Inside: How to rock your student teaching with tips from a recent graduate. 10 tips for a great student teaching experience.
Many of you know that I had the pleasure of having a pretty awesome student teacher this past spring. Sierra Depping was with my for 8 weeks of her experience and jumped right in to trying everything CI with me. I loved the collaboration and was so excited when she was actually hired in a small town near me, which means us #deptof1 teachers will get to meet once per month as a part of school PD (plus extra in person and on social media whenever needed). I already posted about her awesome Frida unit and she has her own blog you should check out (especially if you are a new or student teacher!). I asked her to write a guest post since I KNOW there are university students out there right now freaking about about starting teaching practicum this fall. (Plus here are my tips for cooperating teachers). Here are 10 tips from a recent student teacher to help ensure you have the best experience possible. – Allison
Tips for Student Teachers
I can safely say that I was very lucky to have Allison as my cooperating teacher (CT) while student teaching and CTs have a huge impact on how a student teacher will succeed not only in their classroom, but in the future in their own classrooms.
However, this isn’t about all the amazing things that mentor teachers can/should do. This is for all the soon-to-be student teachers out there. I hope that you can learn from my advice and the advice of other new teachers I know. Mostly, I hope that you’ll learn from yourself throughout this whole process and know that you have what it takes. It’s okay to be nervous, but know that every single student teaching experience is unique and you’ve got what it takes.
1.Overwhelmed is Okay
Being overwhelmed is incredibly normal, especially in the first couple weeks. Personally, I wasn’t used to commuting more than a quick walk to classes or waking up to get ready (and looking nicer than sweats and a t-shirt) every single day. The change to routine can shock your system and you will be tired. No one wants you to suffer so be honest with yourself and your CT. If you’re outside of your comfort zone teaching something ask to observe the first time and then try teaching it the next. You don’t have to jump right in on day one. Honestly, day one introduce yourself to the students and just observe. It gives you a chance to get a feel for the routine and the culture of the school. As long as you take it day by day and don’t get caught up in the little things that overwhelming feeling goes away.
2. Use Your Cooperating Teacher
They aren’t just there to sit and look pretty. They are your own personal Google search for everything that has to do with your school, your students, and your content. They’ve been doing this, whether it’s for a short time or a long time, its long enough. Ask them what strategies they use for classroom management and then try them out. When you’re lost and you don’t know what to do ask them for guidance and advice. When you’re inevitably struggling with that one student your CT will most likely know what to do. When you’re feeling overwhelmed ask them to co-teach with you. I personally liked sitting down during planning on Fridays, even when I had full control of the classes, and asking her for advice on my lessons and plans for the next week. It gave me confidence and she always had great pointers and advice to make it even more engaging and fun.
3. Foster Respectful Relationships
You are building relationships not friendships. I know so many student teachers that struggle with this, because they want so desperately for their students to like them and the hard truth is that not all of your students will like you. Often student teachers are young and close in age to their students. This is great sometimes, because you can relate to your students and for connections, but it also means that students can often feel like you’re not an authority figure in their life. You need to demand respect while making your students feel respected. Some of the best advice I got when I first started student teaching was- Do not let your students talk over you. If that means you become the stereotypical “I’ll wait.” teacher, that’s what you do. I highly recommend using attention getters like my favorites you can find here or Allison’s which you can find here to grab students’ attention and keep them from talking over you (Read more about Attention Getters Mis Clases Locas and Srta Depping). On your first day introduce yourself and let your students ask you questions. I did this in Spanish with higher level classes and left time for questions in English. I also used these Meet Your Student Teacher forms and put them on Google Classroom the first day, so students could read them. If you answer all those questions the first day they are less likely to try and get you off task down the line by asking you a million questions in the middle of an important lesson.
4. Find your OWN groove
A really common thing at first is to struggle trying to find your own teaching style. It’s really important that you take this time to test out different methods and ideas that you’ve learned about, but haven’t gotten to try quite yet. Don’t feel like you have to teach the same way your CT does. I know that I teach pretty similarly to Allison, but even we have our differences. Don’t be afraid to say you want to try something new. Great CTs will roll with and encourage you and if you don’t have that support advocate for your own education and do it. I think for me I wasn’t really in my own groove until I had full control of all the classes. I was teaching every class and designing every lesson and that’s when I felt like I was being the most myself. Honestly, if your CT is ever sick and has a sub that’s when you’ll really get your chance! CTs sometimes your student teachers just need to have the classroom and the students themselves. I know that being constantly observed no matter how good of a relationship you have with your CT can interfere with how you teach, so be sure to find that time and space to give it a shot.
