1. “Student teacher” is a misnomer. Everyone in the classroom is both a student and a teacher. Sure, that sounds a little cute, but it’s also true. You’ll learn, they’ll learn, I’ll learn- and in an exceptional classroom, everyone will be taking part in the teaching, too. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know content. Your mentor had to learn and re-learn parts of it, too! He or she will be more than glad to share their resources. Teachers are lifelong learners, so you’re going to get really good at Jeopardy!
2. Your mentor really does want to know what you’re learning. Share that assignment with them! Our job is not just to guide you in instruction but also in the trivialities and big moments in teaching life. How to plan around planning. How to manage three meetings in an hour. There’s a lot of time management during your internship and a solid classroom teacher will have that down to a science (check out their planner- it may look like actual science with formulas and everything). When things go wrong, we are there to show you how to cope, either by modeling our way through our own crisis or by being a support and a safety net. We want to know what you’re struggling with so we can offer whatever is needed- advice, support, a hand, or a dollar for the Coke machine on a really hard afternoon.
3. We want to laugh with you. Sure, we’re professionals. Let me tell you a secret, though- kids are funny. They’re goofy. And the even bigger secret is that teachers spend a good deal of time laughing with those kids. Laugh with us! Tell us about the funny things the kids say when you solo. Don’t be afraid to have fun- it’s the best part of the job.
4. We are your safety net. That doesn’t mean you won’t fall. You will fall, spectacularly, at least once. One of those times will probably be when you’re being observed. It’s okay. Falling is pretty scary, but it won’t kill you. It’s the sudden stop at the end that really does the job and that’s what we’re for- to catch you before you reach that point. That said, we’re not going to “teach” you by letting you fail and then allowing you to “learn” from that. Yes, certainly learn from your mistakes, but my job is to get you on the high wire and give you every possible tool to keep you on it. I’ll still be there with the net if you need it. We’ll figure out what went wrong and then we’ll get right back up there with new and improved skills.
5. Don’t listen to negative people. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to negative opinions. Sometimes people make good points about bad things. Negative people find the good in nothing or (as is often the case in education) ALL of the bad in one thing. Right now, the most popular teacher’s lounge commentary goes something like this: “Gosh, if I had any advice for young teachers now, it would be to get a different job!”
Really? They just don’t understand that you didn’t choose education because you wanted to join the status quo. You want to be an educator. You will change things that need changing. You will find ways to get around the things that you know aren’t the best for your kids. You will find parents and community members who want the same things you do for your students. Negative people aren’t people who have learned the truth, negative people are the ones who have given up on finding it. Don’t be that person. Persevere for the sake of the young people you’ll be learning with.
I’ve had the good fortune of working with excellent interns during much of my teaching career because of the excellent teacher preparation program at The University of Tennessee-Knoxville. It’s a tremendously comprehensive preparation for real teaching and the people involved in it are truly committed to kids and learning.
So, student teacher- don’t fret. We’re happy to have you and we’ll show you what’s good about teaching (and how to handle the bad parts).
Welcome. Come on into the classroom. You’re home.