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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!

  4. Jump right in. I was very fortunate. God matched me with a teacher who had the same style and work ethic as I do. She let go of some control in her classroom. Although she was in the room, I took over lessons. The remaining 6 weeks or so, I took over her reading class, again under her watchful eye. We co-taught lessons and there were times I would teach the lesson while she pulled students to conference about writing pieces. I learned so much! It was stressful, I am a perfectionist, and half way through she and I both had a good cry. LOL! Be sure to listen to suggestions, learn everything you can about procedures, imagine that this is your class and your students- they actually become your kids too. Heather and I still keep in touch. I still give her kudos for h being such a fantastic mentor and today she is also a friend. The experience definitely prepared me for my classroom. Don’t get me wrong, 5 years in and I’m still learning.

  5. Maintain a professional division between students and teacher. It is so easy for the young future teacher to fall into the trap of being everyone’s buddy. It’s so hard to correct or discipline your buddy. Of course, I’m referring primarily to junior and senior high situations.

  6. I agree with George– Part of that is dressing the part, with high school students. I looked so young that they treated me like another student!

    But the best advice I can give anyone starting out is this– make friends with the school secretary, the janitor, the aides, and the school librarian. If you’ve got them on your side, you can accomplish a lot of things that you’ll have difficulty with otherwise. And do your best to eat lunch in the staff room. It can be difficult if you are busy to find the time, but that’s where you spot the relationship dynamics and find mentors.

    1. I agree with the part about the custodians. If you are nice to them it is amazing what can and will happen in your classroom.

  7. Please do not assume that poor behavior means a lack of motivation to do well. No one likes to be in trouble despite how much they may enjoy the negative attention they receive from it. Many times, children simply don’t have the pro-social skills they need to do well in the classroom. Sometimes this lack of skills manifests itself in very challenging behaviors. Determine what character traits your students need to exhibit in class and explicitly teach those character traits. You will need to take the time to teach children how to work together, how to give and take constructive critism, and how to handle their emotions and the emotions of others. These things will need to be taught concurrently with the academics that you must teach. Good Luck!

  8. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have all the answers. If a student asks me a question and I’m not sure of the answer, I tell them straight up, but that I will find out the answer and get back to them. 🙂 Students appreciate your honesty and your humility.

  9. I am a student who LOVES to learn. Please take my advice:
    If a student corrects you (finds a flaw in your lesson), MOST of the time the student is not disrespecting you or questioning your authority. It means that he/she took interest in your lesson and is paying attention– maybe doing extra research because he/she found the topic so interesting!
    Your reaction to such a correction is key. Encourage them to do this extra research and correct your when you’re wrong. If you are too prideful to admit that you made a mistake, then your student will lose respect for you and be skeptical of your future lessons.
    My best teachers who taught me the most encouraged me to pay attention to details and find flaws in commonly expected theories. They heavily influenced my future educational choices.
    Teachers that were too prideful to admit when they made a simple mistake usually had little else to give– perhaps because they were to embarrassed a student noticed or perhaps they themselves lost interest in their own subject and did not care to hear the details they might have missed.
    The best thing you can do for us students is to rouse our excitement in your particular subject or passion:) it sounds ridiculous, but half of what I learned in high school came from books or other outside sources because a teacher reminded me how much I loved to learn and encouraged me to discover more after school.

  10. Your first line of defense in any classroom is to learn the students’ names as quickly as possible. Use memory tricks, play name games, draw a seating plan, whatever helps you to get them in your head. Learning a child’s name quickly shows that you respect them enough to get to know them. It establishes an atmosphere of respect and helps you when dealing with behaviour issues. You are far more likely to get a positive response from a child if you use their name, especially if you are in the yard.

  11. Don’t be offended when your cooperating teacher questions your actions. We want to know what you’re thinking and make sure you thought through the justification. We’re not here to be mean and cruel to you, we simply want to make you the best teacher you can be. Also, follow the advice you are given. If something is not working or inappropriate, change what the issue is instead of beating to your own drum. There are means to our madness.

  12. I learned from friends of mine that as you are going through your student teaching, ask as many questions as you can. Write down things that you think are amazing. By doing this it shows that you are not just there to learn but that you want to be a great teacher. I did my student teaching in the fall. So I asked if I could come in to help her set up the room. She thought it was a great idea and we were able to bond and learn about each other.
    Don’t be afraid to ask for help, use the other teachers around you who have the experience. One thing I have learned is that teachers/teaching is one of the most giving careers out there. I remember when I would see her doing something I thought was awesome or cool, I asked her if I could use it. She said do it whatever you see here that you like take it. Author Harry Wong said “that teaching is all about stealing. Don’t reinvent the wheel unless you have to.”

  13. These students are tomorrow’s leaders. All people & students are different & deserve to be taught at the level they understand with compassion & fairness. After 30 years in education, this is the most important part of teaching. The best lesson can go into the waste basket if fair Behavior Management is not used. (Barb P.)

  14. Imagine yourself in the parent’s and student’s shoes. Make every policy, every rubric, every procedure, every rule concrete and in writing. Show an example of EVERY assignment. Have the directions typed up for Every assignment. Think like a lawyer, be legalistic.

    When entering grades to an electronic grade book give all the details: Name of assignment, note that your discussed the directions, gave examples, discussed the assignment, and emailed a reminder for when it was due. Keep a log of student behavior, time on and time off task for each assignment. When a parent and/or student asks why a grade was rather low, refer back to your log of what you reserved. Do it every time, all the time. You will save yourself headaches and put the responsibility where it belongs. Today’s society is very legalistic, you have to be too.

  15. Everything your professors, mentors, administrators, and coaches say is pure gold.

    Once you get past temporary status, you can judge for yourself that most of it was actually lead weighing you down.

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