For a lot of Student Teacher’s January is the most daunting, terrifying and exciting time of the academic calendar. It’s Teaching Practice time. After sitting through month’s of lectures, essay writing, lesson planning, schemes of work ATP and FTP it is finally your chance to stand up in front of a class. Whilst it can be a very intimidating and frightening experience for a lot of us it is also a chance for you to experience some of the most memorable student teacher moments of your college life. I can guarantee you that a lot of your anecdotes and stories told over a cup of tea in the canteen will be of your teaching practice experience.
You will have students in your classroom who will test you, make you stronger and at times will have you fighting back the tears but the moments when a student says a simple ‘Thank you Miss’ when they open up and tell you about problems at home and with friends or when they look up at you with excitement and interest because finally you have discovered a methodology or resources that has grasped their interest. They are the moments you will never forget. They are the moments that make all the late nights, all the stressing and all the panicking worth it.
There are times when I sit back and think how did I manage to pull myself through every January for four years? A helping hand or a word of advice was always welcomed. In preparation for next Monday I decided to share some helpful hints and ideas that helped get me and other fellow student teachers through the terror of Teaching Practice.
1) Folders: During my first year of Teaching Practice I heaved around two heavy hardback folders along with a lot of other resources I needed throughout the day. They were heavy, huge and quite a nuisance. During my second year I decided to purchase two soft back folders each containing 200 poly pockets. They held everything I needed lesson plans, resources, worksheets, and timetables comfortably. So if you want to give your back, arms and bags a break I would definitely recommend ditching those hard back folders!
2) Relax and start simple – what is the learning objective? What is the best way for the students to learn this/achieve that objective – done. You can add decorations later if you’ve any time or energy.
3) Supervisors: Keep the lines of communicating open at all times! Keep thinking they are there to help you they want you to do well. If you have any questions ask them if you have any worries go to them.
4) Use Google Docs!! Afraid of forgetting your USB stick? Always have a back up ready on Google Docs. This allows you to prepare or upload power point presentations, worksheets, online quizes and polls and you can access them on any computer that has internet. Limiting the stress of loosing your USB stick. You can access google docs using your college email address. It is brilliant!!
5) Always make sure you have a class list for each of your classes. Getting to know your students names is essential! One tip I used was writing students names on lolly pop sticks and use them for question time! Ask the teachers for seating plan if they have one and always have it in front of you. I always like to take one class (Friday is a good day for this) and have a get to know each other class. Play a few icebreakers and write down one or two things about each student that will help you remember them. It also shows them you are interested in getting to know them individually.
6) Always try and be in your designated classroom 5-10 minutes before class begins. This gives you time to set up and be prepared before the students come in. This leaves no time for chatting or disruption.
7) Stand at the door as your class walks into the room. Trust me this really helps. If you have a particularly difficult class line them up outside the classroom and wait for them to be ready to enter your classroom. Students who are ready may proceed in those who aren’t will wait until they are. Any longer than 10 minutes…. Follow school rules for disrupting your class. Works like a charm! (for those students who were allowed enter your class have a short 5 minute exercise written on the whiteboard for them to begin whilst you wait for the other students to calm down and enter your classroom)
8) Learn from other teachers in your cooperating school. If you are lucky to have helpful cooperating teachers learn from them. Ask to observe their classes, ask them what works for them and what doesn’t. This is your chance to learn as much as you can from people who experience school life everyday. Don’t be afraid to ask.
9) Student teaching practice is exhausting! It can be a huge shock to the system. Eat. Sleep. Drink LOTS of water. Make time for friends to enjoy yourself. The world won’t fall apart if you make time for your favorite TV show or a night out with your friends, as long as you don’t totally blow off your responsibilities. The students can tell when you’re weary or ill at ease, so making sure that you’re happy is key.
10) If you’re a female teacher one tip is to wear low heals, gives you a bit of height if your small like myself and also allows the students to hear you as your approach so they know to be quiet.
11) Be mindful of the class group you have. While one lesson might work really well with class group A, the same lesson might not be as suitable/ successful with class group B. Just try and be a bit conscientious when it comes to planning lessons. If the group isn’t that strong academically you don’t want to and up giving a lesson on the catechism. If the class is rowdy and noisy maybe avoid methodologies such as role play or simulation that might over excite the students; it might be hard to bring them back under control. It might be better to use methodologies such as working with text, teacher exposition etc. As placement goes on and you grow more confident with the class and they become more receptive towards you, by all means go for it, take the risk and experiment. But bottom line, be aware of the group you are teaching, analyze the class dynamic and the situation.
12) Always have a back up in place when using IT, in case something doesn’t work.
13) Never shout; no matter how loud you think you are, they will always be louder. You loose control when you shout. If a student is misbehaving there is more than likely something going on outside of your classroom. If they are misbehaving or refusing to do the work leave any confrontation until the end of the class. Ask the student what is wrong, why are the acting out or why are they refusing to work? 90% of the time there is some outside factor at home or a fight with friends that is causing their outbursts or perhaps they just don’t understand what the lesson was about and act out in frustration. Talk to them. I can guarantee this works 100% better than shouting.
14) Take one day at a time. Try not to get too stressed. Enjoy the experience.
15) Classroom management: Check out my blog posts on Traffic light system and the Behaviour Card system for more information!
16) If your laptop crashes (which can happen) let your supervisors know and hand write your lessonplans for the following day.
17) Helper Student: If you notice there’s one or two pupils that are ‘noisy’ or chatty or even a bit cheeky or ‘bold’, they are probably being told off by most of their teahcers throughout the day. Instead of being ANOTHER teacher that keeps at them or whatever, go out of your way to make that student your ‘helper’. Ask them to distribute handouts, wipe off the board, give out copies etc. It’ll give them a sense of commraderie with you, rather then just seeing you as another teacher that gives out to them. This might make them want to keep you on their side and they’re more likely to behave.
18) School policies: some schools will give this to you, if they don’t, take a few minutes to look up the school policies with particular attention to classroom behaviour. Don’t wait until you have a behaviour problem to then ask another teacher, students will sense that you do not know the code and try push you further. Some schools give punishments for not having journals and some don’t allow written exercises without any learning benefit and some schools put students on report after three journal notes which you have to watch if you are the third teacher. It wont take long to read over and will make a big difference in your confidence and potential behaviour issues.
For resources and further ideas follow all the 5j2014 Master blogs. Links can be found on my blog page! I will continue to update this post with further helpful hints over the next few weeks.
Big thank you to all past MDI students who helped me compile this list. I hope this helps and best of luck to all student teachers. Enjoy it.