to be a teacher, make sure to do all the things the teacher you are working with would do.
Often, student teachers are given the option to leave during conferences or after-school events. It can be tempting to miss out on those things, but doing so is not providing a real picture of teaching. By participating in all the same activities and events as your mentor teacher, you will gain a full understanding of a teacher’s roles and responsibilities and will be better equipped for having your own classroom in a few months.
2. Dress Appropriately
I learned this the hard way on the very first day of my student teaching experience. I have always been a big believer in dressing appropriately for work. As a college student, I thought business attire was the appropriate attire for all professions. So, on my first day of student teaching, I wore a dress and heels. I spent most of the day on my feet. By the end of the day, I could barely walk. I learned that what is appropriate in the business world, is not what is appropriate for teaching. When teaching students, it is important to dress both professionally and comfortably. If you forgo comfort, you will likely be miserable throughout the day.
3. Observe Other Teachers Teaching Students
In my program, the New Teacher Toolbox, I provide training and support for new teachers. Recently, I was talking to one of the members of the New Teacher Toolbox. This member had just finished her student teaching experience and was searching for a teaching job. She admitted that after student teaching she realized that college had not fully prepared her for teaching (you will likely have this realization too as most people do during their student teaching experience). While she had learned so much from her mentor teacher, she also felt like she only knew how to do things the way she had seen her mentor teacher do them. This young teacher relented that she wished she had the opportunity to observe more experienced teachers so that she could see even more classroom management strategies and teaching styles.
Do not be afraid to ask to observe other teachers while student teaching. This is something I did as a student teacher. I asked my mentor teacher if it would be possible for me to observe in other classrooms. She arranged everything for me. On the final week of my student teaching experience, I had the opportunity to go to a different classroom each day. I observed the teachers in those classrooms while they were in action and helped them if they needed it. This was valuable for me because it enabled me to see different grade levels at work and different teaching strategies.
4. Find a Teacher Support Group
Being a student teacher or a new teacher is hard! It is so important to surround yourself with other teachers who can encourage you and provide advice. Luckily, there are many amazing online communities for teachers. I offer a free, private community just for student teachers and new teachers. This is a place where new teachers can ask questions and receive training and support without fear of judgment. Being a part of teacher communities like this one have helped me tremendously throughout my teaching career.
5. Clean Up Your Social Media
As a college student, you are likely on at least one social media site where you post images and videos about your life. Keep in mind that even if your accounts are set to private, people can still find ways to see them. As a student teacher, your life will be somewhat on display. Parents like to know who is working with their child each day and will search for their child’s teacher on social media. Often times, employers will also look at social media accounts before hiring. Before you start student teaching, take the time to closely examine your social media accounts. Make sure that you are okay with your students’ parents and potential employers seeing anything that is on your site.
6. Practice Teaching Strategies
Student teaching gives you the opportunity to practice everything you have learned, so don’t be shy! I’ve seen many instances where student teachers are nervous so they stray away from teaching as creatively as they would like. Student teaching is your time to practice teaching using different strategies and techniques so that you can discover and develop your unique teaching style. No two teachers teach using the exact same style and strategies. Our unique personalities and preferences influence how we teach. Experiment with teaching styles and strategies during your student teaching experience so that you can find out more about yourself as a teacher.
7. Ask Questions
As a student teacher, you will not know everything and no one expects you to know everything. Even veteran teachers who have taught for 20 years do not know everything about teaching. Teaching methods and curriculum are constantly changing. Not to mention, every year comes with 20 new students who each have their own unique personalities. With that said, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re worried that your mentor teacher will think less of you if you ask too many questions, don’t be! In fact, your mentor teacher will probably be more concerned if you do not ask questions at all.
8. Remember, You Are Still a Student
It is so important to experiment with teaching strategies and to ask questions throughout your student teaching experience, but keep in mind that you are acting as the teacher in someone else’s classroom. I have seen many student teachers get into arguments with their mentor teachers because they want to try something and the mentor teacher says “no.” Please be respectful of your mentor teacher’s wishes.
You are just in their classroom for a short time. After you leave, they still have many months to get through with the students and the results of standardized testing all falls on them. Even if they have a policy in place that seems silly to you, they likely have it in place for a reason. Abiding by your mentor teacher’s wishes will not only make it a more enjoyable experience, but it will also ensure that you get a stellar reference letter from them when you finish. Since you do not have any other teaching experience, getting a great reference letter from your mentor teacher is crucial.
9. Record Student Teaching Experiences
You will learn so much during your student teaching experience! It will likely be hard to remember all the lessons and strategies that you learn. I recommend keeping a notebook or journal throughout student teaching. Take time each day to record things that worked well and things that did not work so well. This will prove to be a valuable reference tool when you have your own classroom.
10. Get Additional Training
In tip #3, I mentioned that I recently worked with a young woman who was finishing her student teaching and looking for her first teaching job. During her student teaching, she had come to the realization that college had not fully prepared her for teaching and she was nervous to start teaching on her own. This is a common sentiment among new teachers. College provides so much useful information about child development and classroom technology, but there are so many practical things college does not teach. This includes things such as classroom management strategies and lesson planning in a way so that you can have a life outside of the classroom. For that reason, it is important to find additional training during student teaching and as a new teacher to help fill the gaps.
I offer a one of kind training and support program for new teachers called the New Teacher Toolbox. We welcome college students studying education and new teachers. Through the program, we provide both video trainings and live training sessions to help fill the gaps many new teachers are missing such as classroom management solutions, time-saving lesson planning strategies, and how to overcome teacher burnout. You can learn more about the New Teacher Toolbox by clicking HERE.
Congratulations on making it to student teaching! It has taken you almost four years to get this point and then you will be ready to take over your own classroom. I hope the tips listed here help to make your student teaching experience a great one! If you are looking for even more tips for new teachers, be sure to check out my New Teacher Survival guide. It has 15 proven strategies to help new teachers through their first years in the classroom.
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