3 Tips for Student Teachers

Student teaching can simultaneously be one of the most exciting and intimidating stages of becoming a teacher. No longer are you just reading textbooks, discussing what you would do if things occurred, or role-playing a student-teacher scenario. As a student teacher, you are able to become familiar with the school’s culture, observe how other teachers operate, and take initiative in various situations. Keep reading to learn three tips for student teachers:

Student teaching tip #1: Familiarize yourself with your school’s culture

During the first week or two of your student teaching experience, spend time getting to know your school’s culture. Seek out classroom and school-wide policies, as well as spoken and unspoken rules that teachers and students abide by. For example:

  • What does classroom management look like at your school?
  • How does your administration like students to walk in the hallways?
  • Are there any common concerns or community issues shared by your student or parent population?

The idea is not to make generalizations about your students or parents, but rather to be aware of patterns, knowing that there will always be exceptions to the rule. A great idea is to directly seek out this information, like asking your mentor teacher or principal, as well as to notice and observe daily interactions. This practice of getting to know your school’s culture will help you better meet your students’ needs, be a more helpful student teacher, and exercise skills that will improve your teaching in the long run.

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Student teaching tip #2: Observe as much as you can

As a student teacher, you have the great opportunity to see classroom problem-solving in real time. You’ll have your mentor teacher, of course, and you may be required to observe other classrooms as part of your student teaching assignment. Take advantage of these opportunities, especially the ability to see a range of teachers’ styles and strategies. Observe teachers who are both similar to and different from you, as this will offer valuable insight on teaching practices.

If you’re able to—and if it doesn’t conflict with your responsibilities to your mentor teacher—observe more than you’re required. Once you have your own classroom, you won’t have nearly the same amount of time or energy to do so. Lastly, don’t forget to take notes as you observe. What worked and what didn’t? What do you want to try, either immediately or next year when you feel surer of your teaching skills? This notebook of reflections will be a valuable resource as you go into your own classroom.

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Student teaching tip #3: Take initiative in the classroom

Student teaching is partially about observing great teachers, but it’s also about taking initiative and anticipating needs in your classroom. Checking in with your mentor teacher and asking them what they’d like your help with is great. You can also look around the classroom and see where you could be helpful, like checking in with a small group of students.

As a student teacher, you may be both anxious to have your own classroom, but relieved that it’s not quite time to take over completely. Make the most of your opportunity at your student teaching assignment in terms of absorbing wisdom from more experienced teachers. Then, as you take what you’ve learned into your own classroom, know that every school, administration, and student is unique in their own ways.

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