I know I haven't posted on here in over a month but man has it been a busy time! I knew to expect my life to change in many ways once I became a teacher, but this is a whole new definition of busy! I have been loving every second of it though, and am slowly figuring out how to keep myself organized. So I hope to start posting more often and get back to creating resources for my TPT like I used to! :)
The summer before my first year of teaching was a very reflective summer for me! Throughout the many thoughts, I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about my preparation up to this point in my career. I student-taught in a kindergarten classroom at a Title 1 school and in a first grade classroom at a school that had only been open for 2 years (and ended up being the school I got hired with!) Thinking about my journey of student-teaching made me feel thankful for such a great experience but also made me wonder what advice I wish I could have received from others who had just finished student-teaching. Well now, here I am still fresh out of the program, and I have compiled a list of my top ten tips for student-teachers!
10 Tips for Student-Teachers:
1. Be very mindful of how you are presenting yourself at all times.
When the time comes for you to apply for a job, you will realize how important this really is. The teaching community is a smaller community than you may think and it is imperative that you make a great impression on every person you meet. Connections matter and everything you say, everything you wear, and everything you do will be considered when your name is brought up. Though that may seem intimidating, just remember to always dress professionally, smile at others, and do not, I repeat DO NOT, give in to gossip! You do not want to be known as the intern who talked about other teachers or about students.
2. Do not arrive late and do not rush out right after dismissal.
This is a given but is also very important. You should never be late and you should never leave as soon as all of the students have left. Your mentor teacher will appreciate and respect you more if you arrive early and stay later. I am not talking about getting to the school an hour before your mentor or staying until dinner time. But simply arriving ahead of time and staying after to offer additional help will really help make the rest of the staff take you seriously and look at you as a professional.
3. Attend after school events.
I am sure your school has events held after school or maybe even on the weekends. Most schools have reading nights, math nights, S.T.E.M. nights, International nights, talent shows, and other fun events held for the families and communities that surround your school. Be sure you attend most, if possible all, of these events! I understand you may be busy and still have a job or have children of your own, but the extra effort will absolutely make you stand out. I remember I attended my school's International Night and my principal (who, at the time I thought didn't even know my name!) came up to me in the hallway the next day and thanked me for attending and added that it really meant a lot to him. Things like that will get you a long way when it comes time to get a job! Which brings me to my next tip...
4. Introduce yourself to the administrators, office staff, building service staff, specialists, etc.
Make sure you make time to introduce yourself to the other staff members. Most importantly, to the administration and office staff. They will appreciate it, will be more likely to remember you and approach you for conversation, and will not have to try and figure out what your name is later if they end up thinking of you! Plus, as I said, connections are everything and the more people who can associate your smiling face to your actual will name will be a bonus for you.
5. Go the extra mile with the families of your students.
This is something that we were told over and over in my last year of college. Make connections to the families of your students. I decided to throw a writing celebration to show case the inquiry projects my first graders had been working so hard on for a month. The students made invitations and sent them home to their families as well as to other staff members in the building. Our celebration was a "cruise" theme, and acted as a gallery-walk around the classroom visiting different areas around the world, such as the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower. The students had created posters and gave presentations to the adults walking around the room, who had passports to be stamped as they visited each area. I gave students name tags with crew jobs, such as "Waiter" and "Waitress", "Tour Guide" and "Greeter". It was a huge hit, many staff members posted pictures of the event on social media, and many parents thanked me immensely. Was planning an event like this required? Nope. Did it take a lot of work? Yes. But was it worth it? Absolutely.
6. Don't go around bragging about yourself.
Of course it is okay to be confident in your teaching abilities and be proud of yourself if a lesson goes well, but do not come off as arrogant. You are a student-teacher there to learn from everyone else and you don't want the other teachers being able to say that you think you are "all that". Instead, humble yourself. If a lesson goes well, great! Go home and tell your friends and family. Do not boast about it in the school or make a post on social media every time something turns out amazing. One or two posts is okay, but I had many people tell me that they liked the fact that I never talked about myself or posted about compliments I received from the principal.
7. Remain professional with your colleagues.
Always watch what you say and use professional, appropriate language. Even when the students are not present. I highly suggest that you do not add your mentor teacher or other staff members on Facebook or any other forms of social media until after your student-teaching has ended. Additionally, if you are of age, I would not suggest that you attend happy hours or other social events with your mentor teacher or colleagues, even if you are invited. It may sound silly, but you will be out of place and other staff members may feel the same way. Remain professional as you yourself are still a student, and meet up for happy hours when it is all over! ;)
8. Do not miss any days.
Depending on your program's policies, if you miss a day of student-teaching, you will have to make up that day before being able to receive your degree. I completely understand if you have the flu and need to miss a day or two. If you are ever contagiously sick, you have every right to stay home. But do not miss a day of student-teaching because you broke up with your boyfriend/girlfriend or you only got three hours of sleep. I spent many of my nights only getting three to four hours of sleep and I still made it in every morning by 7:30am. Trust me, the less days you have to make up at the end of the year, the better! Plus, your students depend on you and look forward to seeing you every day and you want to be reliable. :)
9. SAVE YOUR MONEY.
SERIOUSLY. If you are anything like me, you will want to save up as much as you can before the first day of school. I am a perfectionist and like to have things organized with matching colors, etc. I created a "Future Classroom Fund" out of a shadowbox I purchased from Michaels. There was a slot in the top and every time I had spare cash I would drop it into the shadow box. By the time it came for me to use it, I had nearly $800 in there which seriously SAVED ME. I could buy so many of the "little things" that I had pinned on Pinterest or added to my wish list on Teachers Pay Teachers. I wish I would have started my Future Teacher Fund earlier, but I only created it over the summer before my Senior year. Imagine how much you would save up for your future classroom if you started earlier!
10. Learn the little things.
Ask your mentor to teach you about the little things that you will not learn through college. Ask them what the procedures are for substitutes, professional leave, benefits, field trips, etc. Ask about your county's policies. Ask them how to appropriately respond to "made-up" e-mail scenarios, such as a parent who is concerned about their child's grades. Ask them to show you how to use the technology provided at your school, or other resources at your school that you may need to use. See if they will let you grade papers and input those grades! Ask about the process of interims, progress reports, report cards, classroom volunteers, chaperones, standardized testing, etc. Just don't be scared to ask about the little things, because when the time comes and you are on your own facing all of these little things, you will wish you would have asked!
Thank you so much for reading and I hope these tips are able to help you!
Please share with a student-teacher or anyone whom you think could benefit from these tips. :)
~ Ms. Jones