It goes without saying that student teaching is absolutely central to becoming a properly trained teacher. While nearly any situation can be described and addressed in a textbook or video, until you have gone through the experiences yourself, you can't know how you should respond, how you will respond, and how to develop the skills needed to face similar issues in the future. Student teachers learn from everyone. First, by being placed with an experienced teacher, a student teacher learns to model instructional and classroom management techniques after the lead teacher. Just as importantly, an alert student teacher learns from the students, themselves. It can be quite a shock to enter a classroom for the first time and really experience all the different learning styles that must be accommodated at once. Add to that the children with unique challenges that are spelled out in their Individualized Education Programs (EIPs). Then there are the behavior problems that must be addressed firmly but kindly. Novice teachers learn, through student teaching, how to modulate their voices. For example, when students aren't paying attention, yelling rarely works. However, leaning back and lowering the voice, then raising it to emphasize words the children will find interesting (such as ‘hidden treasures' in a lesson about the pyramids, or ‘deadly poison' in a lesson about insects), will cause them to quiet down and lean forward, listening more intently. Student teachers learn from experienced teachers by listening as they share lunch together. They learn from other student teachers who are in the building at the same time. They learn by observing how the teachers behave with one another, with their students, and with administrators. The time given to student teaching is one of the most efficient ways a new teacher can learn new skills and instructional techniques, and grow as both a teacher and as an individual.
Student teaching is part of the education degree work that must be completed before graduation. Student teachers spend a portion of the time assisting and observing the classroom teacher. After a length of time has passed in which she has become sufficiently acclimated, the student teacher will be expected to take over instruction. Sometimes this is done with the lead teacher present; after a while, though, the student teacher is on her own so that she will be forced to make academic and behavioral decisions on her own. At some point, student teachers are evaluated by a number of people, ranging from the classroom teacher to building administrators, to her own college instructors. These assessments are highly useful, as they underscore the student teacher's strengths as well as the areas in which she needs improvement.
Most teaching programs place student teachers into a classroom situation for a semester. Because this is a required part of the education degree, this type of internship is not compensated. Over the course of the semester, the student teacher is given more and more responsibility, and expected to make more and more decisions on her own. She will learn how to plan efficient and effective lessons, experience different instructional approaches such as grouping similar and diverse types of learners, assigning projects and class presentations, evaluating both her own effectiveness as a teacher and assessing student progress, and assigning grades. Over the course of the semester, many student teachers become extremely fond of their students. Returning them to the classroom teacher can be a somewhat painful experience. However, this, too, is a learning experience, in that it helps prepare future teachers for the inevitable graduation of their students at the end of the school year.
Last Updated: 06/08/2014