Student Teaching! Give me some good tips!

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 26, 2009 6:27 PM GMT
    With four days left until I start my student teaching, I am both excited and nervous for what lies ahead for me in the next 4 months. I will be teaching a 7th grade Social Studies class, with a Geography base to it. What makes me more nervous are people's reactions to when I say..."yeah, I'll be teaching 7th graders". Their face then tends to mold into one of those looks when you have something really sour in your mouth...and then they say "sorry"! I know it is a tough age to teach, because they are growing, and in an important transition stage in between elementary and high school.

    So guys, give me some good words of wisdom to take with me into the classroom, what you think will and will not work with my students, and so on. I know it is all about trial and error when it comes to teaching, and I know the subject I will be teaching very well, but there are so many more facets to teaching then knowing how to teach your subject, and dealing with students! Can't wait to hear some of the responses! icon_biggrin.gif
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    Aug 26, 2009 7:17 PM GMT
    I student taught 7th grade social studies as well.

    Like Jeff said, establish authority early on. Those little kiddies are wolves. They will see that you are not their real teacher and use that excuse to try everything they can to take class off course.

    They will ask you personal questions. Don't answer them. Ever. Yes, you can have a nice teachable moment about being gay or what have you. But these aren't your kids. They are another teacher's. It is just a distraction.

    Drink heavily on Friday. Make lunch for the week on Sunday. Don't date until you are done. God speed.
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    Aug 26, 2009 7:27 PM GMT
    I taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grades for three years and 3 years in elementary school. I enjoyed it, and think that one of the things to do is make sure that the lesson is full and that there isn't any down time. Down time leads to off-task behavior. Change up the assignment maybe fifteen minutes or half-hour (I had 90 minute classes). Plus, make it engaging. If you engage the students, you will make them love the subject. I went to a workshop that talked about making classes like a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The end activity in my classes consisted of a quick one or two things that they learned that day.

    Don't get discouraged if a student doesn't like social studies because you have to remember that you probably didn't like all of your subjects in school. Get to know your students. I had them fill out this form telling me what they liked, disliked, and what they expected for the year. A lot of times, kids just want somebody to listen to them.

    Be prepared for them to study your every move and phrase. I had students repeating phrases I used (ya! which is "enough" in Spanish or vamonos "let's go!") outside of the classroom or whenever they see you.

    No two days will be just alike.
  • Teacherguy

    Posts: 150

    Aug 26, 2009 7:55 PM GMT
    You're gonna have a great time! I taught music for four years at a middle school and the last two years grade's a day is the same. This fall I will be teaching a contained special ed class while i complete my masters degree part time.

    A lot of people say establish authority...which is true...but don't be a tyrant....they hate that. Being well organized, have a routine, and say what you mean....and have a sense of humour and you will be fine.

    Someone mentioned earlier not to answer personal questions....i do...makes you human..just need to be clever in your responses. I had a student ask me once if I had ever kissed a man...and well i said yes of course. I continued to say i kissed my dad when i visited him on my christmas holidays when i left and i also kissed my grandpa when he died.....then i asked have you kissed a man? They were caught off guard and said..."well ugh yeah."

    Middle school is the best and i'm looking forward to going back in a week.

