I was shocked when I found out that I would be student teaching in high school. I’d spent a lot of time in middle schools during college, so I assumed that that’s where I’d end up. However, it was a great learning experience for me. Here are some of the things that I found helpful to know while about my high school student teaching placement.
Classroom Management as a High School Student Teacher
When you’re not their regular teacher, students are going to act out. Some students may see you as a long-term substitute, and they’ll treat you as such. At least at the beginning. They want to find out what you’ll let them get away with.
I discovered the importance of being consistent in classroom management. Know the rules, and make sure that you always enforce them. One of the hardest things to do is wait in front of a classroom full of students until they all quiet down and give you their full attention. But don’t let students talk over you.
Get to know the students. As difficult as it is to memorize all the students’ names, try to learn them all within the first few days. Taking the time to speak with them and learning about their life outside of the classroom shows that you care. Students are more likely to listen to someone they know cares about them.
Another way to keep everyone on track is to plan interesting lessons. Of course, every day won’t look like a scene out of Dead Poets Society. You’re going to have days where lecturing is necessary, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make things fun. The great thing about teaching these days is that there is a plethora of ideas available to you on the Internet. Do a quick search to find all sorts of ideas for whatever topic you’re teaching.
Another great resource at your disposal is other teachers. I worked with 2 different mentor teachers. In one class, I taught To Kill a Mockingbird and in the other class we did literacy circles. Both teachers taught these before, and they had lots of great ideas for how to teach them. If they didn’t, there were other English teachers who did, too.
Grading papers, planning lessons, going to meetings, attending students’ activities, and everything else makes it difficult to fit in simple things like eating and sleeping. I spent a lot of early mornings and late nights at school at the beginning. At home, I spent my time grading papers, tweaking lesson plans, and emailing back and forth with my mentor teachers and university coordinator to discuss ideas and solve problems.
As time went on, I realized that teachers who do all of this get burned out all too quickly. If I didn’t want to get burned out before I even had my own classroom, I had to figure out some tricks of the trade. For example, let students help you grade their assignments. Figure out what works for you and prevent teacher burn out.
The clothing you wore to class in college probably won’t work as a high school teacher. I was at a greater disadvantage since I looked like one of the students. Because of this, I made the decision to always dress up. I wore skirts, dress slacks and blouses, and blazers. I didn’t dress up for casual Friday until student teaching was almost over. I wanted to set myself apart from students by dressing the part.
You hope that you’ll end up with a mentor teacher who is anxious to impart their knowledge and let you loose to try new things in the classroom. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Giving up one’s classroom is difficult for many teachers. However, you need to make the most of your time. Be teachable, be respectful, and be willing to listen. See your mentor teacher as someone who can help you become the teacher that you want to be. If problems arise, let your university coordinator know as soon as possible. Otherwise, work to find a balance between pleasing your mentor teacher and breaking out as the teacher you want to become.