So, I know that it’s been a minute. Phew! How is January over already?!? I mean, seriously. I know that it has eleventy million days, but dang!! Those days flew!!
Alright, as you know, I had a student teacher with me from September – December. And for real?! It was the most AMAZING experience, and not just because she graded all the papers!! Honestly, I loved having her and watching her grow. And more, I grew, too. Showing her how to “do what we do” really made me reflect and revise some practices for the better.
Anyway, this blog post was written by my student teacher, Miss Allie. Isn’t she the cutest!?! Her audience is for current and prospective student teachers and she’s talking all about the 8 things she found helped her survive student teaching.
2. Embrace your mistakes/ Be flexible!
If you are anything like me, then you are very hard on yourself. I would teach a lesson that ended with blank, confused stares from the kids and I would want to run and hide. Some days, I would even cry and wonder what possibly went wrong? Here’s the thing I learned- the only way to become a better teacher is to practice and make mistakes. I had to learn that I wasn’t going to deliver flawless instruction in my first three months of taking over a classroom. It just wasn’t going to happen. Sometimes, 10 minutes into a planned 54 minute lesson, I would realize mid-instruction that my lesson was going down the drain. When this happens, (and it will), push through your last thought and regroup with your mentor teacher. They are there to help you switch things up when something isn’t working. Take their advice and turn it into action, and you’ll see exactly where you went wrong and how you can fix it.
3. Plan, plan, plan, plan, PLAN.
Planning ahead was so unnatural for me. I felt as if I had been “winging it” with everything my entire life! Let me tell you that that was the mindset that got me in serious trouble. I would half-plan some of my lessons, go in and teach them and wonder where I went wrong. I quickly learned that especially as a student teacher, you have to plan out everything. This means, yes, following the in depth lesson plan model your University Education professor has taught you. I mean seriously, you should plan from the moment the students walk in the door from the moment they leave. At first, this overwhelmed me, but I realized that it’s much more overwhelming to freeze in front of the class because you don’t have a backup plan if something happens then to over plan. After a few conversations with my mentor, I started planning every minute of the class. This takes up a lot of time and effort, but it reduced stress in the classroom and always gave me a strong sense of security. So when in doubt, PLAN!
4. It’s a bad day, not a bad month.
One of the best parts of being a teacher is that every day is a blank slate. If something in your lesson wasn’t working out yesterday, today you have another chance to try something else. This allows endless opportunity for improvement. Your students have so much going in their lives that one bad lesson won’t taint their entire opinion of you. It is so important to accept that you had a bad day, or a bad lesson, and move on. Dwelling will just waste time that could be spent tweaking your lesson, and a bad day does not mean you are a bad teacher! Keep going, you are learning.
5. Utilize your mentor teacher (or another teacher in your school!)
I think that your relationship with your mentor teacher can add so much to your experience. I’ve heard stories of student teachers not wanting to ask their mentor for advice out of fear or nervousness. Here’s the thing- it is so normal for you to be nervous. Most likely, your mentor has been doing this for years, so of course it can be intimidating. But their expertise in the art of teaching can open your eyes to so many little details you didn’t even realize were there! If it is not ideal for you to open up to your mentor, find a teacher in the school that you can confide in and seek advice from. It can be so helpful to hear the perspective from someone who has been teaching for a while.
6. Relationships are key.
One of the parts of student teaching I was so nervous for was building relationships with my students. I thought, What if they didn’t like me? Which lead me to worrying about how students who did not like me would behave in my classroom. There is no telling how difficult it will be to develop a relationship with a student in the beginning. Thankfully, I had a great mentor to mimic. On the very first day of school, we shook hands with every student one by one and introduced ourselves. Then, during attendance, we took a decent amount of time learning how to pronounce everyone’s names properly AND discover what they prefer to be called. In fact, for the entire first month of school, we spent time bonding with students and allowing them to bond with each other as well. Don’t be afraid to implement lessons in the beginning of your student teaching that are less- academic based and more personal. Especially if you come in to the room in the Spring, you should show the students that you have a big interest in getting to know them as individuals on top of teaching them academics.
7. Find your classroom management style.
Every teacher has their own style of classroom management in the classroom. This was my second biggest worry in the beginning of student teaching! How would I manage a class full of students? I worried that no students would take me seriously or want to behave in my presence. First of all, get those thoughts out of your head. Students will reflect the behavior that is given towards them in the beginning. If you allow time for the students to get to know you, then they may be willing to respect you more. It is also important to note that students behave better in classrooms where they feel comfortable. For me, I found that humor worked in my favor. I’ve always had a huge sense of humor, so I tried to make my students laugh. I found that I didn’t like to yell, but I did want respect. When students saw me laughing with them, they became more engaged and willing to listen to what I had to say. This is not for everyone, and might not even be for you and that is okay. As long as you work toward making your learning environment comfortable for students and yourself, your classroom management style will come to you.
8. Get involved.