Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.
Entering a classroom at second semester can be daunting for everything seems easy. It took work early in the year to make the wheels of an effective classroom run almost on empty. It’s all about preparedness, procedures, and practice. The inhabitants of the classroom know what do to when they enter the door, they know where to put their homework or have emailed to the night before. They know when the computers are open and low noise works. They know what to do during read aloud and what group they work with for math. These procedures for getting through each day are established during the beginning of the school year and are practiced often. Student teachers often do not see how an effective classroom is set up at the beginning of the school year. With this in mind, it is imperative that student teachers ask questions. Things like – How did you establish your rules? How did students learn signals for your style of teaching? What do your signals mean? What is the difference between a rule of behavior and a classroom procedure?
I’m reminded of the best book any new teacher should have that helps address some of these questions, The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry Wong. There is a new 2009 edition out now. In reviewing the table of contents of the new edition, he writes about being successful on those first days, positive expectations to hold, classroom management, effective lessons, and assessing students. The book is free and new and easy to read. I think it is a critical resource for all teachers but especially student teachers.
One point in Wong’s book that still lingers with me is the importance of planning and preparation. You cannot over plan. Yes, it is work to plan for everything but when you do so, you’ll have one great day after another. Be proactive and ready for anything before it happens instead of reactionary. Those instant reactions set you the teacher up for a student to adult power play. Students don’t give up unless you are ready.
From my time in the classroom and having student teachers I’d also have to say that asking questions of the supervising teacher, sharing your ideas, listening to responses, and talking things out will be invaluable. If one doesn’t see or understand how something works then ask. Be mindful of the skills you bring with you and share those strengths. Keep a log of your experiences. It might be helpful when that first teaching assignment is won. Keep in touch with your supervising teacher especially if a good relationship was developed. I had a student teacher once that ended up being my substitute after she graduated. It was wonderful. She knew the expectations in my classroom and I knew she could handle whatever came along.
A teacher impacts student’s lives. A student teacher will do the same for a time. You leave a lasting impression on them as well as their parents and other teachers in the building. Make it a positive, open-minded but assertive impression. Listen to students but be firm with what you expect from them. They will test you over and over and over. Listen to your supervising teachers for they have experiences you can learn from. Listen to your heart and make sure you love working with children. Your days will be filled with new and different things with no two days the same. Be kind to the children you work with for some will need all the extra attention. Be flexible but hold to your expectations.
With good procedures in order, students trained, expectations explained and lots of practice, the classroom can run smoothly. When you plan well, stay organized, and maintain a positive outlook even when it becomes stressful, you can bring new challenges and fun ways to learning. You will gain as much as your students do for it will be a rich and rewarding experience.
Now here is a young student teacher’s point of view: