[This is a reblog of my original post found here.] I know a lot of you are about to start student teaching in the coming weeks as people begin to go back to school. I was right where you were a year ago. It’s insane to think about. So I’m putting this back out there. I don’t claim to be an expert - this is just a collection of things I would have appreciated hearing when I started student teaching. Feel free to ask me any questions if you have any!!
This may seem super basic - and I laughed at the obvious-ness of this, too - but if you’re anything like I was at the beginning of student teaching, you’re going to be shy, anxious, scared (read: terrified), and uncertain. My natural instinct is to be a fly on the wall and watch. I don’t ask questions, I don’t volunteer. You’re going to want to know so much all the time and the only way you’re going to know this is to ask questions. Don’t be afraid of asking too many or being annoying (I know I did). Your cooperating teacher(s) (CTs) want you to do well and they want to share all their knowledge with you - at least, I hope so! Don’t be afraid to interrupt your CT and ask to chat for a moment. It may take a little bit to feel comfortable interrupting them, but you’ll get used to it (and you’ll have students interrupting you soon!) But you’ll never realize how much simply asking questions will help you until you do. I struggled SO MUCH until I started asking for help.
Asking for help will not make you look stupid or weak. Recognize your weak areas and work on them.
Get to know the other teachers/secretaries/librarians/janitors/etc.
Hopefully you’re in a building where the other teachers are just as friendly toward you as you are to them. My very first day, I got there at 7am and sat through a department meeting where I met every person in the English department. They were all friendly and offered a helping hand whenever I needed it. Throughout the semester, I asked them for advice, shared my own lessons and materials, shared stories of crazy things my students said or did. I connected with my coworkers and it made sitting at my desk way less awkward.
Also, don’t forget about those other people in your building! I asked the librarian for help so many times! She came in to my classroom and helped me teach about research and citations to all three levels of my classes. I made an effort to visit the secretaries and be extremely friendly when I needed help with something or when I had to talk to a dean or the principal. I had lunch duty and talked to the janitors who were cleaning the cafeteria and treated them like invaluable resources - because they are. Don’t forget about the support staff. Treat them better as a teacher than you or your friends might have treated them as students. They are gold.
Try anything once.
Your CT may have some advice for you that you might not agree with or you think won’t work — try it anyway. If you plan an awesome lesson, it may soar or it may flop. You won’t know unless you try. Hopefully your CT will let you try anything (within reason, of course). Your students won’t be ruined for the rest of their lives if your lesson flops. That’s when you reflect. Which leads me to…
You may very well have to do journaling of some sort for your university. Don’t just write the bare minimum to get it done with. Take this time that you’re being forced to use and really think about what you did that week. Keep a notebook or a lesson plan book and write down what did and didn’t work from that particular lesson. That way you can go back and have lessons to use when you get your own classrooms. You’ll amaze yourself at what you can come up with if you look back at other lessons. Also use reflection time to observe other teachers and see what works for them and how you can adapt that for your own students.
Make sure to take time for yourself — SLEEP.
Sleeping enough will sometimes be the difference between an amazing day and a horrendous day. Make sure you give yourself a bed time and try to stick to it as much as you can. Go to bed earlier some days if you need to. I went to bed as early as 7:30 one day. I was sick (sicker than I should have been because I wasn’t sleeping much), exhausted, emotional, and stressed. I got close to 10 hours of sleep and felt human the next day and was ready to conquer the world. Listen to your body and what it needs. I can’t stress the importance of sleep enough.
Along those lines: don’t forget to eat lunch and dinner. It’s okay to take thirty minutes from grading or planning during the school day to eat lunch and have an adult conversation. It’s okay to come home after a long day and sit on the couch for an hour and veg. Don’t do it all the time, but don’t feel guilty if you need to do something mindless now and then. I made an effort to read a chapter of a book each night. It was my “me” time - and usually all I could get through before falling asleep anyway.
Err on the side of caution in regards to your clothing.
It pains me to say this - as a woman and a feminist - but young women are under more scrutiny for their clothing than men. This doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable or have fun, but don’t overdo it. If I would wear it to the bar on a Saturday night, I didn’t wear it, at least not alone. I paired dresses with tights and cardigans, Saturday night tank tops with cardigans. I had fun with it so that I wasn’t wearing slacks+blouse+cardigan all the time, but I also made sure my butt or my larger chest wasn’t hanging out. I was nervous to wear jeans for the first time, but felt more comfortable on casual Friday in them than out. Don’t be afraid to ask your CT/other teachers or your university supervisor about casual Friday or day-to-day clothing for student teachers.
Edited to add: Don’t give personal information to students.
They will ask. It’s natural that they’re curious. I chose to give them my college email address because I wanted them to be able to contact me and the school I student taught at didn’t give me an email address (not all will). That email address has my first and middle initial in it followed by my last name. They guessed and guessed my first name until my CT said it during class one day in a slip-up. I never had a problem with them calling me by Ms. H instead of my first name, but that might not be the case with all students/classes. It probably goes without saying that you don’t want to be adding them on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr. Don’t even answer if they ask if you have one. (Thanks to ishouldbewhat)
Be careful about what you post on social networking sites (Tumblr included!)
We all love stories about your students, good and bad alike. But be careful about what you post. You’ll be frustrated. You’ll be annoyed that you told Johnny over and over and over to turn in his homework and then he turns in something that’s all wrong. Do not post that on the internet. Someone in my graduating class was removed from their placement for doing something like that because parents found out. Don’t take chances. Get rid of Facebook alltogether (or create a “professional” one for your first and last name that way when students search you, they find something super boring and won’t be tempted to dig further).
C.A.S.E — Copy and Steal Everything
Not even joking about this. If your CT is willing to share resources with you, you better copy that and keep it for yourself - even if you don’t think you want it now. I have a plethora of material that I never even touched for Romeo and Juliet that I took from both of my CTs and I ended up making most of my own materials. Don’t reinvent the wheel. There’s nothing wrong with taking things your CT has and using them as your own. Take things other teachers may offer you — but pay it forward as well. Share your own resources with your CTs and other teachers in your building.