The Student Teacher Experience

student teacher helping young student with homework

What Does Student Teaching Entail?

Student teaching is a crucial component of the education journey for aspiring teachers. It serves as a hands-on learning experience typically undertaken in the final year of college or as part of a teaching certification program. During student teaching, individuals intern in a classroom or educational setting, applying their knowledge and skills under the guidance of experienced educators. These immersive experiences provide invaluable opportunities to gain practical teaching experience and prepare for a career in education.

Being in front of a room full of people can be intimidating-especially if you’ve never taught before. Fortunately, for future educators, the student-teacher experience gives teacher-education students a taste of what it’s really like to be a teacher. The experience you acquire during your student teaching lets you hone the theoretical skills that you learned during your teacher training and helps you determine whether a teaching career is really for you.

How to Become a Student Teacher

To become a student teacher, start early in your teacher training:

  • Pursue a bachelor’s degree in education.
  • While completing your coursework, consult with an advisor to learn about student teacher opportunities. Teacher education programs generally have relationships with schools in their area which provide placement opportunities for future teachers like you.
  • Before beginning your student teaching, meet with your teacher-mentor to discuss expectations, the syllabus, and approaches to teaching. It’s also a good idea to meet the principal and other administrators, and tour the school before your first day as a student teacher.

Important Questions for Student Teachers

  • How long will I be a student teacher? Student teaching generally lasts a semester or two, depending on your school and state requirements. This gives you time to experience all aspects of being a teacher, from developing lesson plans and tests, to correcting homework and other assignments, and leading parent-teacher conferences. It also lets you learn about classroom dynamics, psychology and classroom management techniques.
  • Is there support for student teachers in the classroom? During your internship, you will take on increasing teaching responsibilities, until you ultimately take full responsibility for planning and instruction under the mentorship of an experienced teacher.
  • Will I get paid for my internship? No. Student teaching is part of your college education, so not only do you not get paid, you also need to pay your college tuition. Because of this, it’s important to put money aside to carry you through your student teaching.
  • Are there waivers for the student teacher requirement? If you already have teaching experience, additional student teaching may not be required. However, many states still require that you complete the student teacher component of their teacher certification, even if you were a teacher before. Contact your state Department of Education to learn about its requirements.

How to Be a Successful Student Teacher

Being a student teacher is your chance to practice what you have learned in college. This said, this is also your opportunity to experiment and see what works best for you. The following are suggestions to maximize your student teaching experience.

  • Be open and get input. One of the greatest aspects of being a student teacher is the opportunity to develop your teaching style. What seems to work best? How effective are your lesson plans? What went wrong on the test? Talk with your mentor and other teachers to get their input.
  • Be observant. This internship will likely be your first teaching experience. Your mentor will share his or her advice with you, but you should also pay attention to your students. Note what works…and what doesn’t. And always learn from your mistakes.
  • Create boundaries. Avoid too much camaraderie with the students, and address them as though you are really in charge. Students need this structure. In moments of chaos, it is important that you maintain control and keep everyone on track. Student teaching is your first opportunity to learn classroom management strategies.
  • Teaching goes beyond the classroom. Realize that student teachers often do class prep and correct student work after they leave school for the day. Attend parent-teacher conferences and seek out other extra-curricular school activities to get the full experience. The more you put into your student teaching, the more you’ll get out of it.

You are now ready to embark on a dynamic and ever-evolving teaching career. Being a student teacher is a priceless, first-hand view of the classroom, as well as the chance to become a member of a diverse community of peers who can offer support and help you develop new ideas. Take the first step today, by finding a teacher training program that offers a great student-teacher component!

Sources: University of Washington College of Education, Indiana University School of Education Student Teaching Handbook

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