I don’t dive into anything without research, so you can believe that I read numerous blogs and books before I started student teaching. However, there is a lot that you cannot know without the experience itself. Here are a few things that the student teaching experience taught me.
10 Things You Need To Know Before Student Teaching
1. Student teaching will be the hardest thing you have ever done. I like to think that I have done some hard(ish) things in my life. But I can assure you that student teaching was the most challenging of them all. Writing lesson plans, controlling thirty 10-year-olds, grading papers, trying to get enough sleep, and not to mention actually teaching consumed every second of my day.
2. You can’t quit. Despite the difficulty, you have to keep the end goal in mind. Every night, I would think, “Okay, only 117 more days until I graduate. It will all be worth it when I have that diploma.” With time, 117 days turned into 67 days, 37 days, 17 days, and eventually, 1 day.
3. You won’t sleep. Even if you manage to make it into bed, you won’t really sleep. At least, I didn’t. I would lay in bed reviewing all of the lessons that I had taught, wondering what I could have done to make them better. Then I would begin mentally preparing for any lessons that I had to teach the next day. When I finally reached a stage of “sleep,” I would dream about school. Basically, I taught all night long.
4. You will love your students. Sure, they will drive you insane when, for the 18th time, they ask where they are supposed to turn in their reading test. Yet, you will love them. You will love walking into the classroom each morning and listening to their excited chatter about pandacorns and mermaids. You will love it when they give you notes that identify you as “Mrs.” instead of “Miss” and make you feel like your mother. You will love it when they claim that they have NEVER had so much fun in science. You will love it when your underachieving student makes an 87 on a test. You will love them, and they will become the reason that you write lesson plans, grade papers, and never get enough sleep.
5. You have to schedule time for exercise. I learned this lesson too late into the semester. I think that my first 8 weeks would have been easier if I had allotted 30 minutes per day to just watch YouTube videos while doing a PIIT workout. At the beginning of March, I set an alarm for 8:00 every night. When that alarm went off, I stopped whatever I was doing to exercise. The next 8 weeks were much less stressful.
6. It’s a very short time. As my mom told me at the beginning of the semester, “It is only 75 days (of actual teaching). You can do anything for 75 days. You can scoop manure for 75 days.” (At the time, I told her that I would rather scoop manure.)
7. It gets easier. After the first few weeks of thinking “What am I doing? Why did I think I could do this? I am literally going to die from exhaustion. The students aren’t learning anything”, you fall into a rhythm. I will never forget facing a whiteboard to write a spelling word and thinking, “OMG! I am actually teaching! The students are actually listening! This isn’t so bad.”
8. Organization is key. I used approximately 7 different colors of pen, 6 pocket folders, 5 file folders, 4 binders, 3 calendars, 2 planners, and 1 overloaded Google Drive (I swear that I didn’t exaggerate for any of those) to prepare for each week.
9. Everyone makes mistakes. Learn from them. Most afternoons as I reflected on my day, I thought, “That was a dumb mistake,” but my dumb mistakes taught me to ALWAYS model the desired outcome, ALWAYS tell them where to put their finished work, and ALWAYS follow through on expectations.
10. Common Core math doesn’t make much sense. It will make you feel like a chicken teaching fish how to climb a tree.