Politics in academia is something that has become more and more prevalent in today’s “choose me” society. As a student teacher, one could certainly find themselves at the epicenter of this volatile reality. Avoiding this could be the difference between a gratifying experience and a trip through academic frustration. Given that you are there as a student teacher, and not a full staff member, how would you go about avoiding the pitfalls that lead to political issues?
One surefire way to avoid the politics of your school is to have a heavy resolve to mind your own business, and not give opinions outside of the academic realm. In an effort to be accepted by the faculty, student teachers will gossip and find themselves locked into feuds they have no real interests in. As a student teacher, you should be building your skills as a teacher, communicator, and moderator. This does not mean you should try to moderate between faculty members. It is a task that is doomed to failure and it will come back on you. Keep the personal side of yourself personal. Do not join in on he said/she said conversations. Save your opinions for a forum that will make a difference.
Another way to avoid the politics of the school you are student teaching at is to focus on the kids you are teaching. If you spend your energy on them, you will not have much idle time to get yourself involved with politics. Have a plan for the day, every day, and stick to the plan as much as possible. You want to take advantage of every chance to broaden your horizons, but not at the expense of your budding career. Always do as you are told, and keep your opinions in a journal for now.
The best way to avoid politics in the school setting is to limit your interactions with the teachers in outside activities. Certainly have a cup of coffee with them in the lounge, but do not go out dancing on Saturday night. The gossip mill turns in every gathering of people and teachers are no exception. You can quickly find yourself at the center of a political nightmare by aligning with the wrong person at the wrong time.
Student teaching can be very rewarding if you are there for the right reasons and stick to the program. Go to work and make a difference in some lives through knowledge and by motivating the students. You will then become known as a teacher that is there for the right reasons and not the political ones.