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How to get the most out of student teaching

Student teaching

Before you earn your education degree — and become certified to teach — you must prove you can do the job. Although your coursework can help prepare you to lead a classroom, you’ll get real-world experience as a student teacher under the guidance of a mentor teacher.

Marvin Davisson, area chair of the teacher education program for the College of Education at the University of Phoenix® Central Valley Campus in California who holds a doctorate in education, offers five tips for student teachers:


Manage your time effectively.

While you may just observe your mentor teacher’s class during the first week, you’ll eventually take over, and you need to be ready.

“A strong sense of organization and time management is very important,” emphasizes Davisson, a former high school administrator with 42 years of experience, or the stress of completing coursework, preparing lesson plans and managing your personal life can become overwhelming. He suggests asking family and friends for help at home so you can focus on school.

Follow your mentor teacher’s lead.

Remember that you’re a guest in the classroom. “Student teachers should be [respectful of] mentor teachers and look at how they’re doing everything,” Davisson says.

That doesn’t mean you have to teach exactly the same way as your mentor, though. For instance, if you want to show students how to do fractions one way, but your mentor’s style is different, that’s OK, Davisson notes. You just need to ask permission before teaching your way.

Learn your students’ capabilities.

“I want my student teachers fully integrated in everything,” Davisson says. That means you must build relationships with your students by getting to know their strengths and weaknesses, personalities and best learning methods.

“You’ll want to see which students are outgoing in the classroom, which are shy and [which] struggle in certain subjects,” he adds, so you can adapt your lesson plans to their individual needs. Developing a good rapport with students also will help you control the classroom. 

Treat student teaching like an audition.

“From the moment you start student teaching, you’re basically in a job application,” Davisson stresses. He adds that it’s perfectly acceptable to inquire about job openings at the school to which you’re assigned. “Let your principal know that you want a position at the school and enjoy working with the faculty and student body,” he suggests.

But even if you don’t land a full-time job at your school, other opportunities may be available, and you can ask your mentor teacher or your school’s principal for a reference. From retirements alone, there will be 1.7 million education jobs to fill between 2008 and 2018, according to a 2010 Georgetown University study.

Get comfortable with Taskstream.

The Taskstream® e-portfolio system is where you’ll upload and store all of the required documents — including your lesson plans, test results, criminal background check and vaccination records — to earn your teaching credential or certificate.
In addition to providing templates to help you write lesson and unit plans that align with state standards, the Taskstream platform also offers tools that allow you to compile a portfolio to showcase your best work to potential employers.
“At the end of student teaching,” Davisson says, “the credential analyst [of your school] will go into Taskstream and verify that all of the necessary documents are there,” before issuing an institutional recommendation for licensure, which tells state education officials that you have met the eligibility requirements to be licensed to teach.