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How to Survive - and Thrive as a Student Teacher

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Your time working as a student teacher is a priceless opportunity to practice the pedagogical skills you learned in your teacher training program. At the same time, you can make invaluable professional connections. In fact, if you play your cards right, these student teaching success strategies could help you land your dream job.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 1-4 months

Here's How:

  1. Thoroughly read all of the preparatory materials you are given. Devour the student teaching handbook with an attention for detail and an eye for places where you can excel. Know what's expected of you and look for opportunities where you can not just meet the basic requirements, but soar above and beyond the essentials. Each school has its own set of policies and your best bet for fitting in and succeeding is to know how the school works and how best you can contribute. Also make sure to stay on top of all requirements from your teacher training institution.
  2. Approach student teaching as a 4-month long job interview. Dress professionally, show up on time, be courteous, and showcase your best qualities. Watch the staff, especially your master teacher, and do what they do. Basically, go the extra mile and put your best foot forward. That's the surest way to maximize the positive career potential of your time as a student teacher.
  3. Know when to talk and when to listen. In other words, don't be afraid to offer your opinion; but steer clear of campus politics, sensitive issues, and teachers' lounge gossip. Listen to advice from your master teacher and follow it to the letter. And no matter how comfortable you feel on campus, always remember that you're a temporary guest on site and your top priority is to learn valuable teaching skills while serving the students and enhancing your resume.
  4. Attitude is everything. Be a good sport. That means being flexible, upbeat, cooperative, thorough, and hard-working. Expect to arrive early and stay late. Always say "yes" when asked to help out. Seek out ways to add value to the organization and differentiate yourself from the other student teachers out there in a positive way. Your efforts will pay dividends when the principal is looking for names to interview for upcoming job openings.
  5. Invite the school's administrator to come see you teach in the classroom. When you know you have prepared a high-quality lesson to present, make sure important people are there to observe it! This is a key strategy to employ because it's the only way you will secure a letter of recommendation from the principal. Letters from power-players look fantastic in your portfolio.
  6. Participate in all school activities during your time as a student teacher. Attend all staff meetings, grade level planning sessions, and after-school functions - even if it's not explicitly expected of you. The more familiar your face around campus, the more of an impact you make as a team player willing to work hard and sacrifice for the benefit of students.
  7. Be very well prepared. Know the master teacher's expectations and exceed them. Anticipate his or her needs and try to meet them. Maintain a detailed To Do List and check things off as they are accomplished. There are many things to remember when you're student teaching; it will take extra organization and foresight to keep track of everything you need to do. Make copies ahead of time, invest time (or money) in a robust organizational system, and triple check your work before showing it to anyone.
  8. If there are any problems, follow the appropriate chain of command. Don't go over your master teacher's head and talk to his or her boss first. Start by talking to the master teacher directly, and if the problem still isn't resolved, talk to your supervisor at the teacher training program. Don't be petty and don't look for problems. But if something doesn't feel right to you, just make sure to communicate your concerns in a sensitive and appropriate manner.

What You Need

  • Calendar System
  • To Do List
  • Briefcase or Bookbag
  • Professional Attire
  • Student Teaching Handbook
  • A Positive "Can-Do" Attitude

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