What Is Student Teaching Really Like?

Teacher and students in a classroom.

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You've completed all of your core teaching courses, and now it is time to put everything you have learned to the test. You have finally made it to student teaching! Congratulations, you are on your way to shaping today's youth into successful citizens. At first, student teaching may sound a bit scary, not knowing what to expect. But, if you arm yourself with enough knowledge, then this experience can be one of the best in your college career.

What Is Student Teaching?

Student teaching is a full-time, college-supervised, instructional classroom experience. This internship (field experience) is a culminating course that is required for all students who want to receive a teaching certificate.

What Is It Designed to Do?

Student teaching is designed to allow pre-service teachers to practice and refine their teaching skills in a regular classroom experience. Student teachers work closely with college supervisors and experienced teachers to learn how to promote student learning.

How Long Does Student Teaching Last?

Most internships last between eight to twelve weeks. Interns are usually placed at one school for the first four to six weeks, and then at a different grade and school for the last weeks. This way, pre-service teachers get the opportunity to learn and use their skills in a variety of school settings.

How Are Schools and Grade Levels Selected?

Placements are usually made by the following criteria:

  • Previous practicum placements
  • Your major requirements
  • Your personal preferences (they are taken into consideration)

Elementary education majors are usually required to teach in a primary grade (1-3) and one from an intermediate grade (4-6). Pre-K and kindergarten may also be an option, depending upon your state.

Alone With the Students

There will be times that your mentor teacher will trust you to be alone with the students. He/She may leave the classroom to take a phone call, participate in a meeting, or go to the main office. If the cooperating teacher is absent, then the school district will get a substitute. If this happens, then it is usually your job to take over the classroom while the substitute monitors you.

Working While Student Teaching

Most students find it very difficult to work and student teach. Think of student teaching as your full-time job. You will actually be spending more hours than a typical school day in the classroom, planning, teaching, and consulting with your teacher. By the end of the day, you will be extremely tired.

Background Checks

Most school districts will do a criminal background check (fingerprinting) by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. There may also be an FBI criminal history record check, depending upon your school district.

What Can You Expect During This Experience?

You will spend most of your time planning, teaching, and reflecting on how it went. During a typical day, you will follow the school schedule and most likely stay after to meet with the teacher to plan for the next day.

Student Teacher Responsibilities

  • Prepare and present daily lesson plans.
  • Following rules and policies of the school.
  • Set an example for students in personal habits, conduct, and how you dress.
  • Get acquainted with the classroom mentor teacher.
  • Maintain a professional relationship with the entire school staff.
  • Be receptive and accepting of constructive criticism from everyone.

Getting Started

You will be integrated into the classroom slowly. Most cooperating teachers start interns off by allowing them to take over one or two subjects at a time. Once you feel comfortable, then you will be expected to take on all of the subjects.

Lesson Plans

You will probably be responsible for creating your own lesson plans, but you may ask the cooperating teacher for an example of theirs so you know what is expected.

Faculty Meetings and Parent-Teacher Conferences

You are required to attend everything your cooperating teacher attends. This includes faculty meetings, in-service meetings, district meetings, and parent-teacher conferences. Some student teachers are asked to conduct parent-teacher conferences.