With the fall semester fast approaching, many education majors are planning to start their first field experience. While this is a really exciting time, it can also be intimidating because working directly with students for the first time can be pretty scary. Fortunately, Fresh U is here for you with 10 tips for education majors beginning their first field experience to ensure the most stress-free and rewarding experience possible.
1. Act like your students’ teacher, not their friend.
Especially when working with older students, many student teachers/observers are tempted to try and form a friend-type relationship with their students because they’re relatively close in age with them. Unfortunately, this is definitely not the way to go. While you may get along with your students very well, if you treat them like your friends or peers, they’re likely not going to respect you when you ask them to do things. By all means form a good relationship with your students, but make sure to assert your authority when talking to them: You’re supposed to be a teacher figure.
2. Dress professionally.
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you're being respected and treated like a professional is to dress the part. Dressing in business-casual attire is a good way to go, but definitely ask your supervising teacher what the dress code for your specific school tends to be. Another good rule of thumb is to dress professionally even as the teachers start to dress more casually at the end of the year because often, you’re being held to a different standard.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
You’re likely going to have plenty of questions over the course of your field experience: Don’t be afraid to ask them! Your supervising teacher, your principal and the other faculty are there to help you; don’t be afraid to ask them when you need help or aren’t sure what to do.
4. Get to know the office staff.
The people who work in your school’s office know everything that happens throughout the school and are truly the hub of the school. Make sure you stop by the office whenever you can and get to know the people who work there because you’ll probably need their help at some point, and it’s always good to have them on your side.
5. Take some time to figure out your own teaching style.
Developing your own teaching style is obviously going to take some time, and you’re probably not going to figure it all out over the course of your student teaching experience. However, take some time over the course of your field experience to figure out how you like to teach and what styles you tend not to enjoy, which will definitely help you develop your own style as you head into your teaching career. Definitely observe your supervising teacher to see what his or her style is and what aspects of it you like, but don’t feel like you have to agree with/emulate everything.
6. Talk to and observe as many teachers as possible.
Field experience is a great way to network with other teachers and meet many people in the teaching field. When you’re done with student teaching, you’re probably going to be looking for a full-time teaching job, and school administrations are more likely to hire someone who they know well. Observing other teachers is also a great way to learn as much as possible because you’ll be able to observe a wide range of teaching styles. If you’re able to, use your prep periods to sit in on other classes and observe: It’ll be beneficial in the long run.
7. Be early.
Getting to school early allows you time to prepare lesson plans and paperwork for the day, and also makes you look more professional to teachers and administration: It shows that you care enough to put in extra time.
8. Help out your supervising teacher whenever possible.
You’re spending several months in this person’s classroom: Make yourself useful, especially in the first few weeks when you aren’t spending as much time teaching directly. Grade tests and papers, file paperwork that your supervising teacher needs done and offer to run to the office if needed. Your teacher will be much more accommodating of you if you take a direct hand in the running of the classroom.
9. Avoid gossiping.
While you may want to gossip with other teachers in the faculty lounge, avoid doing so. It’s not professional, and it can quickly get you into trouble if you’re seen talking badly about students or other faculty. This is especially true if you end up working at the school after you’re done with your field experience: The people you’re talking smack about could end up being your colleagues.
10. Accept feedback.
You’re going to be receiving feedback on your teaching — both positive and negative — throughout the entire course of your student teaching experience. Good student teachers readily accept feedback given to them by teachers and administrators, and they integrate that feedback into their lesson plans and daily activities. You aren’t going to be perfect right away, and you shouldn’t plan to be. Accept any advice that might make you a better teacher.
Field experience can be a scary time, but it doesn’t have to be. Listen to your supervising teacher, professors and advisers, and don’t be afraid of your students: most of the time, they’ll be excited to have a new face in the room. Hopefully these tips will make your experience go a bit more smoothly!
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