How to Survive Your First Day of Student Teaching Takeover, Elementary Edition

By Emily Fratalia (Wheelock ’19)

When I arrived at my student teaching placement the morning of my first day of takeover, I could not believe that the day had finally come.  I had spent the weeks prior so nervous, but that morning, I felt oddly calm.  I had prepped everything that I needed the night before and already had lots of experience leading my class of amazing fifth graders.

When that 7:55 bell rang though, all of a sudden, all that ran through my head was a scene from my favorite TV show, The Office. In this scene, Dwight Schrute pretends to set the office on fire, and manager Michael Scott starts screaming “Oh my God, okay, it’s happening! Everybody stay calm,” not at all calm himself.  Smoke moves into the room and instead of following an orderly safety procedure, all of the employees run chaotically around the office.  Nothing sums up how my mind was racing in those first few seconds before my students arrived more than this.

As soon as my first student walked into the classroom and greeted me with a smile, all of my worries went away.  I took a deep breath, said hello to my students as they arrived, and began the day.  Overall, the day went great, and I left that afternoon wondering why I had internally freaked out in the first place.  Here are some tips to tackling your own first day of takeover.

  1. Try to prep as much as possible the afternoon before your first day.  Doing more in advance will give you more time during your first day to catch your breath during prep time.  The first day is a whirlwind, so it’s especially important that you have a chance to sit and compose yourself for at least a few minutes.
  2. Eat a good breakfast.  Even if students have a morning snack time, you’ll probably be preoccupied with all of the things you need to do or monitor that you won’t have a chance to have a snack yourself.
  3. Print out your plans for the day.  I used mine as a checklist to make sure I did not forget anything and so that I always knew what was coming next throughout the day. This also helped me make sure I had necessary materials ready. I like to pile handouts in the order in which I will use them so that nothing gets missed.
  4. If you have a FitBit or Apple Watch, set silent alarms before the school day starts to remind you of important transitions throughout the day. You don’t want to be late for specials or lunch!
  5. Don’t be afraid to confide in your supervising practitioner.  It’s okay to ask for a tip if a situation arises or if a component of a lesson or transition comes up that you hadn’t thought of before.  This is an opportunity for you to keep learning as you practice leading a classroom.
  6. You may make mistakes, and that is okay!!! You are just taking over for the first time.  Try not to beat yourself up over it too much. Learn from it / reflect on it and move on to the next task for the day. It’s okay to even admit to students if you make a mistake. It helps reinforce what we teach them, that mistakes are a valued part of learning.
  7. Enjoy it! If your students are anything like mine, which they will be, they will bring such joy to your days each day of practicum.  Although it may be a stressful day, do not forget to enjoy it and savor the meaningful moments you’ll have with students.

Takeover is an amazing experience! Trust yourself and you will do great!!!