Many people don’t realize that teachers learn their profession via more than lectures and textbooks, hence Student Teacher.

What is a student teacher?

To receive the accreditation typically necessary to teach most types of students, teachers must first have hands-on experience and prove themselves capable of teaching effectively.

A student teacher is a student in a teaching program who receives approval to move on to this stage of their training.

Student teaching happens primarily in college, graduate school, trade apprenticeship and corporate trainer programs. Some high schools also offer honor programs and other students, as part of the curriculum, have special days or weeks when they can create lesson plans and teach one or more classes of their peers and/or younger or older students.

Why is student teaching important?

Student teaching is again usually a requirement to obtain a teaching certification or degree.

Student teachers in traditional academic settings like college also receive academic credits for their efforts that apply toward their graduation requirement. Additionally, as with any profession, student teachers need practical, hands-on experience interacting with and teaching actual students in the area of study they want to teach professionally.

In some cases, as with high school student teachers, the primary objective behind the activity is to help the student determine if they want to be a teacher. A student teacher at any level though also uses this experience to narrow down their career options to a teaching area or age group that best match their interests, skills and personality. For example, many student teachers learn through teaching practice that they can’t handle teaching preschool children.

Some teachers love to lecture and maintain an organized classroom, as seen with high school and college classes, rather than deal with the disarray that can happen in a classroom with young children.

Role of a student teacher in the classroom

A student teacher’s learning experience is dictated by their personal goals, their teacher adviser and/or the class teacher.

Once they receive approval for this step in their education, the student teacher meets with the class teacher. They go through an orientation where they learn what is expected of them duty-wise during an initial observation period and when interacting with the students. They also learn any rules and other requirements they must adhere to during every class.

For a period determined by their adviser and the class teacher, they then essentially audit the class before they’re given an opportunity to teach. They learn the teacher’s schedule, watch the interactions between the teacher and students, report their observations and complete tests that focus on what they learned. Many student teachers then serve as the teacher’s assistant for a while before they can finally teach the class. During this time, the teacher might offer them tips about areas beyond teaching, such as advice and anecdotes about various certifications needed to teach the class professionally, the continuing education required during their career and even non-class advice about how they can maintain professional and positive relationships with colleagues, administrators, parents, if applicable, and others.

Once they’re approved to teach the class, the student teacher must come up with lesson plans or adapt existing ones and take the reins by managing the class and teaching students as if they were the regular classroom teacher.

Are student teachers allowed to teach alone?

Whether a student teacher teaches a small group or a large class, most teaching programs require that they have the support and guidance of the regular class or cooperating teacher or another certified professional at all times. It’s usually a safety and security requirement and based heavily on the type of teaching program and the age of the students. The classroom teacher supervises the student teacher, provides feedback and help during and after class and monitors their actions to report their progress, successes and mistakes to the program adviser.

The teacher also reviews the student teacher’s lesson plans and evaluates them for thoroughness, checks if they comprehensively handled the subject matter and gauges their success at engaging students and achieving the teaching goals.

This relationship is critical for the student teacher to receive a well-rounded education and create a strong foundation upon which to build their teaching career. It’s important to note that exceptions occur for different reasons: a student teacher who proves their capabilities at class management is often allowed to teach independently. They might also be required to teach a class alone, for example, if they’ve proven that they can handle the class and the regular teacher is called away suddenly for an emergency. In this scenario, a teacher from a nearby classroom or a school administrator might check in on the class now and then or attend the class as an observer.

Student teachers might also teach alone outside of the teaching program in non-credit scenarios where classes are offered free to the public or as part of a charitable program and the regular teacher asks them to take over the class for some reason.

How long is the student teaching experience?

The length of the experience usually depends on the number and type of duties that the student teacher must perform hands-on to complete the program, the type of subject, the age level of the class students and the judgments of the class teacher and the program adviser. If it’s through a university program, also known as a student teaching internship, the experience typically lasts at least one semester.

If a student teacher does badly on a performance evaluation, they might have to continue this type of teaching until they’ve proven themselves capable of becoming a professional.

If the class involves a trade school or business training scenario, the student teacher would be matched with students who plan to work in a specific trade area or who already work for a company as employees, respectively. As a result, with either scenario, the type of course and any deadlines determine the length of this learning experience. For example, a student teacher in a corporate training program might not be given a lot of time to practice teaching before they’re expected to perform teaching responsibilities as a professional.

How to be a good student teacher

Good student teachers consider criticisms from peers and mentors learning opportunities rather than reasons to become demotivated or angry at themselves or others. They actually ask for constructive criticism for this reason.

If something bad happens or they’re faced with a tough situation, they don’t give up.

Instead, they see obstacles as opportunities to learn something new and improve themselves. They recognize that teaching requires flexibility because anything can happen moment-to-moment. As a result, they maintain a flexible attitude and schedule so that they’re never caught off guard or disappointed by last minute changes. They review as many tips online as possible and write down any given to them by their classmates, professionals and students so that they can use the knowledge and wisdom of others to their advantage.

Student teachers also put themselves into the position of being part of a class from the start. During the initial observation period, for example, they offer the regular classroom teacher ideas about how to improve lessons. They ask the teacher how they can be of help even though they’re only starting out.

In addition, fantastic student teachers aren’t afraid to speak up. They ask the regular teacher and program adviser for advice when they’re uncertain about something or need help with planning a lesson or dealing with a part of the experience that has proven difficult for them.