Tips for Student Teachers
I wrote this on Facebook before my student teaching quarter started, since I was one of the only two people in the class that have been teaching since September (my quarter was in March), so I am reposting it here. The post was made when I am in my second semester teaching at LACHSA.
I got to reflect on some mistakes I made last semester, some mistakes I continue to make, and some things I know that annoys me when it comes to people interfering my classroom. I believe myself an accommodating person, but even I have some things that annoys me when it comes to my classroom, so you can only imagine how, if most unfortunate, you get a master teacher that isn’t so good or patient. So being self-pretentious and arrogant, I thought I’d share my two cents here.
1. Arrive early. I would actually suggest that when you observe the first couple of days, ask your master teacher when does s/he arrive and arrive about 5 minutes earlier than he does. Then follow his routine so you can get a sense of how much time YOU will need when you start.
2. Know your terrain. Know where the nearest restroom is, and walk and time it. Then you’ll know who is it that always takes the extra long bathroom run during class and went to make out with his girlfriend. Or buy a snack. And then don’t be afraid to call them out.
3. Grade immediately. This is the one mistake that I continue to make thanks to endless amount of ridiculous heavy homework we have in the afternoon…. But, in all possibility, grade as soon as you receive the assignment. It keeps your mind fresh knowing where are all the papers that you need to grade. Nothing gets more frustrating than when you lose students’ homework or you are searching your house up and down looking for that stack that just happen to be hidden under your bed.
4. Have a clear filing system. Get one of these: Mobile Folding File Cart Thingy and then you can use like, magazine holder or something to separate each class’ files for ease of reference. Also, this cart will be a life saver when you need to move your supplies around. Depending on your situation, of course, but this is still a good investment.
5. If you are a daily PowerPoint user, get this: Wireless Presenter with Laser Pointer. It is the best investment you can ever made for your teaching career in my opinion. This thing allows you to walk around the classroom while teaching and change slides without doing a marathon of running back and forth or getting stuck at the computer and Johnny in the back corner start planning for mutiny. And the laser pointer is definitely a big plus.
6. Keep a small notebook in hand. You will be handling over 100 kids, and each have their own little problem that they think you can solve for them. Keep the notebook in hand to take down notes of what you need to do. Suzie need another copy of the worksheet, Kate need to do her project presentation, and e-mail Johnny’s parents because he’s reinacting the latest porno shoot he saw on Youtube…
7. Develop a homework turn-in / return system. I’ve tried a couple but I’m still trying to see what is best. Because of my classroom situation I can’t have a place that’s dedicated for homework so I have to carry the damn box back and forth, and that annoys me. So I’m still searching… (note: see my post: First Day of Class… Oh, the Fear! for more suggestion)
8. Work with your master teacher and toss ideas! I flat out told mine just couple days ago that I want to use his classrooms as an experimentation for a program I want to use, and showed it to him. He was actually quite excited, even though he wasn’t quite sure if he liked the whole paper-less idea. But he’s totally in for it and that makes me very, very excited. He also had some ideas about collaborated teaching, which I’m super psyched too. So hey, best of both worlds! (of course, if you got one of those not-so-cool master teachers… Just know their boundaries and tread lightly, I would say.)
1. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You’re here to learn and try things out, so who gives a damn if you’re doing something that’s not what you thought is the norm? Test it out and, hey, if it doesn’t work, simply acknowledge it to the kids and move on.
2. Don’t gossip. I cannot stress this enough. Let’s see if I can do this right…
SERIOUSLY. Do it OUTSIDE of school. Please! Especially, and this is just logic, really, but no matter how close you are to one of the other teachers in that school that is not your master teacher, do NOT complain to them about your master teacher!!!! This happened to me last quarter and I was extremely uncomfortable and frustrated. You are the student teacher, you get to leave after the quarter is over and treat this as a one night stand, but others have to work here! It puts the teacher at an extremely uncomfortable situation and, of course, if your university supervisor or professor hears about it, you’re in deep trouble.
3. Don’t be anybody but yourself. I’ve heard people say, “do not smile for the first 8 weeks” or that you can’t apologize. I don’t believe in that. But that’s just me. Yes, you do need to be stern and a teacher, the ADULT in the room, but that doesn’t mean you must demean the kids or treat them with no respect. Talk to them about yourself, your expectation, and make them see that you are a human being as well. My kids tell me, “We’d love to make hell for those teachers we don’t like.” and they WILL drive you crazy. While I’m not saying you need to suck up to them, you shouldn’t be their enemy either. Believe me, they outnumber you easily.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If your master teacher can’t answer you, ask other teachers. Discuss students. Discuss strategies. Go for it! You might find out that, hey, that Johnny that was planning mutiny and reinacting the porn scene? He’s actually a sensitive guy and is acting out because he’s having some problem at home (or he could just be a menace, of course…) Other teachers have perspective of students that you don’t, so it’s always awesome to learn about the student more so you can start seeing if there’s a good way to deal with him.
