Nine weeks have flown by. My time is up at my first placement, and I move on to my next one shortly. Reflecting on this first experience has given me a lot of helpful tips for going into my next placement. Maybe sharing these will help the next person be prepared for something that is such an intense and different experience.
1. Clarify before the placement- What time you are expected to be there and stay until (and arrive and leave 5 minutes earlier and later then that time), what will happen during breaks (Christmas, Spring, Thanksgiving), what they are expecting you to wear, what you will do if you are sick and/or if your teacher is sick, what kind of classroom management they use and if they are comfortable letting you provide that to the children, and any other ‘housekeeping’ type questions. Make a list of ones you think of and ask before you start. This will prevent awkward questions or conversations after something has already occurred.
2. Make time every week to meet with your teacher. Ask questions and clarify anything you don’t understand. Be open to feedback and ask that burning question you have about something.
3. Stay in touch with your university supervisor. It is easy to forget about dealing with the university end of student teaching. If you send them a short e-mail every few weeks, you will build rapport and feel better about them coming to observe you.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask! Student teaching is learning, and you won’t know how to do everything and have the correct answer for everyone. Even though you have asked a million times already, ask again until you understand it.
5. Keep a journal – write everything down. Time flies so quickly it is hard to remember what you did yesterday much less at the beginning of the first week. I personally like a log version of a journal. Write what you were at what time of the day in a short simple sentence. This also helps when it is time to put together your portfolio because you can remember what you did! I often find myself thinking “Oh yeah- I did do a…(assessment, literacy lesson, adaptation)”.
6. Get out and see other programs at the school. In my placement, I was able to go visit county programs such as WIC and family support programs. This was really valuable to me. As a teacher, the more you can see and be part of the community the better prepared you can be to give those resources to families and children. See what the special education teacher does, see how the speech and language pathologist works with children, visit the other teachers in your grade to see how they do things differently (and the same).
Lastly, and most importantly, just be yourself. Remember in stressful times why you are there and what is really important. Enjoy your time as it flies by and seek clarification on anything you have questions on.