Student Teaching: Getting started to do list

Yes, you will most likely have to student teach. Student teaching means you will be in a classroom for a semester with a veteran teacher whose responsibility is to teach you the ropes.

Most Ed. Schools allow students to request a certain school or grade level for their student teaching. You may want a middle school instead of high, or maybe you care more about it being closer to where you live. Either way, you may or may not end up with what you want. Don’t stress if you’re placed in a middle school and you’re adamant about teaching high school or vice versa. It may not be ideal, but be positive and know that it will be the most important aspect of your Ed. School experience.

So what is your main role as a student teacher?

The role changes throughout the semester you will be there.

  1. First, you need to find out who your “cooperating instructor” (or whatever other euphemism your school may have derived for the teacher you’ll be working with) is. If your school doesn’t set up a time for you to meet with your cooperating instructor before the school year starts, do it yourself. This person is your lifeline for the next eighteen weeks. Be nice to them. Bake them cookies if you have to. Build a solid relationship with them. You need to trust them and they need to trust you for this relationship to be mutually beneficial, as it should be.
  2. Your role for the first several weeks will be to help and observe. You may be sent on copier duty or asked to watch the kids while the teacher steps out, but mostly you are there to soak in the classroom dynamic. Learn all the students’ names as quickly as possible. Pay attention to the teaching methods of your cooperating instructor. You may not use the same methods as they do. Perhaps they’re “old school” and you’re “new school,” but you’re going to have to make it work to the point that the students don’t feel like they’re taking a totally different class when you take over.  And, deep breath, you will take over.
  3. Usually student teachers take over classes in small steps. One lesson here, another there, then maybe a period-long class and finally all classes, all day. Don’t wait until it’s go time to start planning your lessons. Talk to your cooperating instructor about what the content will be at the time she/he passes the baton to you and start brushing up on the material and looking for lesson ideas early. You may feel like, as a student teacher, you are expected to create new and innovative lessons every day. Sure, that would be great, and you probably will generate some unique and awesome lessons, but you’re not superman/woman. Once you know the content you will be teaching, for example: passive vs. active sentences, search the internet for lessons that work. I.E. search: “passive and active sentences + lesson plans.” You don’t need to re-invent the wheel.  Maybe you find a lesson you love and want to use verbatim. Maybe you find an idea that sparks a plan of your own. Either way, you’re not pulling lessons from thin air (or pulling your hair out). ReadWriteThink and The National Education Association are awesome, free online resources.

Side note: there are a number of websites out there where you can pay for lesson plans. Some of them are reputable and some are not. In my thirteen years, I have NEVER paid for a lesson plan and I don’t intend to. There are plenty of ideas out there for free, but no judgement if you do choose to purchase plans offline.

It is also important to note, that depending on your school and your content area you may be working with a team (often referred to as a Professional Learning Team). That team has a common planning time during which they plan lessons together. The team may have been working together for years and have a pretty set plan for the year in place, or the team may be newly starting out and looking to you for a fresh perspective. Ultimately, the content knowledge itself (the district’s learning targets/common core standards/standards of learning/etc.) will already be in place. Most school systems also provide a curriculum framework and pacing guide which gives teachers a general sense of what content they should be covering at which points throughout the year.

A Teacher's Guide

I am a National Board Certified educator currently teaching in Virginia. I have taught the following: English 9, 10, 11, and 12 (on academic, collaborative, and honors levels); Dual Enrollment English; Mass Communications, Yearbook, Newspaper, and Communications Technology. I have experience in five different school systems, four in Virginia and one in Maryland. I served as my school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and was a top five finalist for the Teacher of the Year for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I am passionate about recruiting and retaining quality educators in our public schools. Let me help you find your path to changing lives through teaching!

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