View Full Version : Student Teacher Advice Please
12-21-2006, 09:53 AM
Howdy everyone, I know there are a lot of teachers on this site so I thought I'd tap into you all for a bit of advice. I'm graduating tomorrow with my BA and I begin my first student teaching assignment January 29. I'm so excited!
Anyhoo... those of you who are teachers and have had student teachers in your classroom, do you have any advice to offer? I want to be the best student teacher ever and my biggest fear is not getting along with my cooperating teacher.
Thanks in advance for all the great advice! Hope you all enjoy your well deserved winter break!
12-23-2006, 09:52 AM
I just finished student teaching so I don't have the advice you are looking for but I just wanted to say good luck!
It is a lot of work, and sometimes stressful but it is fun and you will learn a lot.
12-23-2006, 10:21 AM
I just finished student teaching last year and have my own classroom this year - can I give advise from my own perspective?
1. Go in with an open mind, prepared to learn from both the negative and the positive. There were things about both my teachers that I loved and hated. I was able to "take" what I wanted for my own classroom while saying, "I will never do that" about other things.
2. Listen. Regardless of how well (or not) you match personality-wise, this person has the years of experienced that allowed her to become a mentor.
3. Take on more than you think you can handle. Volunteer for everything. The more you've experienced, the better prepared you will be for your own classroom.
4. Don't complain and stay away from those that do. You'll come across plenty of complainers in the teacher lounge - listen, but don't contribute. You'll learn a lot.
5. Take one of everything. If there is a worksheet or other matierial you like, ask if you can make a copy. Teachers love to share.
6. Know that you'll have to compromise. I've never met a teacher who was wishy washy. We want things the way we want things. Know that you'll have to give in to do things the way your mentor wants them done. Just make note and vow to do it your way when you get into your own classroom.
7. Go in early and stay late. Attend all school functions. Become an integral part of the school.
Good luck and have lots of fun! You'll remember this time always!
12-23-2006, 10:29 AM
I did my student teaching last year and I remember how nervous I was! Some things I learned along the way:
1. Remember you are a guest in the cooperating teacher's classroom! He/She may have a different philosophy or teaching style than you do. It may be great and it may be not so great, but be polite and keep the not so great things in your mental folder of things you will never do! I had a peer that argued with a teacher in our methods placement (takes place our junior year, it's basically a half day student teaching experience). Needless to say, she didn't make it to student teaching!
2. Try to work as little as possible when student teaching! That way, you are able to stay after if the teacher needs/wants you too. Also be willing to go that extra mile! It looks good for you to put the extra effort in and the cooperating teacher will appreciate it. This will also help with your organization, which is essential in the classroom! I only worked 6 hours per week during student teaching and it enabled me to focus on making sure everything was done correctly and organized efficiently. When I am organized, every aspect of the day is better and so is my teaching!
3. Keep a smile on your face and LISTEN to what the cooperating teacher tells you. Sometimes you may not like what they are saying, but mainly they are trying to help you be a better teacher. If the teacher is a quack, still smile and nod and take what they say into account while you are in their classroom. It shows you are a professional.
4. Arrive early, dressed appropriately! It seems like a no brainer, but you would be surprised at how many student teachers show up late and with low rise pants or shirts that if they bend over reveal their breasts or bras :eek: I have clothes that I call my classroom wardrobe. They are conservative and professional. When I try them on, I bend over and move around as if I am in a classroom :o But I know that when I wear them to school, nobody is going to see anything on me that should be covered!
5. Find out the appropriate chain of command, that way, if there is something that needs to be reported you go to the right place. Itís generally your supervisor, but make sure! Also, try to be positive with you supervisor! That way, if something comes up and you need to let them know, they will take you more seriously because you arenít complaining about everything that goes on.
6. Remember itís a learning experience! No one will expect you to know everything, but they will expect you to be open to constructive criticism and work on the areas you need to improve!
12-23-2006, 10:34 AM
Congratulations on graduating! So, so exciting!
I taught in public schools for 8 years before staying at home with my kids. I was a cooperating teacher for 2 student teachers. One was a good experience and the other was, well, horrible.
