By Aubrey Murtha – I am nearly finished with my first semester of field work. I realize that, comparatively speaking, I am still a novice when it comes to field work, but I think I’ve learned a few important things this semester that I’d like to share with all of my younger peers in the College of Ed. Keep these helpful tips in mind if you start your field placements next semester. They really came in handy for me.
- Always communicate professionally with your cooperating teacher.
Make sure that you ask him or her how he or she would like to be in touch with you throughout the semester. Some teachers prefer that you communicate with them strictly using their professional e-mail addresses. Others may give you their cell phone numbers and tell you to call or text with questions. Be polite, and make use of greetings and closing statements. Always reread your e-mails or texts before you send them to check for typos. Ask your coop teacher right away how he or she would like you to address him or her (i.e. Mr. __, Ms. ___, Kathy, etc). Make sure you use their formal title in the classroom when students are present.
- Dress appropriately.
Treat this experience like a job. No jeans, leggings or sweats. Appropriate tops and modest dresses or skirts are a must for female Ed students. I’ve noticed that this is particularly important in the secondary school setting. You do not want to be dressed even remotely inappropriately around male middle or high school students as it can take away from your credibility in the classroom. In the case of male Ed students, it is always better to be over dressed than underdressed. Invest in a few collared shirts and ties.
Be polite and courteous to everyone at all times. Obviously, this applies to your coop teacher and your students, but also be sure to interact with other school staff members kindly and respectfully. School secretaries or the maintenance crew are invaluable resources—they know everything there is to know about the school—so please, be courteous.
- Be a meaningful force in the classroom.
Don’t just sit quietly in the back of the classroom. Get involved. Your coop teacher is not going to beg for you to participate in his or her classroom. It is up to you to make yourself a presence by asking how you can be of assistance or offering to lead activities with your students. Remember, you are a teacher. Act like one.
- Create an authoritative image for yourself; demand respect appropriately.
Make sure that you are firm with your students when it is necessary, that you use an authoritative voice when you are teaching something or when a situation merits a serious tone, and that you at least give off the appearance of confidence, even if you are nervous inside. Your students will respect you if you can do those things. Remember, you are their teacher, not necessarily their friend and definitely not their peer.
- Show Up!
This may be obvious, but you need to make sure that you are showing up to your field site. Not only is your attendance a mandatory part of your grade for your education class, but it also proves to your students that you are dedicated to them and their success. Also, you want to model good behaviors for your kids, and if you do not honor your commitment to them, you are teaching them inadvertently that it is okay for them to ignore their commitments to others.
- Learn the names of your kids.
This is the most basic way that you can show that you care about your kids. For all of us, our names are an important part of our identity. Let your kids know that you want to know who they are and that you are trying to get to know them by learning their names. It’s that easy.
I hope these tips help you experience success in your field placement classroom. Good luck!