By Teachers, For Teachers
Student teaching is a time in your career where you will learn an exceptional amount of information. The information that you learn during this time will remain with you forever. This is the time where you will figure out how you want to teach, as well as what kind of teacher you want to be. You will encounter some good teachers and some amazing teachers. You will also encounter some not-so-good teachers. Although your student teaching time may be filled with anticipation and anxiety, it will be a special time in your life that you will never forget. Here are a few dos and don’ts to help make your student teaching experience a success.
There is a really good chance that you will have your new cooperating teacher’s contact information pretty early on. If so, then you need to get in contact with this teacher as soon as possible. Send the teacher a quick email explaining who you are and a little bit about yourself. This is the best possible way for you start off on the right foot.
Before you start student teaching in your new classroom, you will have the opportunity to meet with the classroom teacher in person. Make sure that you are prepared for this meeting. Write down any questions that you may have about the way he/she conducts their classroom or how the school runs. The last thing that you want to do is come to this meeting and have zero questions or concerns. This will show the teacher that you are not enthusiastic about teaching in their classroom, or being at their school.
It is essential that you are organized. Purchase a binder with dividers and bring it to school on your first meeting day. Make sure that you include any classroom information, contact numbers (for not only the classroom teacher but for the school, principal, etc.) classroom and school schedule, map of the school, notes, etc. An organized teacher is a successful teacher.
All school districts have a school manual that explains all of the school rules as well as the dress code. You need to read this manual and learn it. You also need to make sure that you abide by all of its rules, including the school dress code. What you may think is an acceptable professional outfit (trends change), the school may not. So it’s better to be on the safe side and always dress for success.
Like mentioned above, it is essential to dress professionally. This means a shirt and tie with slacks for men (or even a suit), and a blouse, skirt, slacks, or a dress for women. You must think of student teaching like a very long job interview. You wouldn’t wear jeans on an interview, would you? Even though the teacher may dress down or you may see other people dressing down, don’t. Once you have your own classroom you will have plenty of time to do this.
At times you may feel like you can put your guard down and you may even feel like some of the teachers are your friend. However, the last thing that you want do is come across unprofessional. Once you start speaking in slang and treating the other teachers like you would your friends, you have gone too far. These educators are your colleagues and your mentors for the time being. Treat them with respect and utilize them for their knowledge and expertise.
Come to class on the first day and every day thereafter prepared for anything and everything. If the cooperating teacher or your professor ask to read something or bring something in, then make sure that you do it. If the teacher asks you to come in early to help them, then come in early. If they ask you stay late and go to a meeting with them afterschool, then go to the meeting.
You are new to teaching, so it is inevitable that you will have many questions. Go ahead and ask them. You are there to learn from the classroom teacher as well as from everyone in the school, so take the time to ask questions and learn while you have the opportunity to do so.
Like mentioned earlier, you need to think of student teaching like a really long job interview. If you want a job in that school or in the school district, then you need to make a lasting impression. You can do this by making a presence in the school. Show up early, stay late, help out other teachers, be kind and say hello to everyone that you pass in the halls, get to know the principal, the office workers, and the custodial staff, and most importantly, be an inspiration to the students. The children are the ones that will be talking about you well after you’re gone. So it’s wise to bring in a gift for the students and the cooperating teacher on the last of school.
Before you head off to your next placement or start looking for a job, make sure that you ask for a letter of reference. Your cooperating teacher, as well as the principal, will serve as vital references for your future teaching jobs.
Take all of the photographs and lesson plans that you got from your student teaching placements and start putting together your teaching portfolio. As they say, “Great resources make great talking points.” Sign up for any and all substitute lists and get your name out there. Scour the Internet and ask your teacher friends if there are any job openings. You have done the work, now it’s time for you to get the job of your dreams.
Do you have any dos or don’ts for student teaching? Please feel free to share with us in the comment section below. You may be the key to their success!
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.