As I prepare for my upcoming student teaching experience, many questions and concerns enter my head before I begin my journey. Following are a few of the questions and concerns I have as I begin my student teaching stint, as well as steps taken to prepare myself for this endeavor. It is important that I am as best prepared as possible for this experience, but there are many variables that lie outside of my control, such as class size, students, cooperating teacher selection, and more. There are, however, some things I can do to address some questions and concerns.
An open line of communication is always important, no matter what field one may be in. It was important for me to make contact with my cooperating teacher before the student teaching started. This allowed me to answer various questions before starting as a student teacher. Some questions may include what class I will be teaching, specific material I will be expected to cover, as well as discussions on various teachings styles and pedagogies. With some of these questions addressed, my cooperating teacher and I were able to talk more in depth about the units that will be covered, and how best to teach them.
How can I make the most of my relationship with my cooperating teacher, since they will be a big part of the experience? Having a set schedule of times to sit down and talk with the cooperating teacher could be a great way to discuss things happening in the classroom, troubled students, as well as creating a rapport with the cooperating teacher. Trying to agree on a time to talk over a cup of coffee once or twice a week to talk through problems as well as successes will hopefully be an important tool in my belt.
What resources will be readily available? This is a vital question for a student teacher as they are in a tough spot, not being an official educator at their school, yet still having the classroom experience under their control. Trying to understand what resources are available before student teaching is critical because once I understand what is available, I can make the necessary adjustments to their curriculum. The student teacher should also find out what resources the cooperating teacher has and uses, and check to see if they are available for the student teacher.
In my case, I was able to take home some of the materials to be used to review before my student teaching began. This was an enormous help as it allowed me to get a solid grasp on the material the class is learning, as well as what I will be expected to teach. Even better though, because I knew what my course and material was, I was able to start formulating ideas for lessons before I even stepped in the school on the first day. My goal was essentially to hit the ground running in the hopes of creating a successful and positive learning environment.
There are concerns beyond the material though, and some include how to appropriately interact with the rest of the staff, as well as the students. As a student teacher, I will only be in the building for a short period of time, and may have a difficult time establishing meaningful relationships with others in the building; so it is imperative to always act professionally (includes dressing professionally), and not get too “chummy” with the other teachers. Some may be offended by a level of comfort coming from me, the student teacher, who is not a regular teacher in the school. This does not mean that I will not be interacting with anyone, simply that I will try my best to keep these relationships at a professional level.
One may also be concerned with problem students and how they will handle them, since, for most student teachers, this is their first time back in a classroom since they departed from high school. Once again, it will be essential to keep a clear line of communication open with my cooperating teacher as that person will be my best resource for classroom management and discipline. Clear lines of communication with parents will also hopefully be a benefit for me. Most importantly though, talking with the student could be the most important decision as the I will get a first hand look at the questions and concerns the student will have.
Doing a little research on the school before the first day of class can help alleviate some of these problems too. If you know the demographic of the students and the performance levels of the school, that can take you a long way as you prepare for your student teaching experience. Gathering as much knowledge as possible is key to a successful stint as a student teacher.
Using your professors and fellow education students is another great way to prepare, share ideas, and stories about student teaching. It was helpful for me to talk with students in my cohort and shares problems we have had before student teaching as well as possible strategies going into our student teaching experience. Knowing that you are not the only student teacher out there with a certain set of problems is comforting. Everyone has a similar set of problems; it is just in how you talk through them that counts, and there is a lot to be learned from listening to your fellow cohort students.
We were also able to meet as a group with one of our professors a couple times over the summer to talk about education, student teaching, or anything else that came to our minds. Keeping those networks open is a great tool for your professional development as well as getting a frame of reference for everyone’s experiences. But possibly one of the best things one can do, and that helped me, was to pick the brain of a recently finished student teacher. These recently certified teachers were able to relay stories, good and bad, and pass on some advice as how to best mange one’s position as a student teacher.
These are just a few of the questions and concerns that have entered my head as I get ready to student teach in a Chicago Public School. Good communication is what has helped me the most so far, and will most likely be my biggest asset as I move forward with my student teaching. Talking with others and soaking up as much information as possible can only help me on my path to becoming a full time teacher.