Preparing For Your Student Teaching Experience (part 2)

Preparing For Your Student Teaching Experience (part 2)

by Frank Holes, Jr.

 This is the second in a series of articles designed for college interns getting ready for their student-teaching experience. Student teaching is the final step for most teaching programs, and having a positive experience is vital for new teachers. This series of articles will provide many ideas, tips, and suggestions for young educators to make the most of the experience.

Being an intern is an interesting position to be in. The university treats you as a student, making you jump through hoops completing projects and meeting deadlines sometimes seeming totally irrelevant to the internship. The school district you are working in expects you to be a professional educator with all the secrets of innovation and new technologies fresh from the university 'think tank'. Parents think of you as someone who really doesn't know what they are doing yet and don't understand why you are practicing on their kids. They are always quick to point out their perceptions of student teachers when a problem arises about grades or behavior.

Hopefully I will provide you with some practical information presented in a no-nonsense form.

First and foremost, make sure all of your personal chores and plans are in order before you begin your assignment. Once you start it is vital to focus all of your energy and time into your placement.  Secure your housing well in advance and establish a routine of daily tasks. Plan to arrive at school early and plan to stay late. Student teaching is absolutely relentless; you will be exhausted after your first day. The mental and physical strain is unbelievable. Make sure all of your details are taken care of in advance; you don't want anything to interfere with your teaching. Do create some time for yourself or you will self-destruct. You need to keep your mind clear in order to make effective teacher decisions. Plan to have some time each day for your self - it may only be a few minutes, but it is very important. You may think you don't need it, but all veteran teachers will tell you differently.

Secondly, be a sponge. You are new to the profession and regardless of how well your university has prepared you, nothing measures up to being on your own in a classroom. When the door shuts for the first time you will know what I am talking about. Glean as much from your mentor and other teachers as possible, and by all means, don't come across as an expert.

You have not paid your dues and therefore you are really not an expert at anything. Learn from your observations and reflections; don't be afraid to make mistakes. As you progress and you become more effective, take risks and try different methodologies and teaching strategies. By all means keep in close contact with your mentor and always remember - no surprises. Ask questions before you do something; your mentor knows the ropes and will offer excellent advice. Make it your responsibility to learn the routines and specifics of the district and building you are working in. Don't rely on someone to tell you; find out on your own, take the initiative.  You can learn many things from both effective and ineffective teachers. Unless asked, keep your opinions to yourself, being new and having all the energy of youth will be a threat to some, so tread lightly.

If there is any down time in your room, ask your mentor for tasks to accomplish. Help out anywhere you can. Ask to take on something difficult and work with your mentor to accomplish it. Save as many artifacts as possible and use them in your professional portfolio.  Creative lesson plans and examples of student work are excellent things to have. Ask for feedback and listen and process. Create an open dialog with your mentor; remember that is the person who will be called first when a district wants to know about you. Your mentor will be able to talk about strengths and weaknesses, so what do you want to them to say about you?

Finally, enter the internship with the idea there will be a teaching opening that you will be qualified for in the very building you are student teaching. Create positive relationships with staff, parents, and students. You do that by demonstrating professional behavior.  When your internship is completed you want everyone to say - "We would really like to have you become part of our team!" Prove to people that you are the type of teacher that would be a perfect fit for their district.

School districts are looking for candidates who are 'low maintenance' teachers who can come into their buildings and have an immediate impact. Confidence, solid work ethic, and exemplary professional dispositions are words you want people to use to describe you. Your internship is an excellent place to begin!

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Frank Holes, Jr. is the editor of the StarTeaching website and the
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