5. Reflect Openly
Reflection is essential. Keep a personal journal, but also find a way to reflect with your CT. Allison and I kept a notebook. It was discreet so students were super curious about it and we could both write in it whenever we had a chance. We would write the date at the top of the notebook and then whoever was observing could write questions or pointers for the other and then during planning or the next day we could find time to talk about them. I know other STs that kept shared Google Docs that functioned the same way as well. Try not to take things to personally. It’s really easy to feel like you’re not doing your best when you get feedback on how to do things differently, but that’s just your CT helping your try new things and step out of your comfort zone. Take their wisdom and guidance and give it all a fair shot.
6. Organization is Key
Figure out what keeps you organized. I personally use these Google templates from Allison still to this day. I love digital planning. It means no papers for me to loose and I can share my plans with my CT and university people if need be. When I had to write formal lessons I either used the ones provided by my university or the templates of Google Docs! If you need a paper planner I started using the Happy Planner and I have really been liking it! You’ll be less stressed and a better teacher if you plan and stay organized. The digital planning is great for me, because organization isn’t my strong suit.
7. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
You’re going to be plenty busy. You don’t need to make every worksheet or activity look super pretty– and believe me that was hard for me to learn, because I like that creative part of teaching. You also don’t have to come up with unique and new ideas for every lesson or activity. Ask your CT what they would do, check out TPT, ask other teachers in the school what they do. I loved collaborating with English teachers in the building, because I could easily adapt things they had created or use their ideas in Spanish class. No use creating extra work. If it’s something you want to create write the idea down and do it in your free time over the summer or vacations if you really want to.
8. Over Prepare for Everything
Timing is really hard to get down. It’s one of those things that just comes with practice, so in the beginning especially make sure you always have things ready as extension for those fast finishers. I liked to post slide shows to Google Classroom and tell kids to do one of the activities for the day if they finished early. Sometimes it was writing 5 T/F questions, creating a timeline, writing a 5 sentence summary, drawing a comic strip, etc. Start creating a document where you can house all those simple extension activities, games, tasks and use them. It keeps students engaged and it helps with classroom management. Trust me if you don’t give students something to do they will find something to do and you won’t always like what they decide to do.
9. You Won’t Ruin Them
Whether you are there for 4, 8, 16, 16+ weeks trust me on this one. You will not ruin your students. What and how you teach them will not set them back. You know what to do and you need to trust and believe in yourself. They can’t actually smell fear, but they can sense when you aren’t confident in yourself. So get up there and make mistakes as long as you act like you’re confident they’ll believe you. Also, it’s your CTs job to make sure you are doing right by their students, so while they should let you make mistakes and take risks trust that if you’re really doing something wrong they will let you know in a compassionate and learning way.
10. Remember Why
When it all gets to feel like too much and you’re exhausted, broke, and questioning whether you were ever supposed to be a teacher know that we have all felt that way. Think back to what made you want to be a teacher in the first place. Write down that reason and put it somewhere you can see it daily. When those few students write you goodbye letters or ask you to listen to their speech and give feedback keep those notes and write down those memories. Look back at all the good and know that the dark isn’t forever and you are going to be an amazing teacher.
Overall, I hope you go into your student teaching experience knowing you’ve got this! Don’t stress yourself out too much and enjoy the journey! – Sierra @SrtaDepping
Sierra Depping is a #deptof1 first year Spanish teacher in small town Iowa. You can connect with her on Instagram, TPT and follow along with her first year teaching journey at srtadepping.blogspot.com.
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- Advice to 1st year teachers,
- Advice to a 1st year teacher (from a student)
- 10 Tips for Cooperating Teachers hosting student teachers!
- How to get a Spanish Teaching Job Interview
- How to Get a Spanish Teaching Job- Prepare for the Interview
Do you have more Tips for Student Teachers?