So I want to post some advice to new student teachers from one who has just made it through all her student teaching experiences. It's such a fun and exciting time meeting your cooperating teacher and getting to know your new students. This can also be a tricky time with hard to navigate waters when walking into another veteran teachers classroom. My hope is to provide some advice to you for what has worked well for me! I am starting off with some of the most basic tips of beginning the year but will continue to post about some things I have personally found helpful throughout my experiences.
My first and most important piece of advice is to be prepared, appropriate and respectful at all times from the minute you pull into the parking lot to when you leave.This means dress appropriately, arrive on time, sign in and treat the secretarys with respect, and keep it up throughout the school day. I have always felt anxious when arriving late somewhere so generally I arrive early to everything, this is not the case for all student teachers but it should be! Being on time and how you treat office staff when entering the school is the first impression that you give to this district. Arriving this way and keeping it up throughout the school day is essential to your good name in not only this district but many others. It always amazes me when I hear stories of student teachers gossiping about the school or somebody in the school but it does happen. Do NOT let this be you! After months of working with your cooperating teacher you may feel safe to let your opinion slip to her but its not a good idea. I very recently heard a story from a family member who works in a nearby district of this happening to another student teacher in my class. She made comments to her cooperating teacher about the HR staff which was then reported directly back to HR that day. Eeeek! Now i'm sure she thought she was saying this in confidence and it would stay in the room but this should never be assumed. Everybody has their own opinions and frustrating days but this is not the time in your career to voice them as you are a guest in this school and classroom.
Communication is KEY. This is an age old saying but I find so many of my peers not utilizing this with their cooperating teachers. I have been amazingly lucky and had great relationships with all of my cooperating teachers and i greatly attribute that to my communication skills. This is a hard situation for you and the veteran teacher so ask about her expectations and talk about your requirements with her. This is one of the first things I did in each of my placements to ensure I was doing the best job I could do. Here are some questions I believe are important to ask from the very beginning.
What do you want me to be doing while you are teaching?
Most likely you will not walk in the first day and start teaching. Insead you will probably spend a few days or even weeks learning your cooperating teachers teaching style and the class routines. This is good take it all in! You need to know what your teacher expects from you during these times. If you just sit in the back of the room typing on your computer you are not portraying a sense of excitement for the profession or any initiative which is not a good start to building this new relationship. You could instead ask if she wants you to enter grades, cut items, file paperwork, move around the room and assist students (this is usually the best option if she leaves it up to you).
When do you want me to start taking over?
Asking this from the beginning might seem odd but it really relieves a lot of guesswork and stress out of trying to decide whether you should be doing more. For me it was simple and we came up with a plan which worked nicely around my school requirements. If I hadn't asked it might not have gone so smoothly.
What topics/subjects would you like me to start with?
This is a great question to allow you to begin preparing. In my situation we decided to start with math and my cooperating teacher first had me plan a week in our online system, planbook, and she taught it. The next week I planned the lessons and took over teaching them. We did this with each subject I took over which allowed me to get use to each curriculum system our district uses. Phonics was one area I felt very uncomfortable in and I was honest with my cooperating teacher about this. We decided I would take it over last allowing me more time to observe how she taught it. Once I tackled it I felt great and now this is one of my favorite parts of the day!
What paperwork or parent communication methods would you like me to be responsible for?
I think this is an important question because often we forget about this part of teaching as student teachers because our cooperating teachers just continue to take on this responsibility. If your teaching is willing to pass the baton in this areas take her up on it! You will learn so much about what the true requirements are of teaching and gain valuable time management skills. I suggest always clearing any forms of parent communication with your teacher as these issues ultimately reflect back on her.
Ok, that's it for today! I would love to hear your comments about anything that you may want to ask your teachers or wished you would have or tips any veteran teachers have to offer. I will continue to post student teaching advice talking from my own experiences so stick with me and I would love to hear your thoughts!