Becoming an Effective Student Teachers Is Up to You!
Recently I received an email from a former student teacher asking for advice on her upcoming student teaching placement. She was so excited to embark on this new adventure and wanted to do a good job. Her excitement and willingness to learn was evident in the note, both great characteristics to have when starting student teaching. We met the next day for coffee and I ran through a somewhat shortened list of observable characteristics of effective student teachers. Our conversation motivated me to put together a more cohesive, organized list to help other student teachers. The list has no hierarchy of importance since I believe they are ALL important to a successful student teaching experience.
5 Most Common Characteristics of Effective Student Teachers in the Classroom
- Ask questions. Time is a precious commodity in a classroom so be prepared to ask questions when a moment arises. Prepare your questions ahead of time and be sure to write down the answers. Remember you have a lot to learn and only a short time to student teach. Your Cooperating Teacher (CT) will understand if you are full of questions!
- Be prepared. Better yet, over prepared and be ready to CHANGE. If anything is constant in school, it is CHANGE. Student performance, schedule changes, assemblies you name it, there will be changes. Even if flexibility has not been easy in the past, it is a necessity in the teaching world. The best solution is to have a back-up plan and be ready to think on your feet.
- Help without being asked. Offer to be helpful when you see something that can be done. Your CT has probably been running solo for a long time and may forget to ask you for help. There is always a list of things to get done in a classroom. Your CT may be aware of them but have ranked them low on the priority list. If you find yourself with nothing to do, look around and seize the opportunity. Of course, check with your CT first. Helping in this way can make a big difference in strengthening the relationship with your CT.
- Take notes and photos. There is so much to see and learn in a school. You may be unsure of what is important and useful, so take it all in now. When reviewing later, tag items for future use. A general rule of thumb is to NOT photograph students. Talk to your CT about school policy on this issue.
- Show Their JOY! Let’s face it, everyone knows if a teacher enjoys their job. Be enthusiastic and don’t forget to smile. Don’t hide the JOY!
5 More Characteristics That Didn’t Make the Top 5 BUT Are Important Too!
- Visit other classrooms. Each teacher is different, and you will learn something new in every classroom. It is best to work with your CT to arrange visitations. Some teachers may be hesitant to open their doors for a variety of reasons. It is important that the teacher you are visiting is comfortable with your observing.
- Share knowledge. Student teachers very often have been exposed to recent research that may be helpful to your CT. Don’t be shy to share a recent article, or new technology that you may have learned. Student teachers can be an excellent source of professional development in a school. Collaboration is a major focus in schools today.
- Discuss needs. It’s best to discuss with your CT the areas that you think you may need additional support. Outlining them early in your placement will help your CT plan opportunities for your placement.
- Welcome input. Accepting that student teaching is a learning experience will make feedback easier. Welcoming feedback as an opportunity for growth which will better prepare you for future formal observations.
- They are “Worker Bees”. Worker Bees Live in Schools. As a lifelong member of the hive, I know it would be be hard to find a great teacher that wasn’t busy, busy, busy. Show your CT that you are willing to do extra work outside the scheduled day.
Prior to the Big Day!
- Clean up social media – We all use it and therefore anyone can see it. Be sure to clean up any social media items that may appear to be unprofessional in nature. When in doubt on an item, check with your CT.
- Dress appropriately. In other words, dress professionally. Always consider yourself on a long-term job interview and always look your best. Your wardrobe does not have to be fashionable or expensive to be professional. It doesn’t matter how the teachers around you dress, they’re employed!
- Punctuality is Important. Your great planning will go unnoticed if you are not punctual. Rushing around can be interpreted as unprepared. Plan to arrive each day 15 -30 minutes early. Talk with your CT on the expectations of your schedule.
- Silence the phone. We all know that our phones are our lifeline to the world. However, they should NOT be part of student teaching. My best advice is to manage your phone at a time that you are NOT with students. Being present with your students is much more than just being in the classroom. Send your students the message that being with them is important and you’re not going to be interrupted by your phone.
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