    Good luck and have fun!
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    Aug 26, 2009 8:08 PM GMT
    First of all - good luck - and - I mean it in a good way - not sarcastic, as you've been hearing from people who may not enjoy teens
    - I taugh Jr. H.S./ M.S, for 23 years - so, frist you have to like this age group - it's all about sex, smoking, and drinking - just like us! Only they are still so young - inexperieced - want to try it all - and - think they know it all - don't try to be their friend - there is a teacher who is there for the year - you are on trial - what others have said already is great advice - copy a few ideas down on an index card - if your'e having a bad time of it - ( frist day ) re-read some of the good advice and positive things that other teachers have shared with you!
    Do you have a mentor program - or - r u being thrown into the den of lions? Keep your guard up - they - the kids - will eat you alive - show your confidence from day one - right from the minute u enter the room for the first time. U may have to do some acting - practice in the mirror or with a friend. Even if u r out with friends - see if you can keep their attention - see if you can have control or maintain control over them - ex, see if U can sway the the group to go to the movie you want to see - or - the place to eat that you want to try.
    I've taugt Art - and in a low socio-economic urban school system - so, my experience may be different from yours = if you are in a suburb - or - a wealthier area? Yet, kids are all pretty much the same! I've always felt that teaching was 90% Discipline and 10 % Art. In other words = if YOU have the control - then you can teach. Kids like order - routine - and TO BE KEPT BUSY !!! Think of 5 quick things you can do - in a pinch - even if just killing time - before their next class for ex. - or - a fun - simple - activity to get them all involved as soon as they enter your class - it's YOUR class. - well it's theirs too - but U r in charge.
    Think of your worse experience as a studnet - also - what was fun ? Bet u remember the fun things ? So, again - on an index card - think of a few things to do at the start of the class - remember - it's important to "engage" your students - and to keep them engaged throughout the lesson /class time! Maybe a current event activity - even if they bring in an article about rock?roll - but don't get flustered if it's something sexual - keep it short - and move on - Maybe you could collect their *articles the day before (*a simple - fun - easy H.W.assignemnt) so u could preview them - and - u can pick out a few to respond to the next class - keep a rank book - check off names - so that everyone has a turn to talk about their choice - to share with the class and you.
    I've also found that there is at least ONE trouble-maker in every class - maybe a smarty-pants/ know-it-all or some kind of discipline prob. = it is their aim to disrubt the class - u have to nip it in the bud right away - if you show athority and control the situation - with one student - the problen kid - you will most likely keep the class in control - sometimes it's more than one kid - so - don't let them take over your class for a moment - it will become a reaccurig problem each day - you will be wasting time - everydsy trying to gain back control - I know a lot of this advice sounds like your r working in a prison - but - it is a control game - and - your goal is to teach - have a bit of fun - be real - and enjoy it!

    Once again - good luck - hope you will seek out others advice - right from you frist day - keep us as your memtors?

    Paul ( Mr. H.) - Oh yea - get used to being called Mister ! )

    P.S. Hey Fellow Educators - was I too rough on this future teacher - or - was I a help?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 26, 2009 8:18 PM GMT
    All of the above is great advice.

    Try to keep your cool, be yourself, and have fun. If you are interested, the kids will be interested.

    My two cents on teaching:

    Children are exactly like adults in their range of emotions. However, unlike adults, they don't have the experience to handle their emotions. Try to treat them like you would any other adult - their feelings are valid.

    Talk to them like an adult; people - including children - hate to be treated in a condescending way.

    Respect distance - you are their teacher not their friend or companion. Engage yourself in such a manner. It's all a fine balance.

    And have fun. The act of teaching is an act of creation - it should be enjoyed by all parties.
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    Aug 27, 2009 12:33 AM GMT
    Just don´t do what my geography teacher did: ever lesson was "make notes on chapter X". That was it. Really. Worst teacher ever. I dropped the subject the next year.
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    Aug 27, 2009 12:50 AM GMT
    Lostboy saidJust don´t do what my geography teacher did: ever lesson was "make notes on chapter X". That was it. Really. Worst teacher ever. I dropped the subject the next year.

    Haha! Sounds like several teachers I know. Or worse, give exams BEFORE they even discussed the subject matter.

    And yeah, don't lose your cool. The moment kids pick up a bit of insecurity, they'll pounce like rabid marmosets on a piece of grapefruit in the middle of the Sahara.

    The high school I went to was a 'laboratory' high school. Basically an extension of the College of Education of the nearby University. We were guinea pigs for student teachers (under the guidance of our regular teachers) for a semester each year. Freshmen high school for us is basically Grade 7 in the US. (we start high school at 11 or 12).

