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Things To Know About Student Teaching

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois State chapter.

Last year, I was a junior Elementary Education major. I wrote an article about my experiences and takeaways from participating in clinicals, and this year, I am a senior and have chosen to participate in a Professional Development School (PDS) program for student teaching. I am in a 4th grade classroom and have decided to write an updated article on what I have learned from meet the teacher night, the first day of school, the first week of school, and the following weeks up until now.

Meet the Teacher Night

Meet the Teacher Night is one of the most stressful, but also reassuring nights. You meet your students, and their parents, and you feel more at ease about taking on the challenge that is student teaching. My experience during Meet the Teacher was quite simple. My mentor teacher was prepared and organized when I got there, so I didn’t have to help set up much (this will not be the case for all mentor teachers). We divided up into stations, where families would sign in, drop off backpacks and supplies, and get information about contacts, transportation, and curriculum. Throughout the night, my mentor teacher greeted students and their families, made small talk, and answered questions. During this time, I stood back a bit at first and took it all in, but as more students and families arrived, I stepped in. I introduced myself and explained some of the stations and first steps to start. I know this can seem intimidating, so if you’re going through this, I encourage you to ask your mentor how to be best prepared. I would also recommend observing how the night works, but to not be afraid to step in. The only way you will learn is if you immerse yourself.

First Day of School

Ahh, the first day of school. Full of nerves, excitement, and introductions! At the school I student teach at, students came in from all different elementary schools, so one of our first priorities was setting rules and expectations. We also gave tours of the gym, cafeteria, library, and specials rooms. My advice to you is to really observe how students respond to your mentor teacher. Take notes of all the little things your classes don’t teach you, such as the expectations and procedures you need to establish with your students, the schedule, the types of attention getters your mentor teacher uses, and how they go about transitions from one subject to the next. I would also say that you should start to get to know the classroom environment. It was helpful to know whether students left to get small group help, which students were more talkative and open, and what students needed reassurance or behavioral support. These factors are all important in a successful classroom. Your mentor teacher should be able to use what they know about their students to earn that trust and comfortability. I suggest that you go in with an open mind. Don’t be afraid to ask your mentor teacher questions, and “fake it till you make it”. School days can be long, but if you have a positive attitude and rely on the support of others, you will make it through the day!

First Week of School

The key to having a successful first week is to be flexible and to keep reiterating rules, expectations, and procedures. It’s also extremely important that your students know what respect is and what it looks like. Respect goes a long way in the classroom, especially when thinking about your classmates, teacher(s), and other staff. The next thing to establish during the first week is community. Students need to feel welcomed and excited to come to school. Building into the school day, relationship building and team-bonding activities will instill a love for coming to school and a motivation to want to learn. You’ll want to use this week and the following weeks to build relationships with ALL students to the best of your ability. For example, give them an activity where they can draw and color all their favorite things, or lead a whole class activity where students write down their goals for the year. During this week, your mentor teacher will discuss the school handbook and the discipline handbook with students to ensure they understand the rules. I recommend that you continue to be yourself! Let students see that you are human, that you will make mistakes, that you like to have fun, and that you are learning together. 

The Rest of the Year

My tips for you to be successful throughout the year include: be respectful, be firm, but also have fun, set rules, procedures, and expectations on the first day, and continue to do so throughout the year. Remember to not be afraid of making mistakes, and be flexible when things don’t go as planned. You, as the teacher, have almost a full year with these students, so it’s important that they know you and you know them. The trust within your community will allow you all to learn and grow together. Students will only feel comfortable if you are. I recommend that you include stories and experiences from your personal life to make it easier for students to connect with you. In other words, don’t hide your personality, let it show, and be yourself.

Overall, my experience teaching students in a 4th grade classroom has been a learning curve, I’ll be honest; however, I’ve only been here for around 2 months and I have already learned so much. It will take practice and lots of trial and error, but there’s no doubt that after a few years of being a real teacher, I will be a mentor for other aspiring teachers out there.

Sydney Kotowski

Illinois State '24

I'm a Senior Elementary Education major with an Endorsement in Reading! In my free time I love to read, write, bake, listen to music, and hang out with friends!