Advice For Student Teachers (From The “Other Side”)
I started this Tumblr when I *was* a student teacher. Now, for the first time, I *have* a student teacher! Both experiences taught me a lot, and, as a “mentor” teacher, I’ve been reflecting on what I would pass on to other soon-to-be-teachers.
Put in the Hours
Come early, stay late. That’s the life of a teacher, and it’s best to start experiencing it now. Teaching is a lot more than just what happens when the kids are around. I know you have class and assignments, and those are a priority. But so is getting as much time and experience as possible with the kids and in the classroom.
I student taught at a “jeans and a t-shirt” kind of school, but I dressed more formally than the teachers. It’s always OK to be the most dressed up and never OK to be the least dressed up. Think of every day almost as a job interview. Show respect to the rest of the staff: introduce yourself to the principal, specialists, office staff, janitor, etc. Get to know the children’s families. If the school allows it, volunteer to help with a few little things around the school. Just from a practical side, it’s helpful to be “known” around the school when it comes time to try to find a job.
It has taken me years to realize that a lot of the “magic” you see when you watch a good teacher is really the result of a million different deliberate decisions. “Study” your classroom by taking the time to ask your teacher why and how she does things. If you notice she’s especially great at guided reading, ask her to break down exactly how she does it, how she learned to do it that way, and why she makes those choices. Otherwise, observing good teachers is kind of like going to a museum: impressive, but near impossible to duplicate.
This is your time to have a “safe space” to experiment with learning how to teach. Design a cool lesson or try something new even if it has the chance to fail. You now have the benefit of a lead teacher backing you up. It’s OK if everything does not go smoothly every time: people understand that you are still a STUDENT.
…But Be Honest and Reflective About Your Mistakes
When something does go wrong, really take the time to reflect on why it went wrong. Seek out what you could do to do better next time. If your lesson flops, don’t try to save face by saying, “Oh yeah it was fine.” Talk openly about what you saw happen and what you need help on.
Ask For Help
The last two points bring me to this one. ASK your teacher for help and guidance! That is what she is there for. Come in the morning with a few things you really want to work on, and get pointers. I’m sure she is busy too, but I’ve never met a cooperating teacher who does not want to give advice.
You Can Be Critical, But Stay Respectful
There’s a good chance your teacher will not do things exactly how you would do it. Heck, I’ve seen lots of AMAZING teachers, but I have never met one I would exactly copy. It’s ok to think and reflect on what you would do differently, but remember that your cooperating teacher opened up her classroom and space to you and probably does do many things well (even if they are her way). There may be times when you’ll have to manage the classroom or teach a lesson her way. It’s OK. You’ll have many years of doing it YOUR way!
Enjoy The Experience, And Stay Positive
Student teaching can be a really amazing experience. You get to spend your days with students and finally start to become a “teacher.” But like many things, it’s what you make of it. You’re also likely juggling work and school and having those days where you feel overwhelmed and like a failure. Do everything you can to see the good in it. Come into the classroom excited to see your teacher and the students. I’ve seen a few student teachers who are so negative that everyone asks, “Why do they even want to become a teacher?” Their attitudes can pull down the whole classroom. Work to put on a smile and positive energy even when you’re feeling “down” (this skill will come in handy when you have your own class, too!).
I always thought it’s so interesting to hear the other side of the whole teacher crush spectrum. What do teachers actually think, when they see their students? What do they see us as? Do they fanzasize about their students?
1. Always smile, always be yourself. Children can smell a fake from miles away.
2. Always be honest - don’t be afraid to tell pupils when they have overstepped their boundaries. If they have angered/upset you, let them know, be honest.
3. Realise that some pupils will slip through the net, and that’s okay. You can prepare pupils for their exams, you cannot sit the exam for them.
4. Be relentless - if pupils have slipped up and have to face the consequences of their actions, do not be afraid to pursue them. Make sure they do that written exercise, that detention. Its in their best interest, and yours.
5. Always take an interest, take the time to get to know your pupils and what makes them tick. A few weeks learning names and interests, and their yours for the year.
6. Be enthusiastic about your subject - why are you teaching? what does your subject bring to the table? What skills can pupils obtain from you? How does this benefit them?
7. Make lessons relevant - if you don’t know why you’re teaching it, they won’t understand why they have to learn it.
8. Make no empty threats. Mean what you say and say what you mean
9. Not re-invent the wheel - there are hundreds of free and good resources out there. See what is out there first, and use it to complement your lessons, giving credit where it is due.
10. Remember to mark jotters and provide individual feedback. When exams and planning become a reality, this can be hard. Take an interest in your pupils, want them to succeed. Tell them this in written form in response to their contributions.
You were late for college, as usual. This time you actually had a valid reason - your dad’s car broke down en route, leaving you to walk the rest of the way. By the time you had gotten to school you were soaking wet, tired and almost completely disoriented - mornings were not your thing.