I will always remember when I received my student teaching placement in the mail. The area I was in had several different high schools that I could have been placed in, but I was praying for one in particular. One of the best high school choral programs in the state was right down the road, and all I wanted was to learn from a director who was doing things right. When I opened the envelope and saw that school’s name, I pulled a Rachel and Phoebe.
Student teaching can be one of the best experiences in your career, but the time approaching can be a little daunting. Even though it is like teaching with training wheels, it’s your chance to practice everything you have learned (and everything you’ll learn along the way) before you have to do it on your own.
I was very lucky to receive the placement I did, and it ended up being one of the most influential experiences in my career. I still have a few students that I keep in touch with!
However, there are a lot of factors that can contribute to your success during student teaching that may also pose a challenge. You may be placed in a school that has a socioeconomic profile you have never experienced. Your cooperating teacher may teach differently than how your teachers did. You may be expected to teach a class like piano or general music which is outside your ensemble rehearsal skill set.
All of those examples could happen, but they definitely won’t hinder your success unless you let them. No matter your situation, desirable or undesirable, these 4 practices can make any experience fruitful.
Watch your cooperating teacher closely. What do they do that the students respond to? How do they control the classroom? During your observation period, take copious notes about everything they do. You are going to be taking on their role, so it’s important that students see you operating the way their teacher does every day.
The first time I had ever heard of Takadimi, a system of reading rhythm, was on my first day of observing my cooperating teacher. I had to quickly learn it because I was going to have to teach it, since that was the system they had in place. While it was super stressful in the beginning, it ended up being a system I brought into my own choral program. I would venture to say it’s the best system, and that I’m borderline a little obsessed.
Reflect on each lesson you teach. When something doesn’t go well, ask your cooperating teacher for ways to improve. Ask your professors for suggestions. Consult your former teachers what they do in certain situations. The more feedback you can get from multiple sources, the bigger your teacher tool box will be.
Be confident, but not cocky. Be friendly, but authoritative. You may not be the expert in the room, but you are next in line for sure. Consider yourself as a teacher in residence. You aren’t there to take over, but you are there to make a difference. Even though it isn’t your program or your ensemble permanently, take the opportunity to leave a positive mark during your stay.
Get to know the students. Ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Compliment their clothes. Greet them by name when they come in the door. The more they see you investing in them and their program, the more they will buy in to you. This will go a long way!
The most important thing you can do is treat student teaching as both a learning experience and a responsibility to the students you are temporarily serving.
One of the best aspects of a career in education is exactly that; a lifetime of learning and growing while serving your own students, school, and community.
If you are approaching a semester of student teaching, I welcome any questions or concerns you have about it! Feel free to leave a comment, reach out on social media, or contact me!
Teachers – What advice do you have for students approaching student teaching? Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/
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