Student Teaching: Test Drive Your Career in Education

Student teaching typically occurs sometime in the fourth or fifth year of an education major or minor. Facing a classroom of kids as a student teacher may sound daunting when you're still in college, but knowing what to expect can help you settle your anxiety about being an "apprentice."

It is a good idea to meet with your assigned school and teacher well in advance of the scheduled semester. This will give you an opportunity to learn what topics you will be teaching. Familiarize yourself with the books that will be used for the classroom. This exercise will be a great asset in your self-confidence when you finally get the opportunity to teach.

When you meet with the teacher, go over his or her lesson plan, and ask specifically where you will be filling in. A good mentoring teacher will have established dates for the lesson plans for which you will be responsible. Try to meet one-on-one with your mentoring teacher each week to discuss your progress and seek suggestions for improving your skills.

Make yourself available to assist in other ways, including grading papers, tutoring, creating bulletin boards, and observing classes of other teachers in the school.

In addition, teachers recommend that their student teachers make their presence and availability known. Stopping by the school office to offer assistance raises your visibility and creates positive feedback among the faculty and administration.

Write a letter to your students and their parents to introduce yourself. The letter should give a brief educational background, outline what you will be teaching, and detail your availability to students and parents.

Remember that availability is important. You will make a poor impression if it appears your social life or outside commitments are interfering with your dedication to the classroom.

Mentoring teachers generally are patient and willing to work with you to help you achieve your goals and derive as much from your student teaching experience as you can. But any time two strangers meet, there's a chance that they will not get along. Know that your time working with a difficult mentoring teacher has an end in sight - in a few month's time, you'll be back in school or seeking a job.

Even more difficult for some student teachers is the experience of a difficult classroom. Your textbooks and professors may have given you tips to deal with unruly students, but student teaching is really where the rubber meets the road. Work closely with your mentoring teacher to devise methods that will improve classroom discipline.

Despite your best efforts, you may discover that teaching is not really for you. Your college advisor can help tailor the remainder of your academic career to an education career that does not require teaching children and adolescents.

As your student teaching tenure comes to an end, be sure to express your appreciation to your cooperating teacher and school principal. Write thank you cards to all faculty and administration members who have given you assistance during your student teaching semester.