Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Student Teaching Suggestions

     Since it's the beginning of the school year and I finished student teaching last fall, I thought I would share some student teaching suggestions/advice for both the student teacher and mentor teacher. Some of this, I have seen similar things elsewhere, but I thought I'd throw in my thoughts based on my experience.

Student Teacher
  • Don't be afraid to try new things. It was when I worked hard to do something new rather than following the curriculum like all the other teachers were doing that I really had fun and loved teaching and the kids had fun too! Be creative!
  • Send home a letter to the parents during your first week. One of my teachers asked me to, and the other didn't. I wish that I had done this at both placements so that I could have learned more about parent interaction. As a young new teacher, transitioning to being a person with authority as the teacher needs to happen, even with the parents.
  • Talk with your mentor teacher bluntly. Do you wish you could teach more or a little less? Are you struggling with trying to reach all of the students? Don't be afraid to ask for help and share frustrations. They might be the person filling out references in the end, and in my opinion, I'd rather them say that I strived for improvement rather than was mediocre teacher. This was something that I didn't do enough. I mainly listened to what they told me rather than asking for things. At my first placement, I really wish that I could have taught more!
  • Be involved at the school. Is there a club you can help with? Are you doing crossing guard duty on some days? I went to a roller skating party at one of my schools, and it was so much fun! I learned about the students outside of school, met some parents, and gained respect from some students. 
  • Come early, and stay late. When I was the one teaching, I was at school before my mentor teacher and stayed later than her. Both of them had children, otherwise they would have stuck around, but it didn't matter to me if they were there or not. Either way, I was committed to doing a great job. I met other teachers after school and had an amazing opportunity to share stories, get advice, and ask questions that I wouldn't have had if I had only worked at my house.
  • Make sure you let yourself rest enough. Being a teacher is hard work, and it makes you tired. You will get sick more quickly if you don't rest. For the first two weeks of school, my whole house (including one teacher who had taught for 7 years) took naps after school. We also continually had an earlier bedtime of 10pm since we had to be up so early. I understand it's college and most people stay up late, but trust me, your body will thank you if you give it enough rest.
  • Be excited! You get to be a teacher! It's a wonderful job, and you are so lucky to make it this far. What ruins it is when we get a bad attitude. Attitudes are contagious. When you are excited about something, the students (and mentor teacher) will be too. I saw this most clearly when I taught writing. On one of the first days of school, my teacher asked who like writing. Not a single first grader raised their hand. A week or so later, I started Writer's Workshop with excitement and the goal for the first week to get them excited about writing. It worked! Writing became one of their favorite subjects by the end of my time there, because I was excited about it. Here's more on the story of what I did that first week. Library Mouse is a great start for any grade.
  • Find a time every day to meet with your mentor teacher without any kids in the room.
  • Get to know the principal and other teachers in the school. This includes their first and last name since you call colleagues by first name when there aren't kids but by last name in front of students. Call the principal and others in authority by their last name until they say otherwise.
  • Dress modestly and to impress. There was a jean day every Friday, and I never dressed down. That made an impression on my teacher, and she even commented well on it in my evaluation.
  • Remember that student teaching can be like a semester long interview. Show improvement, a desire to learn, and professionalism.
  • Learn and use your teacher voice. This was the thing most commented on when my college supervisor came. She was always looking for a better teacher voice.
  • Contact your teacher before the first day of school.
Mentor Teachers
  • Ask your student teachers what you can do to help them do their best.
  • Encourage them to branch out from how you normally teach it.
  • Schedule time every day to meet with your student teacher to talk, share, and listen when there aren't kids in the room.
  • If your student teacher does something wrong, use it as a teaching moment and remind them that everyone makes mistakes. Share some mistakes that you made your first few years.
  • Let your student teacher know what books or things would be helpful to them before they step foot in your classroom. I really wish that I knew my school would use Daily 5 because I would have read the book over the summer to understand it better.
  • Model how you teach routines and procedures or at least talk about it if you don't have them at the beginning of the school year. This is an important thing for student teachers to learn. I'm very glad that I saw my teacher set up routines and procedures. Otherwise, I would have no idea where to begin this year.
  • If you think they are lacking in an area, talk with them before you put it on their final evaluation. My school had us do a midpoint evaluation, and it really opened my eyes to what my mentor teachers thought of how I was doing. I wish that I had more feedback at the beginning.
  • Just like a student, student teachers need a lot of praise when they are doing a wonderful job. Even something as simple as them dressing appropriately, using a good voice, being involved at school. Let them know that you appreciate it.

I could go on and on, but I think this is long enough. If you have any questions or want to hear more about my experience, you can email me at learningandteachingforlife@gmail.com. You can also read my blogs about student teaching hereSparkles, Smiles, and Successful Students did a whole series this summer on student teaching suggestions that may also be helpful if you are looking for advice. She student taught last year like I did. Happy student or mentor teaching!


  1. Your advice is perfect. As a mentor teacher, I didn't leave the room. Not necessarily because I didn't trust the student teacher, but because I knew they were going to spend the rest of their teaching career without much feedback. I needed to consistently be there so that I could let them know on a daily basis what great things they were doing and how they could improve as well.

    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  2. Great points! I think I agree with just about every one of them.

    I actually look forward to the day that I will get to be a mentor teacher. Now that will be a great experience, seeing it from a different point of view!