Making Student Teaching a Rewarding Journey: Tips from Suzi Fischer

Posted by Gabrielle Cordero on May 7, 2014 1:53 PM

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By Guest Author: Suzi Fischer

Tips from a Student Teacher: Suzi Fischer

I contemplated what might be more helpful for prospective and beginner student teachers--a glimpse into the life of a student teacher, or a list of suggestions to help create a successful student teaching experience. I decided to follow in my colleague's footsteps and share the personal insights that I have discovered on this incredibly rewarding journey. Some of these tips might be repeated from other blog contributors--that just means they are extra important!

1. Get to Know Your Students

They are the entire reason you're considering this profession, so make sure you take the time to really get to know them, and enjoy the process of learning more about their unique interests, personalities, and backgrounds. This is my favorite part about teaching--forging these relationships and being a positive force in these students' lives. Knowing your students also helps immensely when formulating your lesson plans--it allows you to create a lesson that meets the specific needs and interests of your particular class and students.

2. Show Them That You Care

When students know that you care about them, not just their interests and background but their well-being and individual growth as well, they begin care about you too. So greet your class every morning, express that you're happy to see them, check in on them one-on-one to make sure they're doing alright, and support them. This means carving out a chunk of your busy day to go to their basketball game, or show up at their band concert, or even just take the time to sit and talk to lonely students through lunch instead of rushing home to finish that 459 assignment or grade that mountain of papers. Even if they don't verbally express it, they care. They care that you care. Additionally, showing students that you care also ties into your classroom management and creating a safe environment for your students.

3. Consult with Your Mentor Teacher, and Often

Where would Luke Skywalker be if he didn't have an Obi-Wan or Yoda to guide him through the challenging process of becoming a Jedi Knight? Just as your students look up to you as a role model and guide, so too, do student teachers need to rely on an experienced mentor to navigate the murky waters of first-year teaching. It is so important to have easy and open lines of communication with your mentor teacher. I meet with my mentor teacher twice a week to collaborate on lesson plans and assess how previous lessons have gone; on top of this, we email and text regularly to ensure that our co-teaching flows smoothly and we are on the same page. It's all about teamwork, collaboration, and constant self-assessment and reflection.

4. Feedback is Your Friend!

The feedback that your mentor teacher and SSU supervisor provide for you is extremely helpful--take their constructive criticism to heart to learn from mistakes and benefit from their wisdom. Now is the time to create positive habits and correct negative ones before they become routine and are ingrained in your everyday teaching.

Also don't be afraid to ask for feedback. There is no such thing as too much feedback, as long as you take the suggestions with a grain of salt and make sure that you stay true to your style of teaching. What works for one teacher may not work for another--it all depends on who you are, the relationship you have with your students, and how you approach teaching.

The advice that helped me the most was gathered from a survey I took from my Senior Honors English class, in which I asked them to anonymously and thoughtfully give suggestions and feedback that would help me to be a better educator. They took the task to heart and I was rewarded with a treasure trove of insightful and helpful information. They were very honest, and while some of the criticism was hard to hear, their willingness to help and perceptive observations aided greatly in my growth as a teacher. I had a short discussion with the class openly examining areas where I need improvement and discussing specific ways in which I could strengthen my skillset. They were pleased that I was genuinely interested in what they had to say and the entire experience was very rewarding for both parties.

5. Be Prepared!

I cannot stress this enough! Always, always, always have a backup plan! Teaching demands flexibility, thinking on your feet, and being able to roll with the punches. One of my favorite sayings is "keep calm and pretend it's on the lesson plan--" it's funny to laugh about, but you will face the unexpected--even when you're expecting it! There have been many times when the classroom wifi has failed when the entire lesson depended on our ability to access the internet. Additionally, you will have days when equipment breaks (like a projector), teachers "borrow" your Elmo on the day you really need it (like during your instruction section of the PACT Teaching Event), or all of the electrical outlets in your room will suddenly decide to stop working. The more prepared you are, the easier it is to whip up a secondary lesson on the spot and proceed just as if it was always on the lesson plan.