Your student teaching experience is the first step to becoming a transformative teacher. This time in your education (whether through your Bachelors or Master of Arts in Teaching degree) provides you with hands-on experience in the classroom, and allows you to develop your personal teaching style.
Feeling nervous or apprehensive? Totally normal. The following guest post is from
Pro Student Teacher, a blog dedicated to providing aspiring teachers with helpful hints to navigate their student teaching experience and be prepared for their first years of teaching.
You are moving out of the university environment and into a classroom where you will start to see, feel and hear what it is actually like to be a teacher. What an exciting time for you! You’ve reached this final stage of your teacher preparation program, and the anticipation of being in the classroom teaching a group of students under the guidance of a mentor teacher has you psyched. The university has prepared you with a comprehensive course of study. Now you must prepare yourself for your student teaching experience. You are going to be responsible for educating students, providing instruction, as well as making connections with and collaborating with teachers.
Fortunately, you are not alone in this. You have been assigned a mentor teacher who is eager to guide you along the way. Your mentor teacher serves as your role model and sets the tone for you to have a successful experience. Since first impressions are often said to be lasting, it’s important that you make a good one with your mentor teacher with whom you’ll be working with for quite a length of time. In order to assist you in this process, we’ve created some key pointers to help prepare you to meet your mentor teacher and for your new student teaching experience.
• Make Contact
Arrange to meet with your mentor before the first day of student teaching. Call the school and leave a message or send your mentor teacher an e-mail where to set up a date and time for you to meet.
• Introduce Yourself
Let your mentor teacher know a little about you. Family, past experiences with students, and your current job are good, safe topics to bring up. Keep the conversation on a professional level.
• Have a Purpose
When you meet your mentor teacher, make sure you ask questions so you can become informed about the students’ achievement levels, school demographics, parent involvement and curricular materials being used. All this information will help you plan lessons for your class.
• Dress Appropriately
Business casual is acceptable. Sneakers, jeans, sweat suits and excessive jewelry are definite no-nos.
• Get Details
Ask about the daily schedule, start and end times for students and teachers, departmental meetings, professional learning communities (PLCs) and the like. Also, be sure to tell your mentor teacher about your schedule and university requirements, as well as any instances where you may need to miss a student teaching class.
• Make Contact with Parents
Compose a friendly, succinct letter to the students’ parents/guardians as a means of informing them that you will be working closely with their teacher to provide educational experiences for their children. Most schools do not allow correspondence to be sent home without the building administrator’s approval, so submit it to your university supervisor and/or mentor teacher to proofread first before you give it to the principal. If you have a classroom with English Language Learners (ELLs), make certain to have the letter translated into the appropriate language.
• Plan an Icebreaker
Once your letter is completed, plan an icebreaker for the students’ first day with your mentor teacher. Make sure it is a fun activity that allows students to get to know you and vice versa.
• Be a Proactive Learner
Finally, learn all you can from your mentor teacher. This is the one time in your career that you will be working side by side with an experienced teacher for a lengthy period of time. Take advantage of that expertise.
Be a good observer. Pay close attention to how your mentor teacher manages the classroom and teaches lessons. You’ll learn procedures that have been put in place, see instructional strategies you may want to implement and a teaching style you might want to incorporate as part of your own.
Ask questions. Your mentor teacher might not always anticipate your questions, so you make sure you ask why, when, how, who or what if you’re not sure about something. This is your time to learn as much as you can from an experienced teacher.
Working closely with your mentor teacher and making connections with the students, parents and guardians will help set the tone for you to have a positive student teaching experience. Welcome to the world of a teacher!
To assist student teachers in analysis and self-reflection on their student teaching experiences, Pro Student Teacher has an available guidebook entitled “The Journey: From Student Teacher to Professional Educator.” This guidebook also helps them meet the demands of teaching, promotes organization, prepares them for their job search and serves as a resource for their early years in the classroom.