Tips for Student Teachers

Student teachers embarking on their practica often ask themselves many questions; what will my school be like? Will I be a good teacher? What if I can’t manage the classroom well? These are just some of the concerns that student teachers have. The student teaching experience is one full of potential for success, but only if a student teacher approaches the practicum with the right attitude. In this section we will examine some of the challenges student teachers face, how they can best make use of this experience and provide some tips for student teachers.


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What challenges do student teachers face?

When leaving their university settings for actual school settings, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on student teachers. The expectations placed on them are high, whether by their mentor teachers, their university facilitators, their university instructors, or themselves. Upon entering the school, student teachers find themselves in an unknown situation facing a variety of challenges which may include the following:

  • Stress of interacting with students: No matter how many Pedagogical Content classes a student teacher takes regarding classroom management and child/adolescent development, actually being around students is an overwhelming feeling. Student teachers feel pressure to behave in a professional manner while developing a good rapport with the students. They can also find themselves exhausted after such a long day of interaction, especially having come from a much more individualized university setting.
  • Mentor teacher relationship: Students teachers also feel a great deal of stress around the relationship that will develop between them and their mentor teachers. This relationship is extremely important for the length of the practica and often sets the tone for a student teacher's experience.
  • Planning and teaching: Having to plan their own lessons is a challenging experience for many student teachers, especially taking into account that they they are being constantly evaluated by their mentor teachers. Student teachers must learn to create diverse and engaging lessons; they must then learn how to put those into action, something which is easier said than done.
  • New environment: Student teachers can also feel challenged and out of their element simply by being in this new school environment. It is difficult to get to know the staff or the practices as quick as one would like. Until this is accomplished, student teachers can feel very out of their element which adds to their stress.
  • Evaluation: Student teachers also feel a great deal of pressure to perform well in front of their mentor teachers as they are very aware that the evaluation from their MTs will be very influential in their future job searches.
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How can student teachers maximize their growth in their practica?

Despite the fact that practicum experiences are extremely challenging, there are ample opportunities for growth for student teachers. Student teachers who are aware of these opportunities and take advantage of them will take a lot more away from their practica experiences.

  • Resources: Being in a school gives a student teacher access to a wide variety of resources that they can use in their practicum or in their future teaching experience. The mentor teacher is the most obvious source of resources and student teachers are encouraged to ask their MT for permission to look at their resources. The school library is also an excellent place for student teachers to look for resources as well as the collections of various departments.
  • Relationships: Student teachers are also encouraged to make an effort to develop relationships within the school. These can be useful not only during the practicum itself as staff can help a great deal about the school and its policies, but connections made with staff during a practicum can often be helpful later on in one’s career.
  •  Extra-curricular: The student teacher's experience is unique due to its brevity as well as the many opportunities afforded student teachers to experiment with different extra-curricular activities. Student teachers are not required to stick only within their field of experience, the school is always in need of volunteers in many different areas and is happy for any help. Having a wide range of activities on one’s resume is useful when applying for jobs in the future.
  • Different classroom experiences: Often in a student teachers’ practicum, they are asked to teach an area in which they have very little experience. Despite this being an extremely stressful situation for the student teacher, it promotes a great deal of growth as it mimics a real-life teaching situation since teachers can expect to teach several different courses. It also shows the school and mentor teacher that the student teacher is capable of taking on a challenge. This reflects positively on the student teacher's ability and flexibility.
  • Observation: Over the course of one's teaching career, many teachers express the desire to have more opportunities to observe other teachers. Student teachers are in a prime position for plenty of observation experiences, and not only in their subject of choice. Student teachers are encouraged to observe several different subjects and teachers so as to gain an idea of the variety of teaching styles and possibilities for classroom arrangement.
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What are some tips for student teachers?

Taking the above information into account, there are several tips that student teachers should take into account when embarking on their practicum experiences:

  • Be professional: Take care when interacting with staff and students in the school. There are behavioural expectations for everyone, including student teachers. Dress appropriately, be punctual and be respectful at all times.
  • Don’t expect perfection: Lesson planning, creating a rapport with students, interacting with other teachers, these are all skills that are developed over time. Be patient, make an honest effort, and those around you will recognize your desire to improve.
  • Be open to new experiences: As mentioned above, each school is full of different classes, clubs, teams and activities. Don’t be afraid to try out something new.
  • Be organized: Lesson planning can be stressful, as can the long days and the work that is necessary afterwards. Being as organized as possible will minimize unnecessary stress. Keep a daily planner to organize important dates and responsibilities, and try to keep your lessons in a planbook so you and your mentor teacher can access them easily.
  • Don’t forget your life: The practica experiences are stressful and time consuming, but it is important to maintain a balance. Set aside certain times for activities that keep you mentally, physically and emotionally stable; this will make you a far better teacher.
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