As a student teacher, you have the opportunity to change the world, one impressionable mind at a time. How you achieve that goal is up to you. But the best teachers – the ones whose names students will one day recall to their own children – are those who understand the importance of preparation. Keeping these five objectives in mind, your transition to student teaching should begin long before you ever set foot inside a classroom.

  1. Devote Yourself to Creating a Safe Environment That Is Conducive to Learning
    It takes courage to admit confusion; especially when doing so alerts 20 of your peers to your predicament. Vow, before you begin student teaching, that you’ll never ridicule students for admitting that they need help. Even if you’ve covered the material twice all ready, as a budding teacher, you understand that children learn at different rates, they come from differing backgrounds with varied life experiences. What might seem simple to one child may be a completely foreign idea to another. Encourage kids to seek help. And resist the urge to chuckle along with the crowd when someone asks what could be construed as an unnecessary question. If you work hard to create a safe environment where children feel free to open up and make themselves vulnerable, you’ll create a classroom where learning happens.
  2. Open Your Mind and Your Heart
    Today’s classrooms are crowded. The curriculum is fast-paced, and not every student will be that agreeable, eager learner that every teacher yearns to find. Children may come to school hungry or stressed, overly tired or cranky. And the child who fits the profile of a bully may be going through a difficult time at home. Take care not to judge a book by its cover or a child by his temperament. Keep an open mind, and be willing to really listen if you find yourself asking a child what’s wrong with him or her today.
  3. Remember That It’s Not About You; It’s About the Kids
    Nobody becomes a teacher because of the high salary and posh working conditions. The best teachers are those who dedicate each day to the students — to finding out-of-the-box techniques that work. These are the teachers who celebrate the little victories that life throws their way each day. When a frequently tardy student shows up on time because he or she doesn’t want to miss the day’s planned activity, or when the most reticent student in the class finds the courage to volunteer an answer because he or she finally feels safe — these are the moments to cherish. Remind yourself of this each and every morning before the bell rings.
  4. Do Your Homework
    Learn everything you can about the neighborhood, the school and the students you’re about to teach. Familiarize yourself with the classroom and the curriculum. Talk with other teachers to find out what obstacles children face in the school and what’s being done about them. Know the layout of your school, where the restrooms and exits are located and what to do in case of an emergency evacuation. Familiarize yourself with the types of technology available in the classroom and what the procedures are for using them or for taking them home. Are students allowed to carry tablets back and forth, or are they required to return them at the end of the day?
  5. Resist the Urge to Form Pre-Conceived Notions
    Take care, however, not to form any pre-conceived notions about students, staff or administration. Disregard gossip, and base your opinions on your own experiences. Entering into an encounter with a student about whom you’ve been warned can tarnish all interactions you have with him or her going forward. Resist the urge to judge people and situations strictly upon first impressions, and you may be surprised at how communication changes over time.

Overall, the experience that awaits you as a student teacher is a positive one. While classrooms have more students today than they did in years past, student satisfaction rates are also on the rise, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities, coupled with an increase in both state- and local-mandated intervention programs, are keeping kids engaged and learning, and as a student teacher, the role you’ll play is a vital one.

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