I was fortunate enough to have an amazing student teaching experience. However, I have heard horror stories from others about their experience and those often get more play than the positive ones. So, what made my experience so special?
My teacher was so supportive and was willing to open up her classroom to me. We were partners and I tried to pick her brain whenever I could. There are so many requirements coming from your college/university that often that can take away from the experience. You are there to learn how to become a teacher, but you also have a responsibility to the children in your class. During your observation period, take notes on how the classroom is structured and how discipline is handled. Note which students may need some special attention. When it is your turn to take over, don’t try and reinvent the wheel. The children will respond much better if you take the lead of the teacher and follow protocol. Ask questions when you are unsure what to do, and always keep the lines of communication open.
Besides teaching, take advantage of the opportunity to attend board meetings, teacher meetings, and to volunteer with other school events. Volunteer for recess duty or for an after-school activity. If parent-teacher conferences are scheduled during your time in the school, ask if you can sit in on a few of them. Conferences often cause great angst with new teachers, and observing an experienced teacher handle a conference is invaluable. When I was doing my student teaching it was around the holidays and I helped with their Christmas program. It was a wonderful opportunity and it gave me the chance to interact and meet a lot of the other teachers in the building. If you are trying to land a job, getting to know teachers and administrators is a great asset. The more you give during your experience, the more you will get out if your time in the school. There is so much more to teaching than what goes on within the classroom walls.
If your teacher has a great bulletin board idea or an activity that seems to work well, don’t be afraid to take note of it. Ask her if you can make copies of a particularly strong lesson that she presented. Gather all of the material and absorb all of the tips you can. Look at this time as an opportunity to learn and grow as an educator. Your lead teacher volunteered to host you in the classroom because she felt she had something to share. Your success is her success.