The student teaching experience allows you to put everything that you’ve learned about education and your subject matter into action. You get to test the waters under the supervision of an experienced teacher who can guide you along and help you become the kind of teacher that you want to be. If you embrace the opportunity, you can learn a lot from the experience. In fact, here are some things that I learned during my time as a student teacher.
Prepare for the Unexpected while Student Teaching
During my student teaching experience, I spent a lot of time preparing each lesson plan. I worked hard to research different ways to present the information for each lesson. I looked for activities that my students would enjoy, and I made sure that I had all of the materials and other things that I needed before class started. Even then, there were always things that would go wrong. Technology would fail. Students would complete activities quicker than planned. Or students would require much more time and explanation than expected.
As such, I realized that I needed to be prepared as much as possible, but, more importantly, I needed to prepare to be flexible. You never know what’s going to come up or what will catch the students’ attention. When creating lessons, remember that you need to be prepared for changes. Figure out alternative activities in order to help your day go as smoothly as possible and allow your students to gain the most from the lessons.
Photo by thetaxhaven
Teaching is difficult. You’re going to have rough days, and you’re going to need help sometimes. Introduce yourself to the librarian, cafeteria staff, administrators, custodians, secretaries, and other teachers. As I talked to other teachers about lessons that I was working on, they had plenty of suggestions for activities that I could use. I loved getting ideas for tried and true activities for my students, but I also enjoyed the tips and ideas that they could provide to help me grow as a teacher. They could also help you land a teaching job, too.
Not only can making friends prove to help you as a teacher, but it can also make your day more fun. Rather than eating lunch in your room every day to catch up on work, go to the lunch room and mingle with other teachers. Talk to teachers on the playground. Use the time to get to know others, and you just might end up making a friend for life.
“Dare to Disturb the Universe:” Be Fearless as a Student Teacher
In high school, I had a teacher who always encouraged us to “dare to disturb the universe” as quoted from T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” To me, this meant that we shouldn’t be afraid to do something different or to think outside of the box. When it came to student teaching, I found that I needed to listen to this advice again. I wanted to excel. I wanted to get great recommendations from my cooperating teacher, and I wanted my students to really learn the concepts.
What I found was that student teaching was the perfect time to think outside of the box and try different things. If they didn’t work, they didn’t work. At least, I got to try them in a safe environment. And in the process, I got to work on vital skills for teaching, such as classroom management. Luckily, I had an awesome cooperating teacher who set me free to try new things. Of course, it was always helpful to have my cooperating teacher review my lesson plans and advise me on things that I could do to improve my ideas to ensure that they were viable in the classroom.
Confidence is crucial for a great student teaching experience. Students need to see that their teacher knows what he or she is talking about. They need a teacher that demands respect. When I first started as a student teacher, I was awkward and unsure of myself. I wasn’t sure what my cooperating teacher would think, and I worried about how my students would perceive this teacher who didn’t look old enough to teach in the first place.
As I fell into my groove and gained more confidence as a teacher, I found that my students not only respected me but felt more comfortable talking to me, too. Confidence meant I could be myself while still demanding respect from my students and colleagues.
Immersing yourself and taking advantage of every opportunity afforded to you can really enrich your student teaching experience. One of my biggest regrets as a student teacher was that I didn’t get involved more. Sure, I attended all of the meetings and met with parents. With the amount of work I put into creating lessons, I chose not to volunteer in after school activities, for example. I wish that I would have taken the opportunity to get more involved. You can gain more experience, meet more people, and find a new niche within the teaching community.
Seek Feedback on Your Student Teaching
One of the most important lessons that I learned was the importance of feedback. During your student teaching experience, you want to find ways to improve your teaching skills. Don’t be afraid to ask your cooperating teacher for advice. When observing you in action, he or she will notice things that you hadn’t noticed before. Maybe you use too many filler words, look at the floor too often, or stand in one place the entire time. Your cooperating teacher can point out these things to you, so you can make the necessary changes to improve.
