OOOO YES! I LOVED my student teaching experience, but I had an incredibly difficult class. I didn’t share much about my experience on here obviously last fall for professional reasons, but it was a total ROLLER COASTER.
I’ll tell you what someone else told me which was awesome advice; “Be a SPONGE.” Soak in whatever you can, volunteer to do stuff even if you have NO IDEA how or are absolutely terrified, say good morning to everyone in the staff so that they know your face and recognize you even if you don’t know their names. If you’re staying in that area, make sure to get to know the higher-ups such as the Principal and other “important” staff. They’ll be awesome references when you go out and in the professional world (especially teaching,) unfortunately it’s too much about who you know. Really make an effort to just soak in anything. That is a SAFE environment, no one expects you to be perfect. Accept criticism and use it to make you stronger. Don’t let it beat you down (you’re not perfect, this is the time to LEARN so much!)
- Be assertive. If your teacher isn’t just giving you stuff to do, ASK if you can do it or take over it. I’m not entirely sure what every program is like but we had to video ourselves. It’s dreadful, but I learned that I say, “you guys” about a thousand times more than necessary and that one of my best qualities are circling the room and proximity control towards students who aren’t paying attention. It’s a weird, but good self-reflective tool that I hope all programs use?! Ummm…I hope and pray that you have an awesome co-op teacher and a great class. I had a great teacher, but a REALLY difficult class and I am a better teacher because of both things. Student teaching is incredibly intense and way more emotional than I ever expected.
- So I guess really, expect the unexpected and you’ll do just fine.
- Don’t compare your experience to your peers. Every single classroom and school is different. In our program there were some people who would come to seminar and cry because they were so exhausted and their students were difficult and there were those people who were all “AWWW I LOVE MY STUDENTS THEY LOVE ME LOOK AT ALL THE NOTES THEY WROTE ME” -_-
- Save those notes. Put them in a folder for years later. They will probably make you cry on the last day.
- Oh! Have a “mailbox”! Aka, slotted shoebox. If you can/your school/teacher allows obviously. It’s a really fun relationship builder with your students.
- Take time for yourself between lesson planning and when you get home. When I got home from a long day I legit sat in my bed with the lights off and closed my door. Because I had 4 other roommates, (3 of which were also student teaching at that semester!) it gave me time to decompress emotionally, mentally and physically. Find something that works for you stress-wise and coping-wise and don’t let yourself get “too busy” to do it! I also worked out a ton that semester.
- Don’t put yourself in a bubble. You’ll be planning and teaching a ton (like pretty much a full time job that you’ll forget you’re a college student. TRY to make time to go out on the weekends or get a coffee with friends. It’s a weird paradox of “feeling like an incredibly real full time teacher” and still understanding and realizing that “you’re actually still a student!” Balance is key. But really try to throw yourself into teaching.
- If your teacher allows you to or if your school or program pushes it, try to do some kind of parent contact. I know we had to do conferences but then my teacher also went the extra mile and suggested I write an introduction letter to the parents or have some contact with them. Talking to some friends who are teachers, they all wish they’d had more experience with parent communication during their student teaching before they were “real” teachers.
- Greet your students every day at the door. This is something that my teacher didn’t even do but something a professor suggested to us. This will allow your students to see you first thing, to recognize you as a professional and to keep you from just shlumping in the back of the room until you get comfortable. Granted, maybe not the first day, but as you “take over” the classroom, own it!
- I also did an introduction “About Miss F book” my first few days. Since I taught in third grade I made a little flip book of my favorite things and some basic stuff about me with pictures (favorite books they may know, my pets, my family, favorite places). It’s a fun ice breaker and lets them really get to know you!
- You are NOT their friend yet. Haha This is kind of joking, but depending on what grade you teach, student teaching is a really weird position for you. Like I said, you’re a college student, so depending on how old your class is they might view you as like their older sibling. DO NOT let this happen. I knew peers in the program who had trouble later on with respect when they were pals with their student the first week and then when they “took over” full time, they had zero control of the classroom.
- Dress like a professional and then some, even if the other teachers don’t seem to be. Since you ARE a college student, you’re trying to convince your students, teacher and fellow teachers that you are also a professional and you want everyone to look at you like just that! I ALWAYS dressed more professional than I thought necessary, especially in the beginning. As you get into your semester, feel out the habits and “style” of the school and other teachers. I feel like a lot of teachers dress way casual lately, which is fine, but remember, you are not on that schools salary and you’re trying to impress them the ENTIRE semester not get sloppy like some other teachers just because you see them doing it! That’s a personal opinion. Granted like I said, FEEL OUT THE SCHOOL. There’s a fine line between being noticed in an admirable way and being noticed because you stick out like a sore thumb. Haha And you probably will for a bit.
- Get to know the janitor and secretaries. Countless professors have told me this during student teaching and when you get a “real job.” They have more power in the school than the principal does sometimes! (joking…kind of). The second week of my junior part time student teaching practicum I jammed the laminator. I just about cried (ok ok I teared up and that was during Kevin’s impromptu deployment so emotional already). because the janitor was REALLY mean about it and thought I was a new teacher. hahaha.
Student teaching was one of the best and most intense learning experiences I got in school and I hope it is for you too! Not everyone has a great experience, but as cheesy as it sounds, it’s only as good as you make it out to be.
Wow way longer than I thought but I know I follow a lot of teachers and education majors, any advice!?