8 Tips for Student Teachers
Are you about to start student teaching? Are you currently student teaching? Or are you going to be student teaching sometime soon?
First of all-- CONGRATS! I am so excited for you! I love being a teacher and hope that you'll love it as much as I do. However, I do remember how nervous I was about student teaching. There were lots of unknowns and I didn't quite know what to expect. Although everyone's student teaching experience will be a little bit different,I have got 8 tips for you!!
#1 - ASK QUESTIONS.
If there is a question you have, don't be afraid to ask it! I remember feeling a little hesitant to ask questions sometimes because I didn't know if my mentor teacher would think it was a "dumb question" or if I was supposed to already know the answer. But I have learned that it is ALWAYS better to ask than to assume you know... and then be wrong or not understand clearly. So when in doubt, ASK.
#2 - Learn all that you can from your mentor teacher!
I actually had more than one mentor teacher as a student teacher because I had two placements. With my degree I am certified to teach middle school and high school so my program at my college had us do half of our student teaching at a middle school and the other half at a high school. This was to help us get experience in both so that we could better know which one we wanted to teach at and to help us feel more prepared to teach either! It also meant a change of mentor teacher which was beneficial cause mine were very different and I was able to learn a lot from both of them. You are going to learn that there are things you want to do like your mentor teacher and also probably some things you DON'T want to do like them. Take note of those things and try to learn all you can from them.
#3 - Get to know other teachers in the building!
I firmly believe that there is something you can learn from EVERY teacher! Take advantage of being around all those teachers in your building every day. If it's possible, go observe some other teachers too! I loved being able to do that while I was student teaching. They don't have to be a teacher that teaches the same subject as you. Even now as a teacher, I still love visiting other teachers' classrooms and talking to other teachers about how they do things in their classes because everyone is a little different and you never know when something they do will really resonate with you. We all have different strengths and I love watching teachers teach who have strengths in areas I want to improve. Also get to know the staff at the school like the custodians, the office secretaries, the lunch ladies, etc.
#4 - Keep a journal of some sort!
I've talked a lot about how much you are going to be learning and if you don't document it somehow you will probably forget most of it! There is so much you learn as a student teacher and in a relatively short amount of time. By the end of student teaching it all felt like a blur. I was so glad that I kept a "journal" while I student taught so that I could remember the things I learned and the ideas I wanted to implement when I had my own classroom. Your journal could be a traditional notebook or diary, or it could simply be a Google Doc! I personally liked having mine in a Google Doc, simply because I knew I'd eventually misplace or lose a paper journal. But having it in my Drive meant I can find it easily and I can access it anywhere I can log into my Google account. It also means I can search (CTRL + F on PC or Command F on Mac) through the document to find something specific. Some days I wrote out my thoughts and feelings at the end of the day and other times I just typed a few bullet points. If you like recording your voice or taking videos you could create a video journal. Do what works for you!
#5 - Be friends with other student teachers!
I think having a support group is so important. Having a parent, a significant other, a sibling or a friend who is encouraging you during this time will be great. But having people who are going through the same thing as you at the same time is even more beneficial. I was (still am) really good friends with the girls in my major who were student teaching at the same time as me. They were my lifeline! It made such a difference to have people who I could vent to who understood and people I could talk through things with and share all the ups and down with. I am forever grateful I had them. We had a group chat that we used everyday and sometimes we would call each other on the way home from school too. If you don't know the student teachers from your major, you could also make friends with the other student teachers at the school you are student teaching at. Either way, I think it will make a huge difference if you have people you can talk to who get what you're going through!
#6 - Be confident!
I think it's so important for you to be confident when student teaching--and if you don't feel confident, act like you do! Sometimes you have to "fake it til you make it" but students will want to listen to you more (especially middle schoolers and high schoolers) if you are confident. However, it is also important to be honest if you don't know something. It's better to tell students "I'll have to get back to you on that", or "I'm not sure but I will find out" then to tell them something that is wrong... that could get you in trouble. But being confident is a good thing. Do whatever you need to do to help you feel confident. The first thing is to be prepared! If you are teaching that day, make sure you actually know the content you're teaching and that you have thought through everything so that you feel prepared. If you aren't prepared there's know way you'll feel confident. Sometimes even if you are prepared you still may not feel confident, simply because you're new to it all. Something that I loved to do while student teaching is listen to pump up music while driving to the school each day! It may sound silly but music really affects my mood and it made me feel a lot more confident walking into the school every day. Another thing I would do (which is a little embarrassing to admit), is I would say positive affirmations out loud in the car that last few minutes of my drive as I pulled up to the school. I would say (sometimes shout) things out loud like "I am confident", "I am patient", "I am a great teacher", "I am understanding", "I am enough" etc. This helped me and if you think it will help you too, then do it! Find what will help you feel confident.
#7 - Do something to "fill your cup" every day!
It sounds so cliché but it's true. You have got to make sure you are taking care of yourself during this time where you may feel a lot of pressure and a lot of stress. This includes eating well-- your diet affects you. more than you think! It also includes getting enough sleep at night! But it also means doing something for YOU each day. This could look different for everyone. It could be going for a walk, getting outside, spending time with friends, or exercising. For me, I went straight to the gym every day after school and that did amazing things for me. It was a great outlet for me and got those endorphins going! Do something that will rejuvenate you or something that makes you happy. It could be as simple as a short meditation or eating your favorite meal.
#8 - Give yourself grace.
Remember, you haven't done this before. You are learning. You will not be perfect at this whole teaching thing and that's okay. No one is. You will improve and you will get better. The whole point of student teaching is for you to learn and get experience to help you when you are in your own classroom. You got this!
I hope these tips are helpful and that you enjoy your student teaching experience. Make the most of it! One of my favorite quotes is
"Every day may not be good... but there's something good in every day" ― Alice Morse Earle
I think this is especially applicable to student teaching. Find that something good each day! You are going to rock it!