What is Student Teaching?

Student teaching is more than just a box to check before heading into the profession, it’s an essential glimpse into the world of a teacher, and an opportunity to gain insights that will hopefully shape how you will inspire your future students.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”– William Arthur Ward

Why Do I need to Student Teach?

The purpose of student teaching is to provide a practical “real life” opportunities that are the same or similar to a full time teaching position. During this essential stage of your career, you will begin to develop the skills and adopt the values that shape your approach to teaching.

“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”- Jim Henson

Whether Jim Henson was 100% right is not the point of this quote. The essence of what Mr. Henson is saying, is that your students be they babies, children, or young adults will remember the type of person you are. Student teaching, if you will, is the tadpole stage of who you will become. Usually, this is the final field experience before heading into the profession so you won’t head into student teaching without a few skills under your belt. At this stage of your degree, you’ll have demonstrated a number of competencies in previous practicum experiences. By the end of student teaching you will be expected to understand how to effectively manage your own classroom. So, you’ll need to make sure that this final field experience counts!

Who is Involved in My Student Teaching Experience?

  • You the Student Teacher who is Majoring in Education at a College or University
  • The Department Head at your university
  • A Teacher who is typically seasoned in the profession and cooperating with your university. It’s preferable for the cooperating teacher to be licensed in your subject area.
  • A University Supervisor who is typically a faculty member or in some cases a graduate student at your university. This person observes and provides feedback.
  • A Student Teaching Coordinator who is often times your supervisor, but not always. Some universities will use a separate individual to handle this position.
  • An Instructor The instructor typically leads you through a seminar related to your student teaching experience.

What Will I do as a Student Teacher?

A student teacher typically spends a few months or a semester in a classroom with their cooperating teacher. This experience is designed to mimic the student; so student teaching is all day and every day. You are not an assistant teacher or an aid, but rather a teacher-in-progress. Meaning, you’ll be preparing lessons, setting up the classroom and teaching with guidance. But don’t sweat for your assurance, the student’s safety, and the purposes of learning, you won’t be thrown into the deep end. Your student teaching experience is likely to be much more gradual like this:

  • Week 1 Sitting on the Banks: During your first week you are likely to actively observe the professional teacher. You will meet the students, and gain an understanding of the general flow of your day.
  • Week 2 A Step in the Pond: At this point, you’ll start planning and even teaching, but not all of the time. Depending on your supervisor and the cooperative teacher you may be required to plan and teach up to a quarter of the day.
  • Week 3 You’re Paddling: After a couple of weeks getting acclimated, you’ll be ready to take on more of the planning and teaching. Typically, you’ll teach about half of the time at this stage.
  • Week 4 You’re Finding Your Stride: Some people say it takes about a month to get used to a job, and other say it takes 6 months to a year. At the 4th week expect to plan and teach about ¾ of the day with supervision and feedback of course!
  • Weeks 5 & 6 You’re Swimming: After the first month of your student teaching experience you’ll most likely be taking charge of the classroom. Expect to plan and instruct as well as meet some parents, others on staff, and even meet with school officials. Try to “go the extra lap” these weeks to really get a grasp for what it’s like to be a teacher.
  • Weeks 7 & 8 A Relay: You’ll probably be exhausted at this stage which is normal! Your body will be adjusting to the new workload and stressors of the job, and this is typically when a student teaching experience starts to wind down. During the final week, you’ll pass the classroom back over to the professional teacher, and get ready for evaluation.

The evaluation process will vary from university to university but often involved a lot of reflection on your part and feedback from your cooperating teacher and your supervisor. After practical field experience, you may be subjected to an examination that details pedagogy and methodology, differentiation and more. In general supervisors want to see that you have an aptitude to continue to learn and grow in the field. What supervisors don’t want to see is someone who is “stuck” unsure of how to move past things that went wrong. And in case we forgot to mention it, yes, things will go wrong. That’s not really the point, though. The point is that you learn from those mistakes and continuously problem-solve.

What Else Should I Know About Student Teaching?

  • You’re An Acting Professional: As you’re in the student-teaching roll, you essentially step out of your roll as a student and into the role as a professional. So, you need to act the part including dressing for the role, being punctual, being prepared, and conducting yourself professionally and respectfully to everyone you interact with in the school setting.
  • Keep Your Body Healthy: We mentioned earlier that this is a tiring stage of your degree and career. Your body will likely be adjusting to the demands of being a full-time student and full-time teacher. Like all teachers be sure to get adequate sleep and make sure you come prepared with nutritious foods to keep your going throughout your day. Here’s a tip, learning these habits now will help to sustain you for the duration of your career.
  • Plan Your Work: You will need to spend time in the evenings carefully planning your day. There is no way around this. You’ll be at work all day long so those evenings off are not going to happen while you’re student teaching. As you become a seasoned proffessional, the planning time tends to get faster, but as a student teacher be prepared to carve out multiple hours for planning every night. What should you include in your plan? Your cooperating teacher will tell you, but a lesson plan, methodology, and reflection of your day is a good place to start.
  • Work Your Plan: It may sound redundant, but you will need to execute your plan. This is why we highly recommend including a methodology within your planning time. A methodology is the “how” part of how you will deliver your lesson plan.
  • Learn the rules of the school: The school has rules for students and teachers. This is a great time to familiarize yourself with what is permissible and what is off limits to teachers. Many teachers are not legally allowed to give medications, or even share food with students. Figure out what goes and stick to it. Remember, you’re a teacher, but you’re still a student teacher, so during this process keep on learning.
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