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Teaching Tips & Tricks, Uncategorized   |   Jan 28, 2013

What’s your best advice for student teachers?

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

What’s your best advice for student teachers?

By Angela Watson


Last week, I added a new page to the site called Classroom Management Tips for Student Teachers. I then asked educators on Facebook to share their best advice for student teachers and practicum teachers. There are some amazing responses in the thread! I’ve compiled some of the most helpful tips for this post, but you can read the whole discussion here. Please feel free to add your experiences and tips in the comments here!

Routines and Procedures

Observe the classroom procedures already in place and work with those as you add in your own. Think now about how and when you want kids to take care of business around the room- the first time someone asks if they can sharpen their pencil, your answer sets a precedent, so be careful. It’s the little details that can make a big difference! (Susie P.)

Teach every procedure you want to see (right down to getting a drink of water) and then expect them to do it. I don’t have rules, I have expectations. (Karin H.)

Don’t do things for them [the kids]. Students will clean up for themselves if they see you expect it of them. They will feel good for a job well done and take ownership of their classroom. Eventually, they will even start doing things to help you out if they see you appreciate it and give recognition for it. It’s fun to see them taking on jobs you didn’t even know needed to be done knowing they feel good about doing it. (Lisa Y.)

Always have some sort of signal to get your students attention (clapping, counting, raising your hand). Teach them from day one what your expectation is when you give the signal and practice it often!! This was the best advice I was given as a student teacher. When I see veteran teachers try to get a group of students attention by yelling or raising their voice it makes me cringe and them look ineffective.(Becky G.)

Becky is right….practice every different routine that you want the kids to know…I teach little kids so when I need their attention, I say “stop sign” and every one stops, stands and puts their hands over their heads in a circle to look like a stop sign. Be very clear and concise with your directions and MODEL MODEL MODEL the behaviors you expect. Do everything with a happy heart, and make sure the kids know you are there for them. (Debby M.)

Handling student behavioral issues

You will probably observe the first few days of your student teaching placement. Do not expect that any or all good behaviors that the students exhibit for their regular teacher will automatically transfer when you begin to work with them. Explicitly name and model the behaviors you expect. (Susan G.)

You’re their teacher, not their friend. Don’t get pulled into the friend zone with them. Stay consistent with discipline, and don’t show favorites. Set up procedures and stick with them. Have students help you come up with the rules and consequences. (Elizabeth S.)

Most “typical” elementary classroom behavior is just because the students are testing the limits. Before you step in front of the class, know what you will accept and what you won’t. Know what the consequences will be for unacceptable behavior. Be prepared to give consequences. Make sure the class knows what you expect. Brainstorm possible rewards for good behavior so they have something positive to work toward. (Donna J.)

Make time to build a classroom community. It will serve you well. Practice, practice, practice the routines you want your students to follow. A sense of humor and patience is important. Good luck! (Lori H.)

Be consistent. Consistency and following through with why you say you will do. If you tell them that they will get in trouble if they do something bad then make sure you actually follow through with it. The second they realize you’re not serious, they will stop listening and respecting you. Be polite even when they are being rude. The fact that you are not as mad as they are will blow their minds! (Amanda R.)

Building relationships with kids and their families

I have learned to think about each student, no matter how they behave, what level they are on, etc like this: the majority of the time their parents are doing, and have done the best they could do with the situation they have. It may not be how I think things should be done, or how I have raised my kids, but EVERY parent is offering the best they have to you when their child walks in to your classroom. They really just want to know that you will love and take care of their child in the best way you know, even if that looks a little different for different children. Make introductory phone calls and let them know how excited you are to be able to work with their child. It makes the “I’m having a problem with so-and-so with this behavior” phone call much easier. They will listen, because they know you care by your previous actions. Respect goes both ways. Make an email list so you can send out group emails informing parents of classroom happenings as well. (Cherish B.)

Remember always that those kids are the most precious gifts in another person’s life (their parents). Treat each one as a true gift. The best thing you can ever do is love them so much that they believe it with every ounce in their body. If a child is difficult, reach their heart more than just dishing out consequences. (Kymberly K.)

Organization and time management

On Tuesday, begin writing your plans for the next week. Take one subject at a time per day if needed. Break up the work so you aren’t staring at a blank plan book on Friday afternoon. Have all of your copies ready to be copied by Friday morning and have a parent come in weekly to run your copies and assemble packets or little books. Volunteers will save you hundreds of hours of work – you just have to let them help you. (Melissa M.)

