Student Teacher Tips and Tricks
As a student teacher, I was excited to save the world. I couldn’t wait to shape my students into kind and compassionate people with a great capacity for critical thinking. However, once I entered the classroom, I realized that it can become overwhelming at times. Here are some tips and tricks to help you future students with your practicum this year:
Purchase a few outfits to make your wardrobe a little more professional than your regular attire. Avoid wearing jeans and own a comfortable pair of shoes as you will be on your feet all day.
Volunteer and gain as much practical experience as possible because your courses will only give you theoretical knowledge. Before becoming a teacher, everything useful I ever learned to do with teaching came from my practicums.
Ask your vice principal or principal if they are willing to observe one of your lessons. When you apply to school boards, you will need a reference from an administrator who has observed your teaching; references from your mentor teachers are unlikely to be accepted.
Keep detailed notes of your practicum. Otherwise, you will forget the little tips and tricks. At the end of your placement every week, before going home, discuss your lesson with your mentor teacher. Write down the feedback as well as any new things you learned.
Every day, reflect on your teaching practices in one way or another. This can be something as complex as understanding differentiated instruction, or as simple as asking, “how can I create a smooth transition between classroom activities?”
Save literally every lesson plan you come across. Keep a digital version of everything. You will thank yourself for it later.
Consider organizing a lesson-sharing social event with students from the education program. You can share ideas for lessons, units, activities and resources.
If you have any questions or concerns about your practicum, don’t hesitate to communicate with your practicum supervisor. They are there to help and support you, and they care about your growth.
Feeling frustrated? Let it out. Speak to your ed friends. No one will understand your practicum frustrations as well as another educator. Perhaps one of them has experienced or is experiencing a similar issue. Perhaps they have found a trick that helps; maybe you can find one together.
Remember — it isn’t personal. Being a sensitive person, I often took students’ misbehaviour to heart as if it were a reflection of their respect for me or my abilities as a teacher. An honest one-on-one discussion usually yields positive results. Let them know when you feel disrespected or hurt by their actions and how their misbehaviour affects your ability to teach. It is often more effective than simply handing out consequences.
Be passionate and enthusiastic. If possible, lend a hand to others and take advantage of opportunities to become involved with an extracurricular activity. Young teachers who go the extra mile are the ones remembered down the road for prospective positions. You never know — you could have a principal reach out to you even before you graduate!
Accompany your mentor teacher everywhere. Sit in on staff meetings, parent-teacher conferences, etc. This is all part of teaching and it will do you good to have experience with such things before becoming a teacher.
Befriend the office staff, especially the secretaries. If, like me, you have Jimmy Steele as your practicum supervisor, you’ll know this piece of advice which he has drilled into our heads as student teachers: the office staff can help you out in small but significant ways, and may even have a say in whether you are hired at the school in the future.
Be confident. Even if you do not feel that you are in control, you need to act like you are. Students can smell your fear. Coming from a core French background, I was often nervous about my French. I wondered, “What if the students are better than me?” That has never been the case. Have faith in your abilities. You have years of experience on them, after all.
Take time for some positive reinforcement, such as "I’m glad you raised your hand before speaking today.” Acknowledge their efforts and make students feel seen, heard and valued.
Smile and be genuine. My students have always commended me for my positivity and ability to develop meaningful relationships with them. For many students, you might be the reason they smiled or felt safe today. Energy is contagious. Students will reflect your enthusiasm. Smiling and a sense of humour go a long way. Once students feel that you genuinely care about them, believe me, they will reciprocate.
Make a folder of pick-me-ups. I’ve saved many notes and cards from students over the years. Read through them whenever you need to remember that you are making a difference! We have the advantage of being cool, young, and relatable teachers. Make the most of it.
Most of all, enjoy the experience — the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is something you will remember for your entire teaching career.