I FINISHED STUDENT TEACHING!!! I finished the most difficult semester of my college career, and one of the hardest times of my life so far. It was difficult, it was a lot of work….but I finished it! Of course, I really, honestly, can’t take the credit for any of it. First, I had my husband by my side the whole time. He packed almost every lunch for me (usually with the cutest little love note), he helped me work on assignments and grade papers (yes, even early ed majors have to grade…although it really is not as difficult as some of the upper grades!), he encouraged me as I faced difficult days, and rejoiced with me when I had good days/good marks on my evaluations. And most of all….there is absolutely no way that I could have made it through this semester without God. My journal is full of prayers that go a little something like this: “I really don’t think that I can get through one more day. But God. But God. But God. God, please give me the strength to get through one more day.” After getting home from school that day, I would look at my journal and see the faithfulness of God.
So here is a list of lessons that I learned during student teaching. This is especially for those who are going into student teaching and don’t have a clue what to expect (I know that I didn’t)!
1. You get out what you put in. If you are only counting down the days, planning your wedding/life after graduation, and doing the minimum on lesson planning….you will not care about the students as individuals, you will have a great wedding/life after graduation, but you will get nothing out of your student teaching semester. Don’t miss that opportunity.
2. Student teaching will be your ministry. If you are a Christian and go to a Christian college, you will most likely want to be involved in some sort of “ministry”. I learned early on that it is not easy to be involved in a ministry while doing student teaching. From everyone else, you may be viewed as ‘lazy’, as ‘unspiritual’, as ‘making a bigger deal out of this than it really is.’ Don’t listen to them. When you student teach, you will be gone 10 hours every day, five days a week. Not only that, but kids DRAIN you. See the kids as your ‘ministry’ if you really have to have one. That way, you can focus on them and your semester, and they will learn more about Christ from you than over-taxing yourself in “ministry” outside of school. I have several classmates who were still able to continue with a ministry or ministry team, and it is do-able, but it is not easy.
3. You will be under-appreciated. I have had this conversation with several people this past week. No one understands a job until they experience it. I have no idea how hard it is to be a nurse, so I can’t judge the time that they work or that they don’t work. This happens in EVERY job, but it especially seems to happen to early childhood teacher because the stereotype is that we color and cut out construction paper all day. Trust me…this is not true, and most people don’t understand that. Take the time to understand them, and don’t let bitterness get in the way of your HARD work and TIME well spent with the kiddos.
4. You are going to be extremely humbled. Teaching is one of those things that there are no ‘naturals’. Now, let me explain what I mean. You can be a “natural” teacher, but you still need practice. Like, years of practice. You might think you will “get it” during student teaching. Nope. Nope. Nope. Every day you will leave realizing that you learned something absolutely life changing. Just humble yourself and let yourself be a learner.
5. Sick days are not worth it. Just go to school and suffer through the day. Unless you are puking. Then stay home. It’s true what they say…you will get sick from every germ that every kid has. Sick days are miserable because you feel miserable, but then after you call in, you have to write DETAILED plans for the sub. Every time I called in sick, I would spend at least an hour writing my plans and my teacher told me they were still not up to par. Plus, when you go in the next day, the kids have done nothing that you had wanted them to do. Being sick is no. fun, but I found it was even worse to stay home sick than to just go to school.
6. Put forth excellence from Day 1. For us, our evaluations weren’t due until yesterday. But the teacher and supervisor fill it out based on what you have done from Day 1. If you were late the first two weeks of school and thought they would forget about it…they won’t. It will go on your evaluations.
7. Pack yourself good lunches. It gives you something to look forward to throughout the day, and it will give you the fuel to get through they loooong day of teaching. Also, drink lots of water.
8. Balance constructive criticism. I had a hard time with that. My teacher was keen on giving criticism, and never once gave me positive feedback about something that I had done. I tended to take any “growth area” that she gave me and obsess over it. Don’t do this. Listen to it, apply advice and go from there. And don’t do the opposite and ignore it, either.
9. Keep a quote book of the things that your students say. I wish I had done this from the beginning, because kids say the best things.
10. Remember that you have the best job in the world. There are so many HARD things about teaching, especially when you are young and inexperienced. But it is the most rewarding and wonderful thing I could ever dream of doing. When those kiddos hug you goodbye on the last day, and you finally realize that you did make an impact…you will cry. When you see their scores go up on a test because everyone worked so hard, you will realize that it is all worth it. When they all give you silly bands on the last day because they forgot to write a card…that will show you that it is worth it.
If you are setting off on the adventure of student teaching…LOVE IT. ENJOY IT. LIVE IT.