GETTING THE MOST OUT OF STUDENT TEACHING
To become a certified teacher, you must:
1. earn a bachelor’s degree
2. complete student teaching (also known as field experience, internship, practicum)
3. pass several teacher certification exams
Through coursework, you study methods and practices of teaching (called pedagogy).
Through student teaching, you apply coursework in a classroom under the supervision of an experienced mentor teacher.
Since student teaching is invaluable, consider our advice on how to get the most out of your student teaching experience.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
- Read the Teacher Handbook about dress codes, duty assignments, discipline policies, rules and regulations, grading and reporting, leave policies, safety procedures and more.
- Read the School Website about school history and profile, mission, staffing, athletics, extracurricular activities, schedules, curriculum, report cards, parent conferences and more.
- Contact anyone you know who is familiar with the school to gain additional insight and information.
- Use a current yearbook to memorize staff names and faces. Begin networking by recognizing the school employees.
- Clean out your social media. Remove controversial items and switch public settings to private if needed. Teaching is a public job and your character is judged.
AT THE FIRST MEETING WITH YOUR MENTOR
- Ask about their background experience and discuss why you want to be a teacher.
- Discuss their expectations of you as a student teacher.
- Tell them you are a fast learner and will help out in any way you can.
- Assure them you want their feedback and welcome constructive criticism.
- Develop a work schedule, if your student teaching is only part-time.
- Ask for a weekly meeting time to discuss your student teaching progress.
- Ask if you can observe and/or interview other teachers when possible.
- Develop a training timeline for the progression of your student teaching responsibilities.
WHEN YOU START TRAINING AND TEACHING
Your student teaching experience is a new and unfamiliar learning ground where you will be nervous, make mistakes and learn from taking risks. Since children are smart and savvy, it’s important for you to try to appear confident, even if you have to ‘fake it til you make it’. Also, you must be flexible as teaching is full of unannounced safety drills and unplanned school events.
Just as you learned the names of the teachers, you need to quickly learn the names of the students and build relationships with them. Students instinctively know if you like and respect them. (link)You will learn more about your students by observing them in the cafeteria, on the playground, in PE, and in other special settings. To learn more about their background, you may be allowed to read confidential information in their school cumulative folders.
In addition to the teachers and students, you need to know the parents. Learning is a group effort. As a student teacher, you should attend parent conferences as well as teacher faculty meetings and important evening events. There will be athletic events, PTA/PTO meetings, open houses, plays, programs and more. If the teachers attend, you should attend.
OTHER THINGS YOU SHOULD DO
Ask your mentor questions. Help them know what you want and need. Also, share your ideas with your mentor who will appreciate your innovative thoughts. Mingle with the teachers and attend their social activities. Eat lunch in the cafeteria and volunteer to support their projects. They will be impressed with your enthusiasm and willingness to be part of the group.
The teachers and staff are evaluating you the moment you walk through the door. Treat every single day like an interview. You never know if there may be a teaching vacancy at that very school. Consider the following tips:
- Follow the school dress code and be a bit more conservative and dressed up than usual. If in doubt, don’t wear it.
- Be prepared for the next day before you leave the night before. The copy machine may break down.
- Arrive early and greet the students at the door as they arrive. This sets the tone for the day.
- Grade and return papers in a timely manner with specific feedback. Avoid general comments like ‘good job’.
- Respect confidentiality of teachers, students and parents. Never gossip anywhere or anytime about anyone.
- Keep a journal with notes, reflections and photos throughout your student teaching. This will help you build a professional portfolio.
- Start a portfolio with handouts, student work, student/parent letters and letters of recommendation. Portfolios are requirements in many districts.
- Enjoy your students, smile a lot, stand up straight and show a sense of humor. Have fun with student teaching.
BEFORE YOU FINISH, START LOOKING FOR A JOB
- Understand the hiring process and get started early in the game.
- Update your resume and contact 2-3 current references to include in your resume.
- Ask references to write a letter on your behalf regarding your ability to be a teacher.
- Ask your principal if there are any openings at their school or other schools in their district.
- Research what jobs are available in nearby districts and complete applications early.
- Go to Job Fairs that are sponsored in the spring by many school districts.
- Make connections with anyone you know at schools in which you’re interested.
- Practice your interview skills and conduct some mock interviews. (link here)
REMEMBER THIS ALWAYS
Teaching is an art and a practice in which you are constantly trying to improve.
Be patient with yourself as you begin a career where you can improve the lives of others.
If you are passionate about teaching, it will provide you with life-long purpose and pleasure beyond your greatest imagination!