5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you are, then you might as well back out of the profession now, or maybe don’t student teach until you can get over it. You WILL make mistakes, and even if you plan to the minute detail you will always make a mistake. Basically, lesson plan is to guide you, but it will never protect you ’cause students LOVE to just tear that up and go another direction. Just go with the flow. Like the other student teachers say, “You’re not here to change the world, you’re here for the credential.” I wouldn’t go as far as saying that, because maybe you CAN change the world in these 10 weeks, but rather, I’d say, “You’re not here to win the Nobel prize on education, you’re here to learn with them.
1. Kids love it when you can remember their name… and stickers. Yes, even high schoolers, which surprised the hell out of me. But they do, in a very obsessive-compulsive way. They looooove stickers and it’s sickening. lol So use those. You can buy stamps for about $10-$15 at office depot that’s specifically for teachers, but you can also buy jumbo sticker packs for $5/1000 stickers. Up to you.
2. Always remember they are KIDS. Even if they are seniors, they are nothing but rebellious and immature kids. Keep recite that in your mind everyday you go in, because chances are, there are always one or two that wants to push your buttons to the point you break, and if you just keep remember they’re kids and not as mature as you are, then you can forgive them.
3. Don’t focus on just the content. Try to teach them things other than your content as well, like organizational skills, testing skills, note taking skills, self-reflecting skills, computer skills, being a proper human being skills…. You’ll find it shocking that the amount of skills they have (or lack of) are beyond imagination. The simple task of keeping a clean, organized portfolio for some is Mission: Impossible.
4. Practice a face of innocence. You’re gonna slip once in a while and say something that’s hilarious to them in a very sexual way, but if you keep a straight, innocent face and ask them what’s wrong, it’ll dampen the situation immediately and let you have a chance to recover or just move on.
5. If you have butterflies in your stomach…. Don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Evan Almighty, but in the beginning it shows Evan look in front of the mirror and telling himself “I’m gorgeous, confident, handsome, smart…”? Do that. Even if you are touching on subjects you have no idea, you need to put up a face of extreme confidence, almost cockiness, to say in your mind, “I know more than you do.” The thing is, you DO. Show confidence, and know that no matter what you do, you’re always more knowledgeable than them and that’s why you’re the teacher.
What Might Irritates Master Teachers
Just a reminder… this is what will irritate ME. You might get a master teacher that is more relaxed, or more rigid, but I think this is just in general what makes a teacher of the classroom ticks…
1. Challenge the teacher’s authority. Never point out what the master teacher said or did wrong, even if it is extremely obvious and you feel it impedes on students’ learning (chances are, it won’t.) The observer (or in this case, the student teacher) gets to leave after their time is finished, but the teacher has to stay and control these students who now questions their authority. Nothing irritates them more than to re-establish respect and authority. Gets bad enough when students constantly challenge them already, they really don’t need another teacher to do that.
2. Showing disrespect in front of students. Especially in front of the students. If you have a problem with the master teacher, you take it up with them after the room is CLEARED. Do NOT think just because it’s recess time that it’s okay for you to talk to them in a less than respectful manner, because even if just one or two students hang around the whole school would know, and that kind of relates to number one too.
3. Think you OWN the classroom. It’s a weird possessive feeling that teachers have, even me. You feel like this classroom is YOURS and you can do whatever you want. Despite the fact that that is what the student teaching is about, not all master teachers are willing to let go that completely. It’s like the classroom, including the students, are their second home, and you don’t go to other people’s home and start rearranging their furniture and painting their walls, do you? Same kind of feeling.
4. Discuss with your master teacher how you would like to be introduced. Especially if your master teacher is doing this for the first time. How your master teacher introduces you makes a big difference to the students, and if your master teacher introduce you with disrespect, good luck getting respect from your students the following weeks. So, if you are able to meet your master teacher ahead of time, rehearse how you would be introduced. Ask politely, of course.
You are about to get a first, real-life taste of this career you’ve chosen, and most likely you are almost done with your credential program. Enjoy yourself, teach and learn, and good luck!