1. Be prepared to work a lot. Teaching is hard and time consuming. In the beginning of your student teaching it may feel as if you aren't doing much and you may even feel a little bored. By the end of the semester things will have drastically changed and you will be doing the bulk of the planning, teaching and evaluating. It's a hard adjustment to make. You will be exhausted and people in your life may feel a little slighted b/c you are so busy.
2. Listen and observe. As others have said, you are going to see things happen that you wouldn't do in your classroom. That's OK. Take the positive examples and the negative ones all as learning experiences. If you can find the time, I recommend keeping some sort of log/journal of your experience.
3. If you want to get a job at the particular school you are student teaching in, volunteer and make your face known by others than you cooperating teacher. Of course, make sure you are fulfulling all of your classroom duties before you start volunteering.
4. Take the initiative to do things. If students need help, help them. Don't wait for your cooperating teacher to point you in the right direction.
5. Go to all of the meeting that your cooperating teacher goes to. If allowed, go to IEP meetings, parent meetings, team meetings, etc, even of they are before or after school.
6. Be creative and use what you learned in school to plan your lessons. I have learned some things from my good student teacher too!
7. My best advice is come to school prepared, have your work done on time and be professional.
Lots of luck to you!
12-23-2006, 11:11 AM
I taught one year and never had a student teacher under me, but there was one very important lesson I learned while in my student teaching year. (We had the option of going in a full year as opposed to a semester, and it was an amazing experience!)
Don't be afraid to scrap the lesson and start over the next day!! I tried something with my 4th graders, and they just didn't get it. My cooperating teacher thought that I had done a great job bringing it to their level. It's just that they weren't ready for the particular concept that day, and the whole class ended up very frustrated. My last instruction to them that day in class was to wad up their papers and throw them in the trash! I worked with my cooperating teacher while our students were in another class on a different method to present the concept, and it worked beautifully the next day!
12-23-2006, 12:45 PM
I taught for 6 years before becoming a SAHM and was lucky enough to have a student teacher for a semester. It was a great experience for me as the "master" teacher. One thing that worked really well was having a notebook where I would take notes and ask questions regarding her teaching and she would do the same when she observed me in the beginning- there are often so many little things organization wise that go into a well-run classroom that I wouldn't have been able to explain them all. This way if she saw me do a hand signal or whatever, she could jot down a note to ask me what I was doing, and if I saw her do something great or not-so-great, I could jot down a note so we could remember to talk about it later.
Also don't be afraid to ask for feedback in areas you specifically want to work on. For example when I was a ST my issue was that I tend to talk very fast when I get nervous so I needed to work on slowing down. By discussing it ahead of time it made it more of an issue to work on with my cooperating teacher- we even made up a hand signal so she could silently remind me during a lesson if I was talking too fast. Hopefully you will get your own desk or area on the room to keep your things at- if not, I'd ask if there is a way you can get one because that really helps. And I found that it was really nice to have my student teacher find out all the things that I was responsible for and write them out for me with the dates they were due by, becuase I had so many other things going on it was hard to keep up, but I didn't want to let her down on the things she needed for her requirements.
12-23-2006, 09:54 PM
1) don't be afraid to ask for advice on how to grade things. some things take forever to learn how to do quickly - such as grading papers and tests - and it can really swamp you under with piles of work to do. simple techniques such as grading the same section on every test, so that you can get a rhythm going, will be helpful - i remember my cooperating teacher watching me grade once, and believe it or not, i was going through each test separately, grading the entire thing before going on to the next test. if you grade ALL the section A's before moving on to section B, it helps. i look back and think how pathetically obvious that should've been, but for some reason, it wasn't.
one thing i kicked myself for only starting to do recently - i have given tests for years that were really good tests - tested on reading, listening, writing, vocab and grammar, in Spanish - and for a long time, the testing materials would come with multiple choice items for everything but the writing section. and i didn't use scan tron. not sure why. i could've just printed out one set of tests and a separate writing section for 100 kids and saved probably tons of paper. and it would've been so much faster to grade. but i didn't - and i spent hours and hours grading those things - i found my attitude towards giving a really tough writing section changed for the better when the rest of the test was already done by the machine - i wish i had done what i'm doing now, years ago. but learning how to economize things you do for time's sake is part of teaching, i guess.
