5 Tips from a Novice Student Teacher: Amy Nelson
By Guest Author: Amy Nelson
5 Tips from a Novice Student Teacher
Accept the Awkward
There are going to be MANY uncomfortable and awkward moments during your student teaching year. Embrace them, laugh about them, and learn from them. Nothing can really prepare you for the moment when you are staring at a room full of 35 seventh graders, and somebody tells you that you have spilt coffee down your white shirt and didn't even notice. You will have moments when you simply don't know what to say or can't recall the brilliant point you'd planned on making. Student teaching is a time when you can make mistakes, you won't be perfect. In fact, I've learned the most from the lessons I created that didn't work out whatsoever. So when you're "onstage" and the lesson doesn't turn out like a clip from Freedom Writers... just roll it.
Work with Your Mentor
One of the first things my mentor told me was that picking a student teacher is like picking a roommate or a spouse. Having a good relationship with your mentor truly makes a huge difference in your experience. Your mentor is there to coach and guide you: ask them questions, admit defeat and confusion, talk to them about what you're doing well and what you need to work on. Don't be offended when they offer you constructive criticism about your instructional approaches. RELY on your mentor, for they are there to support you in every situation, a.k.a. when the class has gotten out of control and you have absolutely no idea how to quiet them down before the principal walks in.
Get to Know Your Students
This seems obvious, but as a novice teacher it is easy to get caught up in the chaos of prepping for your next class, remembering how to work the copy machine at break, trying to find the assignments for a student who hasn't been to class in two weeks, etc. Make it a goal to just talk to your students when time permits--ask them about their lives and what is going on in their world. Just the other day I noticed while putting in grades that Lilly, a quiet student who doesn't "hide" from me nor shout out and demand my attention, has been performing exceptionally well during my "Outsiders" unit. Sometimes I get so caught up with interacting with the students who require so much attention, that I don't get to check in with the students who don't beg to be noticed. I made sure to approach Lilly at her desk the next day and tell her that I have seen how well she has been doing, and that I was really proud of her. The smile that stretched across her face sent chills down my arms--she beamed with pride and it surprised me how just that one comment meant so much to her. You are the teacher, but you will learn so much from your students... so talk to them.
Make a Name for Yourself
Student teaching isn't a time to be shy. Talk to the other teachers and administrators at your school, there is no better time to observe the teaching styles and techniques of others. Ask educators why they got into the profession. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and be the student teacher who is always shaking people's hands and roaming around campus.
Remember Why You Want to Teach
During your student teaching you will be completely stressed out, overwhelmed, and unsure of yourself--it's okay. You will have one million things to do: papers to write, projects to make, and essays to grade, but be sure to take time for yourself. Take a deep breath and remind yourself why you want to be a teacher. There have been many days where I've felt like I'm doing a horrible job and question whether or not I have what it takes to be an English teacher. Days like that happen, but then, a student tells me that I'm their favorite teacher -or--someone spells the correct form of "your" and "you're" on their essay and I know that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. It is easy to get caught up in the stress of it all, but remember that the kids are what make it all worth it in the end... teaching is truly a joy.