More than just asking for feedback, you need to have a good attitude about the information that you receive. What will you do with this information? I found that when I was teachable and willing to hear criticism, I saw greater improvements in my teaching and increases in my confidence.
Student teaching was a great experience. It had its ups and downs, but I became a better teacher by working to make the most of my experience and looking for opportunities to learn.
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Below we offer an example of a thoughtful reflective essay that effectively and substantively capture the author's growth over time at California State University Channel Islands (CI). We suggest that you write your own essay before reading either of these models-then, having completed your first draft, read these over to consider areas in your own background that you have not yet addressed and which may be relevant to your growth as a reader, writer, or thinker.
Any reference to either of these essays must be correctly cited and attributed; failure to do so constitutes plagiarism and will result in a failing grade on the portfolio and possible other serious consequences as stated in the CI Code of Conduct.
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Sample Reflective Essay #2
Author: Nekisa Mahzad
I have been a student at California State University Channel Islands (CI) for 5 semesters, and over the course of my stay I have grown and learned more that I thought possible. I came to this school from Moorpark Community College already knowing that I wanted to be an English teacher; I had taken numerous English courses and though I knew exactly what I was headed for-was I ever wrong. Going through the English program has taught me so much more than stuff about literature and language, it has taught me how to be me. I have learned here how to write and express myself, how to think for myself, and how to find the answers to the things that I don't know. Most importantly I have learned how important literature and language are.
When I started at CI, I thought I was going to spend the next 3 years reading classics, discussing them and then writing about them. That was what I did in community college English courses, so I didn't think it would be much different here. On the surface, to an outsider, I am sure that this is what it appears that C.I. English majors do. In most all my classes I did read, discuss, and write papers; however, I quickly found out that that there was so much more to it. One specific experience I had while at C.I. really shows how integrated this learning is. Instead of writing a paper for my final project in Perspectives of Multicultural Literature (ENGL 449), I decided with a friend to venture to an Indian reservation and compare it to a book we read by Sherman Alexie. We had a great time and we learned so much more that we ever could have done from writing a paper. The opportunity to do that showed me that there are so many ways that one can learn that are both fun and educational.
The English courses also taught me how powerful the written word and language can be. Words tell so much more than a story. Stories tell about life and the human condition, they bring up the past and people and cultures that are long gone. Literature teaches about the self and the world surrounding the self. From these classes I learned about the world, its people and its history; through literature I learned how we as humans are all related. By writing about what we learn and/or what we believe, we are learning how to express ourselves.
I know that my ability to write and express my ideas, thoughts and knowledge has grown stronger each semester. I have always struggled to put my thoughts on paper in a manner that is coherent and correct according to assignments. I can remember being told numerous times in community college to "organize your thoughts" or "provide more support and examples". These are the things that I have worked on and improved over the past couple of years and I feel that my work shows this. The papers I wrote when I first started here at C.I. were bland and short. In these early papers, I would just restate what we learned in class and what I had found in my research. I did not formulate my own ideas and support them with the works of others. The classes I have taken the past couple semesters have really help me shed that bad habit and write better papers with better ideas. I have learned how to write various styles of papers in different forms and different fields. I feel confident that I could write a paper about most anything and know how to cite and format it properly.
There are a couple of things that I do feel I lack the confidence and skill to perform, and that is what I hope to gain from participating in Capstone. I am scared to teach because I don't know how to share my knowledge with others-students who may have no idea what I am talking about. I hope to learn more about how teachers share their knowledge as part of my Capstone project.
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Careers in English and Writing
The English program at California State University Channel Islands prepares students for a wide range of exciting and rewarding careers, including:
- English teacher
- Social media strategist
- Media production (film, TV, internet)
- Print and digital publishing
- Corporate communications
- Foreign service
- Human resources
- Foundations/non-profit management
Learn more about CI's English Program