Six Tips to Maximize Your Student Teaching Experience
Tips that will allow you to optimize your student teaching and equip you for your first classroom.
By Mollie Moore
Student teaching is a right of passage through which nearly all prospective teachers must go. This experience is extremely valuable and helps new teachers to prepare for their first year. If you are about to begin your student teaching semester, or if you know someone who is, here are some ideas to help you get the most out of student teaching.
1. Get to Know the Administration
At the school where I was placed as a student teacher, the principal was a gentle, older man. As a requirement of my university’s program, we set up a time to talk, and I went into that meeting with questions. Some questions I asked him included: What did he look for when he is interviewing teaching candidates?, and why did he choose to make education his career? Later, I went back to him and asked for his advice on my resume, as it was going to be one of several hundreds sent in for one particular job. He was willing to give me advice and continued to check in on me throughout my internship. I appreciated and valued his help and support.
2. Observe Other Teachers if You Can
If possible, observe as many teachers as you can. Your cooperating teacher’s style might not match your style. My cooperating teacher was more motherly and quieter than I am, so I learned from her, as well as educators with different styles. Seeing what works for other veterans helped me gather more ideas, including teaching styles and ways of structuring a class.
3. Take A Lot of Pictures
This was a suggestion that was given to me, that I did not follow. I definitely regretted that decision, especially when I only had four days to set up my classroom before school started my first year. Taking pictures allows you to remember how others designed their rooms, organized room flow, and created bulletin board ideas. As you are setting up your room, it can be great to have a quick reference. Having a variety of pictures on-hand can help you narrow down your style for your new room.
4. Pay Attention to Your Teacher’s Organization
Becoming organized is an ever-changing process throughout your teaching career. Having a start point is an excellent idea as you will have so much of which to keep track. Notice how your mentor teacher decides what to teach, how she writes her lesson plans, how she tracks students’ progress, and how she organizes her worksheets. Where does she keep extra copies and other supplies? How does she keep track of missing work? All of these seemingly small details will suddenly seem like big details when you are managing your own classroom.
5. Note Your Cooperating Teacher’s Classroom Management System
Classroom management is the hardest area for most first-year teachers. It was for me, especially working in an inner-city school. Write down the rules and consequences in each classroom you observe. Make copies of teachers' tracking systems. Notice how they obtain respect from their students and how they maintain classroom order. One important key is to notice how the other teachers, especially at other grade levels, do it as well. After all, what works in fifth grade, usually does not work in eighth grade.
6. Make Copies! Make Copies! Make Copies!
Record sheets. Worksheets. Graphic organizers. It will save you so much time, which you will need, as your planning time will not always be your own. Copy everything you can, all of it! Then, keep it in an organized way, so you will not have to reinvent the wheel, when time is short.
If you take the time to read, remember, and follow these few tips, you will find that you will gain even more out of your student teaching!
Helpful Links to Start Your First Year:
Many teachers today use their cell phones in class as a timer, a watch, and a quick dictionary. Why not use this device to monitor grades and behavior? TeacherKit allows you to track behavior, attendance, seating charts and grades in a one-stop place.
One thing that both teachers and student teachers share, is that we are limited on time. This article provides five tips for classroom management that are true for teachers across any grade level. Using these tips from the beginning of the year will save you time, and you will spend less time on behavior and more time on teaching!
One of my biggest mistakes my first year of teaching was changing my classroom management system too frequently. This article is the first in a series of three in which a veteran teacher shares his classroom management system. His system is designed for a self-contained classroom, but could easily be altered for a middle-school or high-school class.