Never underestimate the benefits of student teaching . Whether your college program for practice teaching is called a “Practicum” , an “Internship” or “Student Teaching”, the benefits of trying out your teaching skills under professional supervision can make a substantial difference in your teaching style and add to the likelihood of your success as a classroom teacher.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of student teaching is that the experience quickly reveals to students the wide chasm between knowing what to teach and knowing how to teach it. Often students who have invested undergraduate years in acquiring a certain degree of expertise in a given discipline presume that having lots of information will automatically turn them into highly competent teachers. Trying out that belief as student teacher in a class of real students can help would-be teachers to back away from their original over-confidence and honestly address what is in fact missing from their teaching performance.
As students accept the fact that successful teaching is more than just “telling”others what they know, they become open to the second benefit of student teaching: learning practical teaching techniques. Student teaching leads prospective students, under the guidance of their supervisors, to see themselves as a work in progress, free to try all manner of teaching methods to determine which are good fits for their subject matter, their students and themselves as teachers.
The approaches that student teachers try will be drawn not just from text books but, as a third benefit of student teaching, these new approaches will be culled from experienced teachers and ordinary students. By observing seasoned professionals in the classroom, sharing workshops with resident master teachers and paying close attention to student cues and reactions, student teachers can build their own, ever changing collection of teaching tools.
In this way, student teaching provides individual teaching candidates with their own classroom laboratory in which to create a personal teaching style based on the resources they find in books and in the professional support system which surrounds them .
Unfortunately, many students are understandably so eager to begin “real teaching ” and are simultaneously so confident of their own subject area proficiency that they view student teaching as a roadblock and an unnecessary waste of time. By adopting that attitude, students can shut down and miss out on the considerable benefits student teaching has to offer.
At its best, student teaching is an experience that can shine a gigantic spotlight on the many aspects of teaching that students don’t yet understand, while at the same time offering them compassionate support for their efforts to move on after this major awakening.
Admittedly, I have arrived at these conclusions about the benefits of student teaching only after having participated fully on both sides of the student teaching experience, first as a novice student teacher and years later as an experienced critic teacher. Perhaps it is precisely that two sided experience which lends credibility to what I consider the real and enduring benefits of student teaching.