How to Survive Student Teaching

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I wish I had pressed pause on the periled Prince of Denmark and spent more time introducing myself, while getting to know my students' learning styles and background knowledge. Establishing these types of connections earlier would have helped create relational trust and better informed my instructional design. At the end of the internship, I put together a brief PowerPoint "quiz" on some of the details of my professional and biographical background. I could have done something like this at the beginning of my internship. Letting kids in on where you're from, your interests, and professional goals or accomplishments is a quick and easy way to make connections.

Likewise, I could have surveyed students on their expectations for how learning and assessments would be structured, their knowledge of Hamlet or other 17th century literature, and their goals for the course and how I could support them. Two weeks into my internship, when my newness was wearing off and students would no longer come to attention out of politeness, I realized I had failed to be explicit about my expectations for classroom management. Start your internship with a discussion of your expectations, and how they align with the way your cooperating teacher is already conducting the class.

My must-haves for order were simple. I asked students to:. Be prepared: Get books and homework together. Go to the bathroom before class. Participate: Raise your hand. Try make an effort. Follow a countdown to quiet.

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Be proactive: Ask if confused. Seek make-up assignments. Invite feedback on these items and post them in the classroom so that you can easily and optimally, nonverbally refer to them, as needed. Can you successfully, in eight weeks, read line-by-line a dense, five-act play that's packed with unfamiliar vocabulary and phrases? Maybe, but you will bore your students to tears.

In my panic for coverage, I abandoned a lot of the good advice in backward planning about building curriculum around essential questions.

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  • As a result, my lessons struggled to strike a balance between close reading everything and reading for the central themes and arguments. I overloaded students with the minutiae of the text not surprisingly, this is also the easiest to assess. Consequently, I not only hampered their ability to enjoy Hamlet , but also to apply text themes in their discussions and writings. Start with the end in mind—the culminating task that will demonstrate students' knowledge and skills—and then build lessons around essential questions that gradually lead students to that understanding.

    This will save you from sending your students on a close reading death march. EngageNY is an excellent online resource for units and lessons that target your close reading on the most important parts of a text. Mid-panic about curriculum coverage, I had a serendipitous run-in with the school's instructional coach. This resource also helped me dial back my fixation with content coverage.

    Locate your school's instructional coach, introduce yourself, tell them what you're teaching, and invite them to come by to observe you, any time.

    Student Teaching Tips: Survive and Thrive

    Be a sponge to the advice or resources they have to offer. One of my big goals was to have students run their own discussions and navigate content and tasks with autonomy. Because my students were seniors, I knew these skills would help them succeed in college.

    Really, students at all levels benefit from—and are capable of—taking ownership of their learning. As much as you are chomping at the bit to cover content, you will also have to dial back and give kids practice time to learn the structures and protocols for any new to them self-directed learning activities like gallery walks, transitioning between learning stations, and fishbowl and other Socratic discussion approaches.


    My school had a block schedule, which meant students spent a lot of time in the same place. To make learning more dynamic, we played a heads-up style game where students held index cards displaying key character names or academic vocab e. We also used an exquisite-corpse-meets-telephone game hybrid to play around with envisioning central themes. Each student started with a sheet of paper with a famous quote from Hamlet at the top, such as "To thine own self be true.

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    The Mentor-Student Teacher Relationship: Finding Common Ground

    In the space directly under the quote, they translated the words into images and passed the paper to the left. The next student folded the paper to cover just the images, then wrote out a new sentence based on the images drawn by the student before them. This cycle repeats until the page is full. See example. When students had trouble visualizing the tragic tale of Pyrrhus, Priam, and Hecuba, we broke out the Ren Fest—inspired prop box and acted out the text.

    For a quick factual review, students took out their phones to compete in a Kahoot! Often, I'd amp students up with these activities, only to bring them crashing down with a very long period of seatwork or close reading.

    Work as a Classroom Aide at Your Student Teaching Site

    Better chunking of my lessons, revisiting the "fun" activity, and introducing competition into other aspects of our time together would have helped alleviate the energy crisis in some of my class periods. This step is essential for clarifying the range of what you are looking for in student responses and performances. I'd start many classes with a quick quiz to check that students were keeping up with reading.

    Even with these recall-based assessments, I encountered nuance in student responses that I hadn't accounted for. I remember student teaching very clearly. I was a ball of emotions: excited, nervous, joyful and scared, just to name a few. Teaching is an important job and I was ready for the challenge… ready to change the world one student at a time. Although I had heard horror stories about student teaching, I knew my classmates and I would be able to have a positive experience. I learned a ton during student teaching and you, too, can have a successful experience by using these helpful tips to survive your time as a student teacher.

    It is advantageous to meet with your cooperating teacher as soon as possible so you can hit the ground running when you start. When you meet, get to know their expectations and establish your expectations for the year. Yes, you read that right, you should have expectations too. For example, most student teachers want feedback from their cooperating teacher.

    Work as a Tutor

    Be open and willing to learn. While what you learned in your college classroom is important, not all textbook tactics will go smoothly for you. The teachers you observe have valuable experience with real-world teaching and this is your opportunity to glean the best tips and tricks of the education trade. Build relationships. Student teaching is like a long-term interview, so be intentional with the relationships your build. Getting to know your principal early on could open doors in the future, and getting to know other staff will broaden the spectrum of perspectives you are exposed to throughout your time at the school.

    Building relationships with the students is also critical, as students will respect and respond to you the more you connect with them. Remember, it is usually better to set a stricter tone in the beginning and adjust to the nature of the classroom over time. Ask questions. As a student teacher, your role is to learn as much as possible. It is helpful to keep a notebook to jot down questions that come to mind or ideas you really like. Plan, plan and plan some more. It is always beneficial to review your plan with your cooperating teacher so he or she identify flaws in planning and give constructive feedback.

    Always have a plan for if you have extra time during class. Whether you use a fun group activity, a recap of other lessons, or challenge worksheets, keeping your students engaged during spare time is a must! You do not want students sitting around with nothing to do, especially because that is the time when students typically become restless and distract other students. Get student input on your lessons. Your students are often the best indicator for what is working well and what needs to be improved upon.

    Give your class an opportunity to let you know if a lesson leaves them wanting a greater challenge or further explanation. Many teachers create a suggestion box or include a student feedback portion in their exit ticket. Address problems sooner rather than later.

    However, be cautious to not to put down a student in the middle of class. Sometimes it is best to talk to a student after class or have the student come in at lunch.