    The thing was: we had an entrance exam and were thus the brightest students from the surrounding elementary schools (the school itself is sought after by parents for their kids because of the quality of the education). Not to mention that all our teachers were university teachers, we basically had university education at the high school level.

    When it came to student teachers, 90% of the time, we were smarter than the older university students. We actually made a few student teachers cry because of the way we express sheer contempt at their inadequacy as teachers. LOL. A single mispronounced English word, a glaring misunderstanding of a lesson, a betrayal of the slightest insecurity, etc. can blacklist a student teacher for us for the entire semester.

    Our favorite teachers on the other hand, were those who taught exactly what they are there to teach but were not anal on everything, were good natured but not lenient, and were not afraid of being challenged and admit mistakes.

    The most important thing is probably:


    Teachers who did that to us lost our respect pretty quickly. Treat students according to their intellectual level, not on their age. When they do act like children, don't get condescending, but be firm.
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    Aug 27, 2009 1:01 AM GMT
    Lots of great advice here. I just finished a full-time student teaching / internship last year (one semester co-teaching with my mentor, and one semester solo teaching). I start my first year of "real teaching" in 2 weeks (9th grade math, yikes!).

    I would also echo the sentiment that don't be afraid to let your students get to know you. If you're the lead teacher, have one of your first assignments be a get-to-know you activity - like an introduction letter. You can do that as well, so you'll hopefully get a glimpse into their minds and they can learn a bit about you as well.

    As for authority, you absolutely need to be one, but it's more about consistency and following through on expectations. If you say you're not going to accept late work, but then change your mind, you'll send mixed messages. Make not only your expectations clear, but also discuss what the logical consequences would be. For example, one teacher shared a story with me today: If he asks a student to leave class for behavior problems, and the student then misses work, the student is not allowed to make up that work. There may be other extra credit options in general, but the student would get a zero for that day's work. There's a certain expectation for behavior, and then appropriate consequences when the expectation isn't met.

    It's all easier said than done of course icon_smile.gif

    Don't be too hard on yourself. You will make mistakes. Try not to marry your job. I would agree with the no dating for those 4 months, but do still make time / dates with yourself and your friends. Also find other people who you can talk to about the whole experience (your cooperating teacher? other student teachers? other teachers on RJ?) - teaching is a team sport, so don't feel like you're doing it all on your own.

    Good luck ;)
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    Aug 27, 2009 1:06 AM GMT
    I've been teaching middle school about five years. All of the above are good comments. I practically needed a flak jacket during my BRUTAL 7th Grade LA/SS student teaching experience, so would add:

    - keep your sense of humor! I remember an exceptionally tough kid telling me during my student teaching, "y'know, when you scream it just makes us laugh" !!
    - be honest. Kids can see right through any bullshit way faster than adults can.
    - keep your voice down, but remain firm. FOLLOW THROUGH on consequences.
    - make sure you move around the room - don't just stand upfront. Proximity is a great tool in helping establish relationships and maintaining proper behavior.
    - most importantly, RECOGNIZE THEM FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR...IMMEDIATELY. Kids crave attention and you can prevent a great deal of misbehavior by simply praising them LOUDLY for doing the right thing, before they decide to start doing all the WRONG things just to get your attention.

    And finally, if your student teaching experience is HELL (like mine was) just'll toughen you up and make you that much more ready for whatever else may happen later. :-)

  • bliss30

    Posts: 1

    Aug 27, 2009 4:42 AM GMT
    I did my student teaching a few months back, initially I taught grade 6 students and then on my 2nd student teaching I taught a split class of Gr 1 & 2. I personally think that you just have to show a lot of enthusiasm in your class and just be yourself, incorporate number of fun actitivies, I think they learn more when they are engage and participating. A
    lways be generous in giving positive feedback, and lastly dont criticize or call on negative behaviour in front of the class, take the student out in the classroom.

