An advocate of public schools, Horace Mann once stated, “Teachers teach because they care. Teaching young people is what they do best. It requires long hours, patience and care.”
Teaching is certainly not a job that anyone can do, and it takes a special and passionate person to inspire and enrich young minds. After spending years studying educational pedagogy, future teachers are eager to have their own classes — but first comes the dress rehearsal: student teaching.
Student teaching can be both exhilarating and daunting. Here is a brief look at what one should expect during the process.
What is Student Teaching?
The National Council on Teacher Equality describes student teaching as the “final clinical experience” for teacher candidates on the path to becoming certified teachers. These semester-long placements often occur during a candidate’s senior year in college or, for those pursuing teaching later in life, during graduate school.
Candidates are paired with mentor teachers in their chosen area of study and typically spend 10 weeks in the mentor teachers’ classrooms. At first, student teachers spend time observing the mentor teacher and assisting where needed. After a few weeks, student teachers are typically delivering some of the lessons. By the end of the experience, student teachers have assumed all duties.
In addition to working with mentor teachers, student teachers are usually assigned student teaching supervisors from their colleges. Student teaching supervisors typically observe student teachers weekly and regularly give them feedback from their observations.
Many teacher candidates consider student teaching to be the most valuable experience in their college careers. This is far from surprising as these real field experiences give teacher candidates opportunities to apply all of the knowledge, theory and pedagogy that they have obtained over the course of their educations. This is when candidates get to experience what teaching is truly like.
What to Expect on Your First Day of Student Teaching
You may or may not be able to communicate with your mentor teacher before you begin student teaching, but it is important to be prepared.
Temple University offers a number of tips for student teachers about to embark on their first day. First of all, you want to be taken seriously, so dressing neatly and professionally is a must. Try to be well rested so that you are alert throughout the day. After you arrive at school, you can review the dress code, school and classroom procedures, and student background information with your mentor teacher. You will also get a tour of the school and hopefully be able to meet the principal and other faculty.
On the first day, student teachers are certainly not expected to teach any lessons but you will probably be asked to introduce yourself. Try to arrive early and mingle with the students. Get a copy of the seating chart and start memorizing student names. Over the course of the first day and several weeks, student teachers spend time observing the mentor teacher in action and taking notes on what works and what does not. This does not mean sitting passively in the back of the room. Assist handing out papers and walk around the room. Help students who are struggling with their work. The earlier you show some initiative, the better.
Goals of Student Teaching
The purpose of student teaching is to prepare teaching candidates to become quality teachers.
For their student teaching program, Eastern Kentucky University identifies specific standards to be addressed during the student teaching experience. The first standard involves content knowledge. Over the course of student teaching, student teachers should further develop their own content knowledge to be able to really assist students in increasing their grasp of the information being taught. This includes being able to teach the content in ways that address students’ learning preferences and various background experiences.
The second standard involves the student teachers’ abilities to plan and deliver instruction. Student teachers will become more confident in their abilities to deliver high-quality, standards-based instruction that uses various forms of assessment before, during and after instruction.
The third standard deals with classroom management, and this is often the most difficult area for student teachers to master. Teachers need to establish safe and positive learning environments while keeping expectations high.
The fourth standard involves time management and instructional implementation. Student teachers must learn to manage time while juggling the many duties of being a teacher. They should utilize space effectively, deliver multi-modal lessons and use assessment as a tool to drive future instruction. Other goals include being able to use technology effectively to enhance instruction, collaborating well with peers, building relationships with students and parents, and being a reflective practitioner.
Student Teaching Tips
Student teaching can be nerve wracking but there are things that student teachers can do to alleviate stress.
PBS emphasizes the importance of communication when it comes to student teachers and their mentors. Keep communication open and make a detailed plan on how the student teacher will ease into classroom duties. Students teachers need to be comfortable asking mentor teachers for feedback and advice where needed. They also need to be able to accept constructive criticism and advice as helpful information rather than negative criticism.
Pro Teacher offers forums with excellent tips for student teachers. From the first day, student teachers need to have a positive attitude by smiling and firmly shaking hands when being introduced to faculty and administrators. It is also important to be familiar with the school’s code of conduct and emergency policies. Study them and always keep them handy.
Other things that student teachers should familiarize themselves with are the learning standards for their state and grade level, and the lesson plan format that the school district uses. Come up with a technique to learn students’ names like nametags and games. Finally, be polite and friendly. Get to know other student teachers, secretaries, custodians, and cafeteria workers. It helps to have allies!