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So you have made it to student teaching! Congratulations! Here are some things that you can do as a student teacher to make your life just that bit easier while student teaching!
1. First and foremost, introduce yourself with a smile on your face and a firm handshake for your cooperating teacher. If you are teaching older students, a handshake may benefit them too. For younger children, a wave hello may do.
2. You have to read two documents on your first day:
-The school discipline policy
-The school emergency procedures handbook
KNOW THESE LIKE THE BACK OF YOUR HAND. If you get caught disciplining in an inappropriate manner that doesn't fit into school policy’ you are going to be having difficulties. If there is an emergency in your school (even just a practice fire drill) you need to know what to do in case of this. I know I sound like I'm the CIA, but hey, these things happen. :)
3. Be a professional. This means that you dress like one (jeans are student teacher suicide) act like one (don’t complain that you hate your cooperating teacher to the entire staff room) and be one in the classroom (yes, you ARE the student’s teacher)
Professional dress means:
· No jeans
· Don’t expose too much skin – avoid low cut tops
· Nice pants/skirt (above the knee is fine, mini skirt is not)
· Dress shoes
· If you’re a guy, wear a tie (and don’t break out the world map ones until you’re well into your student teaching)
· Do the judgment test: Overdress on the first day and then observe what everyone else is wearing. Check with your cooperating teacher if you are unsure.
4. You gossip about anything and you are burning your bridges before they have been built. If you want to be negative, do it at home or over the phone to someone non-school related.
5. If you know your grade level before you teach, make sure you get a chance to look at the state standards for your grade level. Are there any statewide tests that the children are going to sit while they are under your care? What do you do if a child doesn’t meet a particular standard? What are the assessment requirements for your students?
6. Lesson plans are a curious thing – check the formatting for your school/your university. Be clear about how your cooperating teaching wants the lesson/when they want it/the formatting required. You never know, you may learn a new computer skill because of it!
7. Buddy up with other student teachers in your school to share resources and ideas. You never know, adaptation of a lesson for a Grade 2 classroom may just save your life as a student teacher!
8. Be prepared to make mistakes (because hey, you're learning) - smile, cry, yell scream, but most importantly, make note of what went wrong, perhaps why it didn't work out, and how you might improve things for the next time.(Boy do I remember the day where everything, and I mean everything went wrong. I became a better teacher for it though).
9. Co-operating teachers can be great, they can be interesting, and they can be very difficult to deal with. If you do have any problems, make sure you tell your CT/supervisor early on, and do it in a tactful, polite way, giving examples of where you think the problems lie. Honesty, done tactfully and politely, is the best policy. If worst comes to worst and you have serious difficulties with your CT, inform your university supervisor (who should be kept up to date of things going on anyway) and back it up with information from your student teaching handbook.
· It doesn't matter how old your cooperating teacher is, they have had at least two to three years 'out in the field' over you, and you need to respect that. Don't try and act like a know-it-all because hey, you may be a student teacher, but they will have seen your act before - in their students.
· If we’re talking about staff at school, make a point of making friends with the custodian/janitor/cafeteria lady/office lady/person/school crossing guard/paraprofessionals. Your efforts will be rewarded with politeness, completion of tasks for your classroom, and clean classrooms.
10. That student teaching handbook is your bible while you are student teaching. It should contain information on what you are expected to do and when, useful contacts, and information on what the university expects, both of you and the co-operating teacher. Read it and know it back to front and upside down.
11. Learn the students’ names as quickly as possible. Play an adjective games, stick name tags on them (yes, they’ll hate you in the beginning, but it beats getting a name wrong), or figure out some way to learn their names as best you can two days in.
12. Be the students’ teacher, not their friend. This is often one of the hardest things student teachers have to deal with – the fact that the student teacher just wants to be liked by their students when teaching them. As a friend of mind once wrote: ‘We are there to help them be smart, not to be liked.’
13. Be prepared to follow the classroom discipline model of your co-operating teacher, at least at first. This is what the kids are used to and change may be a difficult thing to implement. If you do want to attempt a new classroom or behaviour management technique, discuss it with your co-operating teacher/supervisor first. Together, you can come up with a shared method that will work for both of you while you are in the classroom.
14. Smile. A lot. At everyone. They will smile back, even if it takes a little while.
16. Eat regular meals.
17. Get regular exercise.
18. Don’t spend all your time on student teaching – lesson plans are not your life. Try and spend time with friends who are not teaching, it gives you a bit of perspective!
19. Talk to your dog/cat/mouse/fish about what you’re going through. You know you’ll have someone who will just listen, and not offer their opinion.
20. Have fun! Student teaching is a wonderful experience.
Hope that settles some butterflies!
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