    Good luck!
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    Aug 27, 2009 4:48 AM GMT
    don't sleep with your students, never ends well.
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    Aug 27, 2009 5:01 AM GMT
    honestly, my 7th grade social studies teacher was one of the greatest sources of motivation I ever had. Too insecure about my capability in social sciences and the humanities, I never really took any honors classes until my teacher pulled me aside and asked me why I wasn't in an honors class because I was fully capable. I switched into honors that year and subsequently took honors english the next year which after tenth grade would change my entire focus towards the humanities.

    My advice would be, some of your kids will respect your knowledge source, so use it as a resource for encouraging them. If they see that someone who has a vast knowledge base and believes in their skill level... its likely to solidify confidence in their own capabilities.
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    Aug 27, 2009 5:06 AM GMT

    I taught 4-8 graders for one year. I only lasted a year because I didn't follow the above rule. Seventh graders were the class in which I had most trouble maintaining order. I was young and sympathetic to them, and I should have been tougher. Best of luck, you will be a success!
  • westguy79

    Posts: 175

    Aug 27, 2009 5:19 AM GMT
    I've been teaching for 8 years now.

    had a 7th grade class last year and they were terrible (I'm at a crappy school though).

    Be more strict than you'd like to be until Thanksgiving! Your students will respect you in the end. They don't have to like you, but they will chose to make good decisions because they will care about your class and respect you.

    Overall, student teaching sucks. Teaching is better as you become more experienced.

    Oh, and you are going to make a lot of mistakes. Thats okay. You are going to learn a lot too.


    Good luck!
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Aug 27, 2009 5:41 AM GMT

    I think this is terrible advice. I agree with westguy79 that you have to be stricter than you'd like for the first few months; that will establish expectations for the class, and allow you to relax some later in the year. But a flat out refusal to smile for a couple of months will likely make you seem inhuman, and will probably do considerably more harm than good.

    I would advise keeping in mind what is within your power and what is not. It is essentially impossible for a teacher to motivate a student; if the student doesn't care, no matter how good of a teacher you are, they will not learn very much. As a teacher you can easily demotivate someone; motivating them is something else entirely. What you can control is making sure that you have multiple ways of explaining a topic, that you set clear expectations and have as objective of standards as possible, and make sure your students know that it's perfectly OK to ask questions when they don't understand something.

    I would also suggest, as unpopular as it may be, grading the product, not the process. I dealt with years of teachers who would mark me down because despite my exam scores and final versions of essays, they felt I took too few notes, or objected that I didn't write an outline before writing the essay because I wrote directly on the computer and edited as I wrote, or some other BS that I'm sure they felt was teaching me good work habits but really taught me that they cared less about whether I had learned and understood the material than they did that I fit into their notions about the proper way to learn things, as if there was only one.
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    Aug 27, 2009 11:15 AM GMT
    MSUBioNerd said

    I would also suggest, as unpopular as it may be, grading the product, not the process. I dealt with years of teachers who would mark me down because despite my exam scores and final versions of essays, they felt I took too few notes, or objected that I didn't write an outline before writing the essay because I wrote directly on the computer and edited as I wrote, or some other BS that I'm sure they felt was teaching me good work habits but really taught me that they cared less about whether I had learned and understood the material than they did that I fit into their notions about the proper way to learn things, as if there was only one.

    I think most of the resistance towards only grading the product comes from resistance to standardized testing. As a math teacher, if I only cared about the product, then ultimately what's the difference between giving a multiple choice test and an open response test? All I care is whether they got the answer right, yes?

    Last year, I definitely had at least one student who excelled at test taking but was lazy with his homework. He wasn't particularly fond of showing his work on tests either, and because of all that ended up with Bs and Cs (he was a senior and was also slacking off way more than he should at that point). On the other hand, I had several students who did show their work on tests, and I could follow their line of thinking and identify exactly where they made their mistakes which lead to "wrong" answers. If it was a simple sign error, or forgetting to copy a number, then they would still lose a point or so, but also get partial credit for what they did right. If all they showed me was the answer, then the only way I could grade would be all or nothing.

