If you are one of the many college students majoring in education who are nearing your student teaching semester, there is both good news and bad news ahead. The bad news is that it will be every bit as stressful and frustrating as everyone has warned you about. The good news is that it will be a life changing experience that will positively affect your future in more ways than you can imagine. The following are 10 tips to help you survive this crucial time in your educational career:
1. Be optimistic. If you enter your classroom with a negative attitude, the students, no matter the age, will pick up on your pessimism. The students will mimic your demeanor, so act as you would want them to act.
2. Be open-minded. You may come from a family of educators and you may even have past experience yourself from tutoring, volunteering, etc.; however, your mentor/cooperating teacher has been teaching in that school or classroom for much longer than you have. Be willing to accept her guidance with grace and learn from her experiences.
3. Be assertive. If you are constantly on edge about your performance or how you are being evaluated, you will be missing the entire student teaching experience. Also, the students will notice your anxiety and may try to take advantage of the situation. If you find yourself getting nervous, just take a deep breath and remember that you are the authority figure and you determine how to maintain control of your classroom.
4. Be goal oriented. Try making two lists of goals you would like to achieve by the end of the semester. Write the first list before you even set foot inside the classroom and write the second when you are halfway through the semester. Keep those goals in mind throughout your student teaching experience and check both lists at the end of the semester to see where you succeeded and which areas you needed to work on.
5. Be punctual. Although it may gain you five minutes of beauty sleep, being perpetually late will cost you major professionalism points in the long run. Being late not only makes you appear unprepared, but it shows disrespect to both your mentor and your students.
6. Be consistent. Unfortunately, many children do not have a great deal of consistency at home; therefore, they learn to depend on it at school. Children and teens need to know that they can count on you to be a reliable role model. Be there every day, set rules and enforce them fairly, and be a stable mentor for them to look up to and confide in.
7. Be patient. There will be days where you want to rip your hair out. There will be students that learn how to push all of your buttons. There will be times where you just feel like giving up. Don’t. Patience is a virtue that you must perfect while student teaching. Be patient with your students’ shortcomings and they will be patient with yours.
8. Be accepting of criticism. Most student teachers have several mentors that they can rely on. Whether they are cooperating teachers, supervising professors, or even principals, they are all there to help you succeed. Take their criticism with a grain of salt and know that they are only trying to help, no matter how the advice is given. Remember, they have several years of combined teaching experience, so learn from their mistakes.
9. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Learning is only as interesting as the instructor makes it. If you present your lessons in a monotone voice and assign homework with little to no enthusiasm, how do you think your students will feel towards the material? Be spontaneous, joke around with your students, and keep the learning fun. The further outside your comfort zone you step, the better the chance the material will stick with your students.
10. Be yourself. The worst thing you can do going into student teaching is pretending to be the teacher your mentor wants you to be. If you spend all of your time acting like someone else, how will you know where the real you needs improvement? You may surprise yourself. Maybe the real you is a wonderful teacher that just needs to overcome the obstacle of student teaching in order to begin a fulfilling career as professional teacher.