1 Thing Student Teachers Needs to Know!

Linda Eller

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:

One Thing – Be a Learner

Be a Learner

Robin Ellis

Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

I believe the one thing I would say to teachers is be open to your own learning and don’t be afraid of not having all the answers. I believe we all should be lifelong learners. In today’s world opportunities abound to stretch our thinking and open ourselves to experiences never before possible. I have had the pleasure and privilege of stretching my own thinking and learning this past year as I have co taught OpenPD with Darren Draper. OpenPD is a professional development opportunity open to anyone with an internet connection and a desire to learn about web 2.0 tools to use in classroom practice as well as in their own learning. Last September Darren wrote this post on his blog explaining the professional development he was going to teach in his school district entitled Social Software in the Classroom. In the post he invited anyone reading, to participate, or to co teach, I was interested and willing to co teach and contacted him. He and I did not know one another, I had used the tools he was planning on teaching, but I had never taught with someone I had never met, never taught online and had never used some of the tools in the way we were envisioning. We wanted to model the tools we would be teaching, so all of our planning for the course, as well as the delivery of the course was done through the use of Skype, Google docs, Wikispaces, and Ustream. Our first session was a disaster; everything that could have gone wrong did, even though we had tested everything ahead of time, and we were pretty confident we could make this happen. I learned so much that first night about my own teaching and what I rely on from those in my classes. You can read my thoughts here and Darren’s here.

The important thing to remember is, we didn’t let any of the challenges stop us, we believe in what we are trying to accomplish, feel it is important and we wanted to continue forward. We also knew it was ok to have those in the class see us struggle to resolve any issue we may encounter while using the tools, just as they may struggle using them in their own classrooms.

We taught the class three times in the 2007-2008 school year, presented together at three different conferences throughout the year and met for the first time in June 2008 at NECC in San Antonio. We have had successes and challenges in all we have done, and sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we plan, but we learn something new every time we teach. We learn from each other, we learn from those who attend, it’s a group effort and one that has been invaluable for me both in my professional as well as personal practice. I owe a great deal to Darren Draper for being forward thinking and willing to take a risk. He took a chance on me, and in turn I took a chance on myself, believing I could step outside of my comfort zone, and be successful in a way I never imaged was possible. As a result of my participation in OpenPD I am passionate about sharing my experiences with others and demonstrating the rich possibilities that exist for all of us, all you need is a willingness to take those first steps into a part of our world that is ever changing. And as an added bonus, in taking those first steps, you have the opportunity to learn from so many, make new friends with people whose lives would never have crossed with yours, without these new tools at our fingertips. My life is richer, not only in terms of my professional learning, but in the friendships that have resulted from my online network.

Please take a look at the video clip we have used as a starting point, also feel free to browse our class wiki and if you have any questions I would be happy to answer them for you.