    Granted, in the real world, product is vastly important. I think of some of the space missions that failed because someone forgot to convert calculations from English to Metric. But elementary and secondary school is not the real world. We are teaching habits of mind, and preparing them for college.

    Also, in the "real world", process should still be valued. I would rather hire the contractor who took the time to do things well than the one who just gets it done by any means necessary. It's the difference between hand crafted, real wood furniture and something from IKEA. Sure you'll end up with a couch either way, but one will be more of an investment that's worth the money you put into it, while the other will fall apart and need to be replaced sooner than later.
  • GQjock

    Posts: 11649

    Aug 27, 2009 11:18 AM GMT
    Good Luck ....
    I student taught a bit while in grad school
    A word to the wise ... keep the little carpet munchers busy
    Never go into a classroom with out something for them to do or you'll have a terrible time
  • Timbales

    Posts: 13999

    Aug 27, 2009 12:30 PM GMT
    It's a very ancient saying,
    But a true and honest thought,
    That if you become a teacher,
    By your pupils you'll be taught.
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Aug 27, 2009 1:53 PM GMT
    wear a shirt and a tie... it will make then think twice about acting up. appearances are often better than your words or intentions. also, no caving. you'll thank yourself in the long run.
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    Aug 27, 2009 2:44 PM GMT
    jprichva saidEstablish your authority right away. Not in a mean way, but firmly. Don't lose your temper or your cool. Don't be afraid to show your sense of humor, but always keep focused on the lesson. Even when things are getting away from the lesson plan a little (and they will), make sure you know how to get things back on track. Give the kids the opportunity to see your human side, but keep a clear boundary that they know they'd better not cross. If they do cross it, let them know---nicely but firmly---that they're wandering into inappropriate areas.

    These are all good points. Also, make sure you have clear communication with your co-operating teacher. My co-op and I didn't have good clear communication and it got in the way of our working relationship. Be prepared! Have all your materials ready to go and on hand. You never know what will happen, so have back up activities or exercises in case you finish a lesson early or something doesn't work out the way it should.

    Example: I once had a power surge take place which knocked out my computer, so with out that I had to know how to continue on with the lesson.

    Make sure you get a schedule from your co-op so you know what days and subjects you'll be teaching. This way, you can prepare your lessons for you co-op to review before you teach, and you'll have time to make your copies and collect materials. Always make all your copies early, for copy machines in schools are always breaking. I tried to make prepare my lessons a week to 2 weeks in advanced.

    Have fun. I was teaching 10th grade government and economics which aren't always the most exciting topics. It was important to mix current topics with the topic that is being reviewed in class. Keeping the students' attention is key, but the ultimate goal is to gain their interest.

    Good luck.
  • joxguy

    Posts: 248

    Aug 27, 2009 3:50 PM GMT
    Just retired after 32 years in education, last assignment was as a high school principal. There was lots of good ideas presented. I am sure you have seen or read Harry Wong's tapes or his book "The First Day of School". If you haven't get it. Harry taught jurnior high his whole career and has more strategies and information than anyone.

    HIs best suggestions are: 1. Have procedures in how your class works-as a student teacher talk to your master teacher and see if you agree with his/her procedures and can you try some of your own. If they have procedures you are comfortable with then remember these kids have to be taught the procedures. Remember these aren't rules they are procedure-rules have consequences and procedures are just constantly reinforced.

    2. Down time is a killer, have a back up for everything you plan. Keep them moving, guessing, and working.

    Lastly remember that teenagers of all ages 65% time have something to do with sex on their mind, and jurion high it might be more. When I say sexual things, I mean how do I look, do I have enough hair under my arms, or why don't I have any haha-20% time they are thinking about food-you only have 15% of their consious mind to work with.

    Good luck-it is a great career.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Aug 27, 2009 3:56 PM GMT
    Even judging just on product, it's still entirely possible to differentiate the couch made by the master craftsman and the one assembled from IKEA.