2) learn names of kids ASAP. it really helps cut down on discipline issues. you have a ton of other things to learn as well, so this will seem like its less of a priority at first, but kids really do buckle down better when you call them out personally and seem to know them.
3) learn how to simplify. why plan 9 different activities for 3 different classes? why not do the same activity, just adapted for different levels, on the same day? it cuts down on prep. if you can, do the same 3 activities for 3 different levels. saves soooo much time. learn how to simplify directions in what you're telling kids to do. it confuses them and yourself less.
4) don't give completion grades or too much extra credit. my mentor teacher, not my cooperating teacher, probably gave me the worst advice ever in my 1st year in a real teaching job. he said he gave kids completion grades as long as they finished their work and then if they didn't bother to correct their papers when he gave the answers, then that was their loss and it evened out when he gave them a test, because it showed who had bothered to learn and who had not. well, i followed his advice for 3-4 years and it really inflated my grades, and i didn't even realize it for the longest time!!!!! it cheats kids from realizing they really need to work harder and its a teacher's lazy way out.
if you're worried about getting swamped under with grading, then its better to give fewer assignments, but make them worth more points so kids will care about them more; they will care about learning how to do the work involved as well; you'll have less grading to do, but the grading will be more meaningful.
nowadays, i give 2 'practice' assignments on average that i do not collect (after just introducing a topic), but that we correct in class; then i give one big assignment that i do collect, because by that time, kids should've had enough practice to be evaluated on what they're doing.
too much extra credit is just that: too much. some kids want it because they would rather not work until the very end, then make it all up in one week with extra credit. do not give them this loophole. i give max 5-10 extra credit points per semester.
5) ask how to use the grade book ASAP. this can be very confusing since it seems every school system has a different one. you don't want to be stumbling through it the day grades are due. your cooperating teacher also should not be choosing to disappear right when grades are due either. they should be helping you every step of the way in this regard.
6) have a student handbook handy to tell you what the grading scale is, what the policy is on catching kids cheating, how much contact you're expected to have with parents, what the dress code is - all the things you will need to know. do you know where you're supposed to take the kids during a fire or tornado drill? is there a place to send kids on detention? how do you write a kid up who is misbehaving in class? where are the forms you would need for this? what is the policy on hall passes, and where are these located?
will you give the kids a classroom policy list on the 1st day? what will it say?
Harry Wong's The First Days of School is a wonderful book to read for all new teachers. i don't implement everything he does, but his philosophy and reasoning is very inspiring and a model to look up to. i really recommend it.
12-24-2006, 12:18 PM
I had 5 student teachers over the years (taught for almost 9, am taking a few years off and hope to go back next year). Some were really great, some... not so much.
It looks like you got some really awesome advice so far, I'm not sure that I could add a lot more... I'll just say that the ones that stood out for me were the ones that showed that they truly enjoyed and loved working with children.
They jumped right in, tried things my way, tried things their way, they tried to fit into what was already established in my classroom while gently infusing their own ideas... they offered help in every thing involved with my job.
They read professional publications and their heads were swirling with ideas for what/how to teach the children. They knew the subject matter well.
They talked to other faculty/staff members, and were thankful for every bit of help that they received from them.
They never complained about how tired they were, they rarely talked about their college/party life (which I didn't care about, I didn't want to waste our time talking about things like that).
They were really on the road to being independent thinkers and were well-prepared for their job search (resumes, cover letters, portfolios, etc. done or in progress).
Honestly, I don't know if those STs purposely did all of those things, or if it was part of their plan. I kind of think that they were just being themselves. Hard working. Knowledgeable. Caring. Respectful. Insightful. Innovative. Self-starters. Organized. Thirsty to learn.
Good luck, hope you have a wonderful time!!!
12-24-2006, 08:33 PM
My husband is a 6th grade teacher who has a student every semester.
#1 piece of advice is to learn all the kids names within the first 2 days of school so when you are teaching you can correctly call on students.
#2 stay as late as the teacher does after school.
#3 learn the grading system as soon as possible.
01-06-2007, 03:34 PM
Wow! Thank you all for the advice and the thought you gave to my question! There is so much good information on this thread I hope it stays here for awhile as I'm sure I'm not the only student teacher nervous about getting started.
The advice you all gave is so helpful, there are so many things that on the surface might seem natural for an experienced teacher but for a newby like me are a bit of an "Aha" moment.
I do have one more question: Several of you mentioned get to know the kids' names quickly. I'm am notoriously bad at name recollection. I'm especially nervous about this as I'm coming into a classroom in January. I think students might be a bit more forgiving of a teacher forgetting their name in September (when the students are new to the class too) than they will be in January. I'm thinking maybe I should bring my camera on my first day and take of picture of each child holding up their name to then go home and memorize them after school. Any other advice for quickly learning names?
Thank you again for all of the great advice! I'm going to compile it all into a bulleted list to carry around with me in my planner so I can review it often!
I'm thinking about starting a journal here when I start student teaching so I'll keep you posted on how it's going.
01-06-2007, 05:28 PM
You know, I thought I was really bad with names, too and was amazed when my co-op teachers were able to recall names on the first day. As an observer sitting on the sidelines for those first couple of weeks, I could barely remember a few kids' names. As soon as I took over the classroom, learning the names became a matter of "life or death..." So just like that, I learned their names on the first day I was in charge. It helped to have a seating chart and name plates on the student desks, too.
I think taking pictures of the students would be a great idea! They would have fun with it and it's a good community building activity. Let them decorate their name plates and after they hold them up for your picture you can use clear contact paper to attach them to their desks. Once you've memorized the students' names you can create a "who are we" type bulletin board where the pictures can be displayed along with art work or a completed "who am I" questionaire for each student.
Despite all of the cool things you can do with the pictures - don't stress too much about learning the names. You'll amaze yourself with how quickly you do this.
Look forward to hearing more!
01-07-2007, 06:31 PM
nordey - I wouldn't worry about it too much, the names come pretty quickly. How many names will you need to learn? I taught instrumental, which meant a little over 200 kids/week... I couldn't learn them all right away. I just used a list/seating chart and did the very best that I could.
The only thing I can think of, about taking pictures... check the district's policy. Many require parental permission and/or prohibit taking individual photographs.
01-08-2007, 07:22 AM
How many names do you have to learn? I think you'll find that once you're in the middle of it, it will come easier than you think.
Another piece of advice: I memorized an alpha list of the kids initials (by first initial) and that way I could assess who was missing, absent, etc. right away. I also used an alpha initial list on paper to keep track of who didn't turn in homework. It made a really quick way to keep up with everyone in many different situations.
Have you started already?
Oh, and I agree with Linda. Some of the parents of our students opted to not have their child's picture taken by anyone, so you would need that info before proceeding. I think it would be a great way to help you memorize names and faces though.
01-08-2007, 04:39 PM
Ooo, good idea about the alpha list, maggie. I used a number system in alpha order and students have to put both their name and assigned numbers on all papers. I was able to quickly put papers (and students in alpha order using their numbers).
On the subject of picture taking, the districts I've worked in allows pictures as long as it is being used within the classroom (versus used in an educational video, or newsletter or something). Maybe it just varies from state to state.
01-17-2007, 12:46 PM
Thanks everyone for your responses! I just got back from a week visiting my sister and her new baby out of state.
I expected to have heard from my student teaching coordinator by now about my placement as I'm supposed to begin student teaching in 12 days... I'd like to know where I'm going to be. Depending on what grade I'm placed in I could have as few as 20 students or as many as 36.
About the pictures, my understanding is that as long as the pictures are for classroom use only, they can be taken without permission. I will certainly check with my classroom teacher first though.
I've started a new journal about my experiences in student teaching. I hope you'll all swing by and say hi sometime!
Thanks again for all the great advice you've given!
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