Student Teachers can Learn from Veteran Teachers

A veteran teacher walks into a classroom and appears to teach off the cuff effortlessly. The students are engaged, the class is well-behaved and teaching appears to be an easy task. How does this veteran educator make teaching seem so easy? These are the keys to the secret formula that makes veteran teachers the greatest asset to student teachers.

1. Veteran teachers have made mistakes and have experienced failure.

Veteran teachers have made nearly every mistake that is possible at some point in their careers, but what makes them successful teachers is that they learned from their mistakes. This is lesson number one to student teachers. All teachers make mistakes. Good teaching does not occur by magic. The key is to learn from those mistakes and try to prevent the problems that result and prevent them from continuing to happen. Don’t treat mistakes as catastrophic. Instead, apologize, learn, and grow from the experience.

2. Veteran teachers know when to say “No”.

Don’t think that students are going to be happy all the time. In fact they may be unhappy quite often. Sometimes it is the responsibility of the teacher to say “No” because it is in the student’s best interest or the teacher’s best interest. The same goes for other requests on the teacher’s time and energy. Set limits to adding responsibilities and accept that it is okay to say “No” sometimes.

3. Veteran teachers don’t sweat the small stuff (and its all small stuff).

In the grand scheme of life, many of the day to day workings of a school district are not urgent business. Learn to prioritize. Do the most important and urgent task first. Decide which tasks can be abandoned and which ones can be postponed. It is easy to think that all tasks are equal in importance. They’re not. Instead of making a great big overwhelming list of things to do, choose the three most important ones and do those first. Prioritizing will help so much, because the list of tasks is unending and the demands on your time can be debilitating if you allow them to overwhelm you.

4. Veteran teachers are good communicators.

Communication is an important key to success in education. It is a job that centers around relationships with people. If there is a break down in communication, that is usually where problems occur. Communicate directly with students. Criticisms should be saved for private conversations. Talk to parents about problems directly. Be able to work with other faculty members even when you disagree.

5. Veteran teachers have well-stocked lesson arsenals.

These teachers have taught these same units many times over the years. Usually at a moment’s notice they can run their fingers through a file or a book and Voila! an activity magically appears. Student teachers need to develop their arsenals. Beg, borrow and steal. Ask teachers to share materials and ideas. There is a wealth of knowledge available around you while you are student teaching. Grab onto as many materials and ideas as you can.

6. Veteran teachers have less discipline problems.

Discipline appears to be less of a problem for veteran teachers. How can that be? First of all they have developed a reputation. Students already know what they can get away with and what they can’t. Veteran teachers plan plenty to do, so there isn’t a lot of down time, which is often when misbehavior occurs. They nip problems in the bud and do not let them flower. They don’t let problems fester or give many warnings. Veteran teachers say what they mean and mean what they say.

7. Veteran teachers know the school routines.

Every school has its own set of protocols and as a student teacher, you may not be aware of these. Allow the veteran teachers offer their knowledge about rules for copying machine use, detention, staff meetings and so on. These teachers know the routines and the expectations of the district. Go to them for information that will make life easier.

8. Veteran teachers know the importance of preparation.

Being well prepared is very important to success in the classroom. Have a key to a test made up before handing out the test. Then when the tests come in, the teacher can correct them immediately. Use five minutes to grade two assignments. It may seem like a small accomplishment, but that is two less to check later in the day. On the surface it may appear that veteran teachers are “winging it” sometimes, but that comes from years of planning and preparation.

9. Veteran teachers are organized with assignments and keys.

A huge time waster is not knowing where a paper is or locating a key to test, or losing a late paper that a student handed to you in the hallway. Have a plan of action for everything. Have labeled folders for everything as well as a proper place for late work and corrected work. Have a routine for placement of items, then you will always know where everything is. The paper tiger can be a real monster for teachers. The best veteran teachers know how to tame the tiger.

10. Veteran teachers know that this too will pass.

All too often the crisis of the moment, whether it is an upset parent, a complaining school board member or a crying student, it will pass. There will be ups and downs in teaching; good days and bad days; times when you question your sanity and times that you know it is your calling. It can be a rollercoaster ride, but veteran teachers know that this too will pass and tomorrow is another day. Just go along for the ride and accept the good with the bad.

Veteran teachers are one of the most valuable resources student teachers and young teachers can have. Value their assistance and knowledge and you too can some day be one of those veteran teachers too.