Survival Tips from a Student Teacher by Single Subject Candidate Travis Pappa

Posted by Gabrielle Cordero on April 8, 2014 1:27 PM

a picture of Travis Pappa Student Teacher

By Guest Author: Travis Pappa

5 Ways to Make your Student Teaching Effective, Enjoyable and Fulfilling

Form a Positive Relationship with Your Mentor Teacher

This may come very naturally or it may take some intentional effort on your part. Chances are, you probably won't agree with everything your mentor teacher says or does, nevertheless, do your best to understand their point of view and the experiences they have had (namely, their teaching experience that caused them to adapt the procedures or habits they have). While you may find yourself eager for the freedom of your first year of teaching solo, take advantage of the ideas, constructive critique (as humbling as it may be, it will be worth it!), perspective, advice and anecdotes that years of experience have yielded your mentor teacher. Developing a sense of teamwork and camaraderie with your mentor teacher can be of great value to both you and your students.

Read Articles and Books Related to Education that Interest You

Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov has been one of my favorite reads during my time as a student teacher because of the practical and easily implemented teaching techniques it describes. Ask your mentor teacher for reading recommendations since it is likely they have established a personal library of education-related readings. Books and articles provide a great point of conversation between educated individuals (such as you and your mentor teacher) and are certainly a catalyst for creativity during your lesson planning.

a picture of Travis Pappa Student Teacher

Greet the Students Who May Feel Overlooked or Unnoticed in Class

While student teaching, I was surprised to find that I had at least two students each period who would try to be as unnoticeable (by teachers and/or students) as possible. I challenged myself to greet each of these students personally and consistently at the beginning of each class period - even if it was a simple: "Good morning, Irvin, I'm glad you're here today." Although one of my students wanted to keep their interactions with me limited to this, over the following three weeks, most of these quiet students began to change their classroom behavior. Most of these students who were once shy and quiet began to be more alert and active in class. These students also began to hold conversations with me (during and after class!) and even began smiling more frequently during the period. It was an enjoyable lesson in how intentionality and consistency go a long way for the students who are accustomed to being overlooked.

Listen More, Talk Less

The more I teach, the more I am reminded that I become a better teacher by listening: talking with other educators in my content area, formal student feedback, informal student feedback and reading works by published educators. Ironically, the best teachers seem do a great deal of listening. High school students have an average "lecture attention span" of 14-18 minutes, which means that a teacher should spend most of a class period not addressing the entire class. There are a plethora of ways students can learn content aside from lecture (and a substantial amount of research-based methods and materials to do so). Save your voice for when it's needed and spend time circulating your classroom, talking with students and conducting thoughtful formative assessments on how your students are understanding the material. Often, the less I talk, the more meaningful my words are to my students.

Remind Yourself of the Reasons You Want to be a Teacher

No matter how good of an imagination you have, teaching looks, feels and is much different than you ever imagined. Inevitably, there will be days when you will feel you don't have what it takes to be a teacher. After some pizza, chocolate, or a power nap, take some time to remind yourself of why you want to be a teacher. There were likely multiple things that inspired you to pursue this profession and it is important to remind yourself of such inspiration on the days that discourage you. After that, create opportunities that allow you to enjoy your favorite parts of teaching.

The Accelerating Academic Achievement for English Learners (AAAEL) Project is a five-year, teacher-centered professional development project funded by the U.S. Department of Education that is focused on improving English Learner (EL) student achievement in mathematics, science and English language arts.