When you do your student teaching, you need (and want) all the advice you can get. I’ve been teaching for almost two decades, and I’ve had several student teachers. I’ve compiled a list of the most important things you need to know as you prepare to do your student teaching.
- Contact your teacher as soon as you get your student teaching placement. This is an easy task, and it will impress your cooperating teacher! Send an email to introduce yourself. Make a PDF that includes anything and everything you want your teacher to know about you. It’s also great to include a few pictures of yourself, too. While you’re at it, go ahead and make one to send home to your students and their families.
- Communicate with your supervising teacher. Communication is the key to a happy classroom! When you are student teaching, communicate often – as much as you can. Ask questions. Ask for feedback. Always discuss your ideas for lesson plans with them.
- Be early every day. It takes time to be prepared and get everything ready for your day. Even if you have everything ready the day before, being early will give you time to make sure it’s all ready. If you’re using technology, which you will be, you’ll need to make sure it’s all working correctly. The more time you have to prepare, the smoother your day will flow!
- Start helping immediately. The best student teachers I had were the ones who started helping right away. Some just sat there and watched me – that wasn’t helpful at all! If you’re not sure what to do, then ask! You can check morning work, help individual students, grade papers, help students unpack… the list is seriously never-ending.
- Do what needs to be done without being asked. Did someone spill something? Help clean it up. Do you know how your teacher grades papers and see stacks of ungraded papers on his/her desk? Go check them. Do multiple students have their hands raised? Go help them. Once you have been student teaching for a few weeks, you will learn how the classroom runs. Do whatever you can to help out – you will be appreciated!!
- Get to know your students and their interests. Build relationships with them. When applicable, design your assignments around their interests. When they know you love them, they will respect you and work hard for you.
- Keep notes. About anything and everything. It can be a journal, a notebook, or sticky notes. Do what works for you. But keep notes about everything. Write down what worked and what didn’t. Have an idea you want to try? Write it down. Did your teacher have an amazing lesson? Write it down. Does your teacher have some fabulous read-alouds? Write them down. Start a Google doc – or several of them. Takes notes on anything and everything. See something amazing in your new classroom? Ask your cooperating teacher if you can take pictures. If so, save them. Trust me on this one.
- Dress professionally. Before you begin your student teaching, be familiar with your school’s dress code policy and follow it. If it’s questionable, then don’t wear it. Don’t spend a lot of money, either. Check out thrift stores or look for sales. Wear something comfortable because you will be on your feet most of the day. You’ll thank me later.
- Keep a binder – or more than one. I’m all about organization. As much as I love and use technology, I also love having paper copies. I recommend having a binder with tabs to keep yourself organized. If you prefer all digital, create a Google folder with subfolders and save copies of everything.
- Take care of yourself. Have you heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup?” It’s very, very true. Student teaching is hard. Teaching is hard. Life is hard! If you are doing your job, you will be exhausted. Take care of yourself. You deserve it. You owe it to yourself (and your family, friends, pets, etc.). Make time for you. Take a walk every evening, unwind with a bubble bath, find a hobby. Whatever you do, make sure that you take time to relax every single day. No one ever told me that, and I really wish they had. If you’ll start doing this during your student teaching, hopefully you will continue it when you teach full time.
- Introduce yourself to all staff members. Be intentional about establishing relationships with as many people as you can. You need to know the office staff, the maintenance staff, the janitors, the cafeteria workers, the school nurse, the specialists, other teachers – everyone. It takes a village to run a school and all staff members are equally important. Get to know them and build those relationships. If you are considering teaching in the district that you are working in, these will be great connections for you in the future.
- Start small. When you enter the classroom, you will probably be very excited and ready to take over immediately. Your cooperating teacher will love your motivation, but you don’t want to do too much too soon. If you start teaching everything at once, you will be completely overwhelmed. Ask your teacher what he or she wants, but I recommend starting with the subject that you are most comfortable with. Once you feel good about it, add another subject, and then another.
- Be flexible. This one is extremely important! It’s very rare that your lessons will go exactly as planned – be prepared to make changes and keep going! It’s also important to over-plan. Sometimes a lesson goes more quickly than you anticipate, and you don’t want to give your students any downtime. If you don’t get to everything, that’s fine – you’ll use it later. Don’t be disappointed if a lesson doesn’t go as planned… it will happen. And that is completely ok.
- Use the media center. You are going to want to use books in your classroom. I honestly see a new book every single day that I want for my classroom. Don’t spend all of your money. Use your media center. There are so many good resources in there. Don’t know where to start? Just ask!
- Go to all of the meetings that you can. Ask if you can go to IEP meetings, 504 meetings, parent-teacher conferences, faculty meetings, grade-level meetings – anything and everything. Attending these meetings will give you a deeper understanding of the field of education.
- Be professional. Don’t gossip. Don’t spend time with people who will bring you down. Always remember to uphold confidentiality.
- Collaborate. This one is huge! Collaboration is the key to teaching. Ask for ideas and share your own. Working together is better for everyone involved!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is one of the best things you can do. Write down your ideas, your concerns, any what-if questions that you have. If you aren’t sure how to start planning a lesson, ask. If you have no idea how to integrate art into a math lesson, ask. Do you have a behavior strategy that you want to try? Ask! As a young professional, you will not know all of the answers. Your cooperating teacher has a lot of experience and they will most likely know all of the answers to your questions. If they don’t, they will find out for you.
- Be careful on social media. As soon as I learned that someone was going to be helping in my classroom (student teachers, interns, etc.) the first thing I did was to look them up on social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… all of it. I’ve also been on several interview committees, and you better believe we searched all of their social media sites. You are free to live your life as you please, but as an educator, you will be held to higher standards. That’s just how it is. If you have something questionable on any of your sites, delete it. You’ll be glad that you did. When you begin student teaching, never post pictures of your students, or names, or specifics. It’s probably a violation of their school policies.
- Know the objectives/standards that your school uses. Before you even begin student teaching, you probably have a million awesome ideas. Write them all down. Then, find out where to locate the objectives/standards that your school uses. Look over your ideas and think of ways that you can create engaging lessons that will align with the standards.
Want a PDF version of this list? Click the image below to download it!
I hope that you’ve found some helpful information in this list! If so, please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you! Have a friend who is student teaching? Share this with them, too! They will thank you for it!