The student teaching experience allows you to put everything that you’ve learned about education and your subject matter into action. You get to test the waters under the supervision of an experienced teacher who can guide you along and help you become the kind of teacher that you want to be. If you embrace the opportunity, you can learn a lot from the experience. In fact, here are some things that I learned during my time as a student teacher.
Prepare for the Unexpected While Student Teaching
During my student teaching experience, I spent a lot of time preparing each lesson plan. I worked hard to research different ways to present the information for each lesson. I looked for activities that my students would enjoy, and I made sure that I had all of the materials and other things that I needed before class started. Even then, there were always things that would go wrong. Technology would fail. Students would complete activities quicker than planned. Or students would require much more time and explanation than expected.
As such, I realized that I needed to be prepared as much as possible, but, more importantly, I needed to prepare to be flexible. You never know what’s going to come up or what will catch the students’ attention. When creating lessons, remember that you need to be prepared for changes. Figure out alternative activities in order to help your day go as smoothly as possible and allow your students to gain the most from the lessons.
Teaching is difficult. You’re going to have rough days, and you’re going to need help sometimes. Introduce yourself to the librarian, cafeteria staff, administrators, custodians, secretaries, and other teachers. Of course, finding a teaching mentor is always a good idea. As I talked to other teachers about lessons that I was working on, they had plenty of suggestions for activities that I could use. I loved getting ideas for tried and true activities for my students, but I also enjoyed the tips and ideas that they could provide to help me grow as a teacher. They could also help you land a teaching job, too.
Not only can making friends prove to help you as a teacher, but it can also make your day more fun. Rather than eating lunch in your room every day to catch up on work, go to the lunch room and mingle with other teachers. Talk to teachers on the playground. Use the time to get to know others, and you just might end up making a friend for life.
“Dare to Disturb the Universe:” Be Fearless as a Student Teacher
In high school, I had a teacher who always encouraged us to “dare to disturb the universe” as quoted from T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” To me, this meant that we shouldn’t be afraid to do something different or to think outside of the box. When it came to student teaching, I found that I needed to listen to this advice again. I wanted to excel. I wanted to get great recommendations from my cooperating teacher, and I wanted my students to really learn the concepts.
What I found was that student teaching was the perfect time to think outside of the box and try different things. If they didn’t work, they didn’t work. At least, I got to try them in a safe environment. And in the process, I got to work on vital skills for teaching, such as classroom management. Luckily, I had an awesome cooperating teacher who set me free to try new things. Of course, it was always helpful to have my cooperating teacher review my lesson plans and advise me on things that I could do to improve my ideas to ensure that they were viable in the classroom.
Confidence is crucial for a great student teaching experience. Students need to see that their teacher knows what he or she is talking about. They need a teacher that demands respect. When I first started as a student teacher, I was awkward and unsure of myself. I wasn’t sure what my cooperating teacher would think, and I worried about how my students would perceive this teacher who didn’t look old enough to teach in the first place.
As I fell into my groove and gained more confidence as a teacher, I found that my students not only respected me but felt more comfortable talking to me, too. Confidence meant I could be myself while still demanding respect from my students and colleagues.
Immersing yourself and taking advantage of every opportunity afforded to you can really enrich your student teaching experience. One of my biggest regrets as a student teacher was that I didn’t get involved more. Sure, I attended all of the meetings and met with parents. With the amount of work I put into creating lessons, I chose not to volunteer in after school activities, for example. I wish that I would have taken the opportunity to get more involved. You can gain more experience, meet more people, and find a new niche within the teaching community.
Seek Feedback on Your Student Teaching
One of the most important lessons that I learned was the importance of feedback. During your student teaching experience, you want to find ways to improve your teaching skills. Don’t be afraid to ask your cooperating teacher for advice. When observing you in action, he or she will notice things that you hadn’t noticed before. Maybe you use too many filler words, look at the floor too often, or stand in one place the entire time. Your cooperating teacher can point out these things to you, so you can make the necessary changes to improve.
More than just asking for feedback, you need to have a good attitude about the information that you receive. What will you do with this information? I found that when I was teachable and willing to hear criticism, I saw greater improvements in my teaching and increases in my confidence.
Student teaching was a great experience. It had its ups and downs, but I became a better teacher by working to make the most of my experience and looking for opportunities to learn.