    I've graded plenty of math-based problems, and I fully agree with awarding partial credit to students who show their work and made some minor error(s), the same way you give partial credit to the student who correctly identifies that it was Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation but writes that he did so in 1789. Math-based problems are also a little different in that without showing work, there's very little way to determine whether the student a) actually knows the material, b) took a guess and got lucky, or c) copied the answer from someone else. Guessing exists in all subjects, but it's often easier to guess in math than in other areas, and copying an essay is much easier to detect.

    My objection is primarily to teachers acting as if there is a single proper way to learn, and punishing students who don't fit that mold regardless of whether they've learned the material. My awful 6th grade Social Studies teacher, for instance, used to routinely give me 70s on my notebook grade, even while I was pulling high 90s on every single test and homework assignment. I challenged him on it once, asking him why I deserved such a low grade, as I had all the required elements. His response was that I wasn't taking enough notes in class. I countered that the point of notes on a lecture is to be able to recall the information later, and my test and homework scores clearly indicated that I could. I also told him that either I could write down a lot and not really think about it at the time, or I could really pay attention and take only sparse notes in my own version of shorthand, and the latter style worked better for me. He didn't care; the grades stood. And the resentment I felt toward his behavior made the class far less interesting, and turned it into something to be endured rather than something of actual interest. I had a similar reaction to a number of English teachers who tried to insist that we write a full brainstorm, an outline, a rough draft, a final draft longhand, and only then type up an essay. I have nothing against a teacher teaching a process as a way to create a product/solve a problem/etc., and to encourage students who are struggling to use it to see if it improves their performance. I've certainly taught processes myself when teaching students how to solve certain types of problems in science classes. I do have a problem when teachers lose sight of the fact that there are many valid ways to get to the end point, and try to force everyone to use a single method when there are other options that some students will find better suited for them. If a student uses entirely different equations than I expect, but their reasoning is still valid and gets them to the answer, they've earned full credit. The same goes if they graph their equations and find the intercesection instead of solving them algebraically. I don't see why my Social Studies teacher couldn't have viewed my style of notes in a similar light.
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    Aug 27, 2009 6:49 PM GMT
    MSUBioNerd, that is great that you can do that, but you didn't follow the teacher's directions and that makes a lot of teachers mad. You can do that method on your own time or in college. Products should not be graded to the full if they did not follow the directions and procedures as specified by the teacher.

    That is why I believe and live by rubrics. That would have saved you and the your terrible 6th grade social studies teacher a lot of time. And I also think that it is kind of arrogant of you to assume that your teachers should conform to your still of learning. Doesn't that seem inflexible on your part? If the teacher wanted you to take more notes, shit, do it. You only have them for one year, and then you move on.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Aug 27, 2009 7:06 PM GMT
    I guess it's a difference in perspective. To me, the job of the teacher is to present the material in a way that the students can grasp it, answer questions, and evaluate the student's learning and understanding. It is the student's job to learn the material, and related to that, complete the assignments and do the work.

    Yes, I could have taken more extensive of notes. But then I would have learned less from the lectures than if I listened to them and wrote out onyl a few of the key points, as I can't truly process something I'm hearing if I'm trying to simultaneously write it down. I bet some people can, I'm just not one of them; I've tried, and it doesn't work for me. I figured out what works best for based on the resources available to me, whether it's the book or the lecture or the ability to ask questions outside of class time. The fact that I was marked down for doing so -- while still clearly and demonstrably learning the material as shown in every evaluation the teacher made of our learning and understanding -- made me think that the teacher cared less about whether I learned the material and understood it than whether I fit into his notions about how kids should learn. And that's an incredibly demotivating thing to feel about a teacher.

    It's all just an aspect of something I see come up a lot in the cognitive psychology literature; people confuse what's good for many with what's best for everyone. While I don't think it's appropriate to expect a teacher to change the way the material is presented if 2 students out of 30 would learn better if they were making an animated video on a computer showing the western migration in the US while the other 28 do just fine with a lecture about it, if the notes those kids make about it happens to be a series of maps with different dates instead of a written outline with bullet points, more power to them.