Getting along with your cooperating teacher and learning from him/her

Observe & learn from your mentoring teacher. Remember that their classroom is just that, theirs. You can do things your way when you have your own class. (Kim P.)

To get on your cooperating teachers good side… Create something she can use for the rest of the year. Mine did and I loved it!! Pinterest has great ideas. (Lauren K.)

Offer to stay late, go to staff meetings. Really immerse yourself in the school. Make connections! My requirement was to solo teach for one week at each of my placements (two total) but I offered to do more than one week each. It gives the teacher a break and really gives you a feel for what it’s going to be like. (Rebecca T.)

Be prepared to devote as much time as you can to your practicuum. Shadow your mentor; go to all the meetings (if allowed), go to parent/teacher interviews and always check parents don’t mind you observing. Teachers are really busy and you need time to talk so be prepared to arrive early enough and stay late enough to talk. My best mentoring occurred when my student teacher and I car pooled so we had many chat sessions. She is now a very successful teacher in her own right. (Sharon G.)

Having fun is one of the hardest yet most important parts of student teaching. I was so nervous that I forgot to enjoy the kids and laugh, even at the things that drove me nuts. Remember that the coordinating teachers aren’t there to judge you. They are there to help you. Look to them in that way and it will help you to be able to relax a little bit more. (Jill B.)

Final words of advice for student teachers

Be flexible, stay positive, always have high and clear expectations, have FUN! (Michele M.)

Invest in a pair in good quality, comfortable shoes! And teach on your feet….proximity is important….move around the room. (Leanne O.)

You will learn more working with students then you ever learned in a college classroom. A lot of teaching is figuring it out as you go. 12 years in and somedays I still feel like I’m learning. (Stephanie V.)

You are going to have bad days. We all did during our student teaching. Know that is very normal. Think of all of it as lessons that will help you be a better teacher when you get your own class. Keep a copy of every handout you can get your hands on. File them away. They will come in handy some day. Good luck and don’t be too hard on yourself. (Regan K.)

Don’t ever forget why you went into teaching. Make the children you work with the focus of all that you do. (Maureen K.)

Check out the new Classroom Management Advice for Student Teachers page, or share your ideas in the comments below. What’s YOUR best advice for student teachers? What things do you know now that you wish you knew then? 

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. I think one of the biggest lessons for me in student teaching was not to be afraid of a routine. I wanted every lesson to be mindblowing, and it wore me out! Seeing how another teacher routinely did quality educational tasks helped me develop a schedule that worked long-term in my own classroom.

    I would also suggest keeping a notebook and a camera just for collecting ideas and jotting down ideas along the way! Make sure you take them both with you when you observe other teachers, too. Observing different teachers in different grade levels is so important!

    The last thing is something that was actually required in my student teaching placement. Write a positive note to each student at some point. (Yes, every student- even the one that’s really hard to write something positive about!) It really helps you look for the positive in each student and builds a great relationship with the parents, too. It’s something I still do as a teacher now!

    1. Jenny, I love that you were required to write a positive note to each student! What a great way to build rapport with students and boost your own positivity. I chose to write a note to each student and leave it on my last day and the kids were so happy.
      My best advice for student teachers (having just recently finished my experiences) would be to show your supervisor/principal/mentor/cooperating teacher that you are a great listener and don’t mind taking advice. My supervisor (who was also the principal in my second placement) commented several times that administrators love it when teachers are willing to listen to criticism and make significant efforts to follow the advice and instructions they are given.

  2. When I started teaching, 35 years ago, my Mum gave me this advice – Treat every child how you would want your own treated!

    Wow! Good advice!

  3. If job prospects are not promising in the area that you live in, be willing to move. Start looking at your ideal dream-locations in neighboring or far-flung states. Contact the counties’ education departments and ask them what the procedures are for enrolling in their online job-search resources. The county offices often play a leading role in enrolling districts and often work together to get cohesive online application systems going. So be proactive and start contacting them now. If the perfect teaching job doesn’t materialize and you still really want to be a teacher, then consider NOT taking that job with Wells Fargo. Instead, stay fresh in the field by sticking with child-centered jobs. Interviewers will want to see that you haven’t given up, and that you’ve racked up more experience leading, managing, and teaching kids. …And one more thing- make sure that you embed Total Participation Techniques into all of your lessons. I’m not trying to sell more books. I’m promoting them because they work and they get all kids to participate using higher-order thinking. Good Luck!

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