Avoid Student Teaching Pitfalls and Make a Lasting Impression

dress4successBy Ryan Krienke — For many college seniors, spring semester is a time to take their foot off the gas pedal and coast to graduation.

In contrast, seniors in College of Education see their college career go into overdrive as they begin student teaching.  I know the coursework and experiences you have had at Marquette have prepared you well for teaching full-time in the classroom, and you have likely picked up some important advice along the way.  (Trust me, your professor was right – do not friend your students on Facebook!)

Yet, I know I wasn’t ready for the overall culture shock that I experienced being a “college student” suddenly placed into a professional environment.  There’s just something about a college lifestyle and that of being an educator that don’t mix.

Here are some quick tips for avoiding common student teaching pitfalls and making a lasting positive impression!

You may need to make lifestyle changes.  It is entirely possible that you have not been in bed before midnight since you left home for college.  Guess what?  Your student teaching jobs likely starts at 7:30.  And unlike past semesters when you could roll out of bed , throw on a sweatshirt and then run to class in pajama pants, you’ll need a neatly pressed shirt and slacks/skirt (See the MU Career Services Center’s Pinterest page for great examples of professional dress).  Change your schedule and wardrobe as needed to accommodate your life as an emerging professional.

Arriving early is on time.  Arriving late is simply unprofessional.  People will remember, even if it happens only once.  Arrive to school 15 minutes before you need to be there and sit in your car if necessary.  Never be the last teacher walking in the building.

Build relationships. If you are like I was, your instincts will be to stick like glue to your cooperating teacher.  While the cooperating teacher might be the best in the building, you can learn from many teachers, as well as administrative staff.  Not only will this time result in professional learning, it will also help you build professional connections.  One word of caution: schools, like all places of business, have gossip.  As you build relationships with the staff, avoid becoming involved in gossip about other staff or talking unprofessionally about students and their families.  And refrain from telling your coworkers about last weekend’s party (hopefully you already knew that one).

It’s okay to make mistakes.   Yes, you need to be professional, prepared and have self-confidence, but you are a rookie and you will make some mistakes.  They key is to be continuously developing.   Your cooperating teacher was trained to work with you and probably remembers his/her own student teaching blunders.  If you act professionally and are prepared daily, you will gain the respect of both your cooperating teacher and the school’s principal.  Embrace this opportunity…it’s the only time in your career you will get your own personal coach all to yourself!

The best thing about student teaching is you get a chance to showcase just how awesome you are. Embrace the above pointers to get started on the right foot.

Remember, principals are always looking for great teachers.  Plus, principals talk to one another.  Being professional, prepared and showing continuous improvement as a student teacher has tremendous potential to land you a job!

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