Advice for Student Teachers
Words of Advice for My Sisters on Student Teaching
by Alexis Borgia, SED’07
For some, a full-time student teaching experience can be quite nerve-wracking. It is something that is looked forward to from the very first day in the School of Education, yet it is very easy to feel unprepared or unready for such new responsibilities. My own student-teaching experience took place during the first semester of my senior year. There were several times throughout the semester that I became quite frustrated with the fact that as my friends’ class schedules were winding down and easing up, mine was at an all-time high regarding responsibility and work. Not to mention, waking up at 6:30 in the morning Monday through Friday was a factor far from my friends’ minds as they prepared for a fun night out on the town with friends.
However, I can honestly say that my time spent in the classroom for my full-time practicum proved to be the most enjoyable, rewarding, and downright fun semester of my four years spent at Boston University. It was during that semester that I knew I was meant to be a teacher. The actual process of teaching, lesson-planning, attending parent-teacher or faculty meetings, staying after school much later than was necessary, etc. proved to me that being a teacher is something I can not only do well, but something I truly want to do. Sitting in lectures and writing papers can only teach a college student so much about the responsibilities and requirements of what is to come once you enter a classroom; however, I can promise you that a semester spent within a classroom full-time, taking on the duties of a teacher, will teach you much more than a book ever could.
After much reflection and thoughtful consideration regarding my own student-teaching experience, I have devised a list of 5 key points which I remember being quite helpful towards my practicum learning experience:
- Arrive at school earlier than is required. Stay after school. Attend parent-teacher and faculty meetings. I’m sure that right now you’re saying to yourself, “Yeah right.” You think that the last thing you are going to want to do is spend even more time at your practicum school. However, you will find that taking on the responsibilities of a teacher is something that you will truly want to do. Simply put, the more you are at the school the more you learn. You have been given a wonderful opportunity to surround yourself with the resources, people, and settings that will help your future career as a teacher. Take advantage of it while you can!
- Take notes. Yes, it may be difficult to take notes during a full-time practicum, especially because you should be active with the children most of the time. However, I would advise that during a free period or at the end of the day to jot down a few ideas or helpful points that you have noticed around the classroom or during any lessons. This will not only help you during your take-over weeks, but it is something that you will always have in the future when it comes time for you to take over your own classroom. Also, taking pictures or drawing diagrams of the setup of the classroom is an idea which I found quite helpful as well. These pictures can then be printed out, kept with your notes, and referred back to in the future. Once again, a helpful idea for when you land a teaching job.
- Establish relationships with each child. To my amazement, I have witnessed a few student teachers who have neglected to spend time with their children aside from teaching a lesson. It is your job as a teacher to not only carry out academic lessons but also to ensure each and every child that you are interested in anything he/she says or does. For instance, during snack-time, try not to sit in the back of the room and correct homework. Instead, grab a rolling chair, spend a few minutes at each table or desk, and talk with the kids. Also, go outside with your class during recess and play games with you students. You’d be surprised how something so simple to you or I could make the biggest impact in a child’s world. This sort of thing will help to establish a great teacher-student relationship, helping the students to feel as though you are not only their teacher and disciplinarian, but that you can also relate to them on a more casual and less academic level.
- Know the principal. This is perhaps the most important to remember while student teaching. The principal is there to help and guide you; to make sure that your experience in his/her school is the most beneficial to your learning experience. Meet with him/her at least 4 times throughout the semester. Ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. This is someone who interviews potential teachers. He knows what to look for in a resume, a cover letter, and most importantly, a teacher. The principal of my school was more than willing to take a look at my resume and cover letter in order to tell me what was good and what I should change. Not to mention, he provided me with the types of questions that are typically asked on an interview. The principal is absolutely someone you want to get to know, not only to ensure that your time spent in his school is a positive one, but for future references as well. As mentioned before, take advantage of the resources that are available to you.
- Take initiative. Do not be afraid to ask your cooperating teacher to accommodate your learning experience in any way that you feel will be beneficial. An important thing to remember while student-teaching is that your cooperating teacher is there for you to learn from, but also to aid your development of becoming a teacher. Therefore, the lines of communication between you and your teacher must be wide open for you to get the most out of your practicum experience. Ask her to photocopy any handouts that you might want to keep for the future, provide you with feedback on your teaching skills/abilities as often as you feel necessary, or leave you alone with your class for a significant period of time prior to your takeover weeks. Requests such as these are ones which cooperating teachers are prepared to accommodate. If there is anything you feel can better help you become a great teacher, simply ask. He/she is there to help!