I’m two full days into my student teaching and I feel as though I’ve learned more so far than in any single graduate course I took. It’s incredible how much there is to know, and how important it is to learn quickly.
And school hasn’t even started yet. Oy.
If you are a student intern (student teacher, intern teacher, or whatever your program might call you) here are my words of advice from someone in the thick of it. Some of these lessons I’ve learned myself, while others have been graciously handed down to me by teacher friends who have come before.
Your mentor teacher and the staff at your school are absolutely going to forget that you don’t understand the acronyms and jargon they use. Instead of trying to reason it out, just ask. Don’t wait until mid-October to figure out what is going on. Asking questions helps you seem interested and leaves a favorable impression on those around you. It also makes you feel more comfortable in your surroundings.
Reading the syllabus and see what seems to be a contradiction? Bring it up. In a content area meeting and realize that the deadline for opting in to science fair is before Back to School Night? Point it out. Have an idea for an activity or bulletin board? Suggest it.
Teachers are overwhelmingly collaborative and generous people. More often than not, they’ll appreciate the fresh take and extra set of eyes. You’re an intern, not a child. You get to have an opinion too. Stay humble, but don’t be afraid to contribute.
Your intern/mentor relationship will be a unique and special one, no question. Don’t restrict yourself to one source of information though. Get different perspectives on everything from warm-up ideas to approaches to test prep. Two teachers who teach the same levels of the same classes will have completely different teaching styles. Experience as much of what the faculty has to offer as you can. Get to know the guidance counselors, front office staff, and administration. There are obvious career advantages, but it’s also a great way to glean as much from your intern experience as possible.
If anyone offers you any opportunity, take it. Sit in on meetings, observe special education classes, attend professional development workshops. Your internship is the only time you are completely free to float around and do everything without any real responsibility. Take advantage.
If anyone asks you to help with something, do it, even if it seems “beneath you”. A teacher across the hall asked for an extra set of hands hanging bulletin board paper yesterday. By helping her for 10 minutes, we built a rapport and I gained a reputation in my content area as a team player. 10 minute investment, endless possible return.
In-service handouts, meeting notes, handbooks, syllabi, the amount of paper generated during your time will be extraordinary. Keep it all. A binder is probably the easiest way to keep everything in line. Add in a notebook or legal pad for meeting notes, and it’s smooth sailing.
A huge part of teaching is documentation, so get used to writing everything down and you’ll have good habits forever.