being a teacher, new teacher, students

Getting Ready to Student Teach; Just a Little Advice

Wordle: student teacher
I am one of the lucky few that got a job at the school I student-taught at, something that I had hoped and wished for over several years.  My desire to be at this school was multi-faceted; excellent staff, a dedicated district, and a diverse student population.  So the day I received the phone call that, indeed, a 4th grade job was mine, I was over the moon.  And yet, this didn’t just happen purely because I was lucky, I had put in a lot of work to put myself in this dream position so I want to share a bit of advice for those new student teachers or those soon to be.

  • Research your school.  The school you student-teach at should be a school that you would like to work at.   Do you homework, meet the teachers and figure out the school’s presence in the community.  I had known for several years that West Middleton was where I really wanted to be so I also did practicums here, thus establishing a relationship 2 years before student-teaching started.  It was through the relationships that I found my mentor teacher and classroom I would be in for 6 months.
  • Get to know your teacher before you start.  I met with my incredible mentor, Kathy, before my placement was settled to make sure we would mesh.  I wanted to really be in a community of learning that I would grow and be challenged in and also with someone who I would form a relationship with.  While you certainly don’t have to be become life-long friends, you do have to like each other otherwise the kids will notice and learning will be disrupted.
  • Treat it with respect.  The first time I met Kathy I called her Ms. Hiteman; we were not friends and I did not feel that I had earned the right to call her by her first name.  This means something, so even if your initial contact is through email, use their last name and title, then when they tell you to use your first name you know they feel ok with that.  This goes for anyone you meet, take a cue from those around you and treat them with respect.  You never know who will be your next boss, interviewer or team mate.
  • Be passionate.  Being a student-teacher is hard work but you have to be excited.  These are the big leagues; you finally get to do what you have been training for and hopefully in a setting that suits you.  Be excited to come to school and it spreads to others, trust me people notice when you bring passion to the table and even new ideas.
  • Clear your schedule as much as possible.  Student-teaching needs to be your job, and yes this is coming from someone who worked full-time with an 18 credit load through college.  I still worked during student-teaching but it was on the weekends.  You may not be getting paid to student-teach but you should treat it like a job; this is an investment in your future and you need to be available for all of the extra work that teachers do even during summer if you student-teach in the fall.
  • Have a personality but don’t let it overtake you.  Don’t be bland, be nice, speak your mind, but do it with respect.  You do not know the school as well those who work here so bring your personality in but know when to put a lid on it.
  • Be invested.  Take the time to get to know the students, treat them like they are yours, because they are, and grow with them.  The mark of a great teacher is someone who forms a connection, so be great.  And this isn’t limited to just the students; get to know everyone, they will also be the ones deciding whether or not you fit into their school and believe me , word travels fast.
  • Reach out to others.  You may just be with one teacher through your whole process but establish relationships with others in the building, ask  them if you can go to their room to observe, volunteer for committees, and establish a relationship with the principal.  I was able to get a written recommendation form mine because I reached out and asked him to observe me.
  • Take initiative.  When I student-taught I took initiative to create new math reviews, graph data for assessment purposes and learn more abut the math resource position.  All of this ultimately led me to land a maternity leave position as a math resource teacher which then led me to my classroom job.  Had I been a wallflower and not done these extra things none of that would have happened.
  • Be yourself.  While this is a long job interview you cannot fake your personality.  Stay out of drama, again be nice to everyone, and be deeply interested in the school.  If your personality does not fit with the school culture at least now you know.  Be critical of what you bring to the table and know when to look inward rather than out.
  • Listen to the advice you are given and then actually use it.  I was not a great teacher when I student-taught and I knew it.  Be humble and take the advice that others so diligently give you; this is your chance to really grow.  Know when to ask for help and know when to change something.  Listen when someone speaks and know that it is not easy for them to point out flaws, but this is how you will  grow.  Ultimately knowing how to listen and take criticism is a life-skill you will need the rest of your career as well.

2 thoughts on “Getting Ready to Student Teach; Just a Little Advice”

  1. Thank you for writing this post, I love getting tips from veteran teachers. I will be student teaching in the fall and these pointers will be very helpful. You have a great blog!

  2. Love this Pernille. I hear my teachers frequently say, "There is nothing so wonderful as a great student teacher. There is nothing so problematic as a subpar one." Student teachers need to treat this opportunity as their first job and go in with their eyes, ears, and mind wide open.

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