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A Student Teaching Survival Guide

Janelle Cox

Student teaching can be the opportunity of a lifetime. It is the time where you get to practice your pedagogical skills, make invaluable professional connections and learn lifelong lessons. Think of student teaching as a six-month-long job interview, where you must be on your best behavior and showcase all of your best qualities. To help you succeed in this new teaching environment, apply the following student teaching tips, advice and survival techniques.

Dress for Success

First and foremost, dress professionally. This means nice dress pants or an appropriate-length skirt for women, and a shirt and tie for men. There is nothing wrong with overdressing for your student teaching assignment. Cooperating teachers will actually appreciate the dedication and professionalism you put forth. Even if you see the classroom teacher "dressing down" you should stick to your professional attire. Students will see you as more of an authority figure, especially if you look young.

Always Be Prepared

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Just as teachers expect their students to come to class prepared, you must also come to school prepared. Part of being a teacher is learning how to be organized. Keep a student teaching planner where you organize all of your to dos. Create checklists, make copies ahead of time, and write lesson plans weeks in advance. Make sure you know your student teaching handbook. This handbook contains all of the information you need: classroom and university expectations, contact information, lesson plan due dates, etc. You should know this book like the back of your hand.

Be Confident and Have a Positive Attitude

Confidence is the key to a successful student teaching experience. If you do not feel confident walking in, then fake it. The students will be able to sense that you are weak, and in turn, will walk all over you. Establish authority from day one, and you'll find that the students will respect you even more.

Participate in all School Activities

During your few weeks as a student teacher, make sure you participate in all of the school activities that you can. If there is a school dance, volunteer. If there is a staff meeting, ask if you can join. By partaking in these activities, it will show the classroom teacher and staff that you are a team player and are willing to work hard. It may also give you a few extra brownie points with your supervising teacher.

Stay Clear of Drama

Students aren't the only ones participating in gossip; you may overhear your fair share of gossip in the teacher's lounge. Although you may feel temped to chime in, remember these teachers may be on the hiring committee or better yet, your coworkers someday. It's better to keep your comments to yourself and vent to your family when you get home.

Don't Take it Personally

Constructive criticism and feedback are both a good thing. Remember you are there to learn from your cooperating teacher. Welcome feedback and use it as a tool to learn from, so you can be an effective teacher in the future.

Ask for Help

It's OK to ask for help. That is what your mentor teacher is there for. Before you even start your internship make a list of the things you want to know. Make sure you ask practical questions like where is the best place to park, who do you call if there is an emergency and you can't make it to school, where do you place your lunch bag, etc. For other classroom questions ask the teacher for a copy of their class syllabus, this will give you a lot of valuable information. Above all else, ask questions and don't act like you know everything. Most mentor teachers have been teaching for many years, and would love the opportunity to help you.

Edit Your Social Media Accounts

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Education is recommending that school and department staff should avoid contact with students on their personal social media accounts. The guidelines encourage teachers to use common sense and steer clear of students' social media pages. If you have a Facebook or Twitter page, then make sure you abide by these recommendations from the Department of Education. Change your settings so students cannot gain access to your photographs. The last thing you want is students searching through your personal photo albums. Also, be leary of adding fellow teachers to your social pages. If you have inappropriate photos or sayings on your page, it can damage your chances of getting a teaching job.

Approach Student Teaching as a Long Interview

Just as you would prepare for any interview, use this opportunity to put your best foot forward and showcase all of your qualities. Dress professionally, be prepared and come to school on time, be kind and courteous to all staff members, and follow the school rules. Basically, be on your best behavior and try and maximize the time you have to display your talents, so you can land a teaching job by the end of your placement.

Stay Healthy

Last but not least, stay healthy. Student teaching can be a stressful time and with stress brings illness. You'll also be around a lot of germs in the classroom. Make sure to take your vitamins, eat healthy and exercise daily to keep up your immunity. The last thing you want is excessive sick days during student teaching. That would look unprofessional and may damage your chances of getting a job in the future.

The next several months is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication. Use this time to learn and grow and make a great impression. Stay positive and remember student teaching isn’t forever - if you play your cards right, you will have a classroom of your own very soon.

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of TeachHUB Magazine.