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This week, I got an email from someone who is just about to start student teaching. Feeling anxious about the semester ahead, she asked if I had any advice.

I’m going to share my own thoughts here, but I would like it if this could be one of my crowdsourcing posts, where we pull together all the collective wisdom of my incredibly smart, insightful readers (like the times you advised parents on skipping kindergarten and having your child take extra math courses). So after I share my ideas, I would love for everyone else to use the comments below to give all beginning teachers advice on how to make the most of the student teaching experience.

Okay. I’ll go first:

1. Ask All the Questions

Unless you’re very extroverted, you might hold back on asking questions. Maybe you don’t want to bother anyone or you don’t want to look stupid.

Try really hard to get over that. You need to be asking lots of questions this term: Questions about classroom procedures, grading, and technology. Questions about how your host teachers handle tricky situations, how they manage to steal bathroom breaks, and how they determine whether an 89% is an A or a B. If you don’t ask, you’re not going to learn.

If you feel like you’re taking up a lot of your host teacher’s time, keep a list of questions as you think of them, then ask several at once. Or ask different people different questions, so you’re not “bothering” the same people all the time. Seriously, though, it’s really not a bother. Most experienced professionals love sharing their expertise, so ask away.

2. Get a Buddy

When I did my student teaching at Penn State, my friend Dan had also been assigned to the same school. Everyone in my program had been placed in schools all over Pennsylvania, so we were pretty isolated, and it was a huge blessing to have Dan around. We didn’t have much chance to talk during the school day, but about once a week we would have dinner and talk about things that were going well and things that weren’t. We asked each other the stupid questions we were afraid to ask anyone else. And we gossiped like crazy. It was a great stress reliever, and it really helped to have another “outsider” to talk to.

If you don’t have another student teacher in your building to share the experience with, find someone else in your program and set up some kind of regular check-in. If that’s not an option, look around online for a community. Find someone who gets you, someone who has a similar amount of pressure on them, and schedule time to hang out. You’ll be glad you did.

3. Observe Like Crazy

The best way to learn what good teaching looks like, and what not-so-good teaching looks like, is to observe LOTS of teachers. Chances are your program is going to require you to do a certain number of these; my advice is to triple that number. Use your planning period to sit in the back of someone else’s classroom; grade papers if you need to multitask. You’ll still pick up plenty of instructional techniques and tweaks, bits of presentation flair, and classroom management strategies. You’ll get cool ideas for organizing materials, establishing good procedures, and even decorating a classroom.

Although it’s vital to observe teachers in the same content areas and grade levels as yours, observing outside these parameters will also be hugely informative, so seek out teachers who teach something different from you. And don’t limit your observations to classroom instruction: Sit in while a colleague makes a parent phone call (those are tough, and there’s an art to it). Attend an IEP meeting if you are allowed. Watch a colleague coach a sports team or run a club meeting.

How do you ask for these observations? Just tell the teacher in question that you want to observe in as many classrooms as possible, then ask if you can stop by 5th period. Simple as that. They will almost always say yes.

4. Network

Just like substitute teaching, student teaching is an excellent opportunity to get to know lots of people in your field, which can eventually lead to securing a full-time position. Schools are much more likely to hire someone whose work they are familiar with, so make sure people get to know you during your student teaching semester. This means going to the social events, introducing yourself to people you don’t know, eating lunch in the staff room (at least sometimes) and putting your hand up when volunteers are needed to sell tickets at the basketball game. Every person you meet is a potential connection for later employment, so make lots of connections now.

5. Put Together a Professional Wardrobe

This is an area that a lot of student teachers get wrong. In general, when dressing for school, your clothes should be a little more conservative and a little more dressed up than what you usually wear. If you are young (in your early twenties) and are teaching students who are older (i.e., high school) this is especially important because you need to look different from your students. Before school even starts, learn your host school’s dress code for teachers and follow it, keeping in mind that some of the other teachers in your school may not necessarily do so. Never mind that: You don’t have the seniority to thumb your nose at any dress code. Follow it. And for those gray areas, if you have even a tiny doubt about something you’re wearing (Is this too low-cut? Too tight? Would this t-shirt offend anyone?), don’t wear it.

For inspiration, women should start by searching for Teacher Fashion on Pinterest, then check out The Styled Teacher‘s blog, where you can find tons of photos of ensembles that are beautiful AND appropriate for the classroom. For men, Pinterest also has a lot of great ideas for male teacher fashion, and check out this article on building a male teacher’s wardrobe from Real Men Real Style.

6. Clean Up Your Social Media

If you haven’t already done so, you need to SCRUB every one of your social media accounts until they sparkle. Untag yourself from incriminating photos, delete any posts that might be considered controversial, un-like any pages that might cause administrators, parents, or students to make unflattering assumptions about you. Switch public settings to private when it is reasonable to do so. Basically, look at your online footprint through the eyes of an administrator who is thinking about hiring you, and remove anything they might object to. You are about to begin the phase of your life when you are no longer just a private citizen; part of you is now somewhat public-facing, so your online presence needs to be professional.

If you think your students are going to want to connect with you on social media, go ahead and set up a “teacher” account right now (e.g., Mrs. G’s Instagram Account), where you will refrain from posting your real-real-life stuff, and send students there.

7. Take Small Bites

Remember: This is just practice. You are not expected to be able to know everything and do everything, and you’re certainly not expected to do it all well. So when you start to feel overwhelmed by all the things you’re supposed to be learning and all the other things you could be trying, just remind yourself to take small bites right now. Good teachers spend their whole careers trying to get it right, and some of the very best will tell you they still have a lot to learn, so cut yourself some slack.

8. Keep a “Next Year” Notebook

It’s human nature to think you’re going to remember all the ideas you come up with this semester, all the lessons you learn, all the things you want to do differently next time around. I’m here to tell you that you won’t remember half of them if you don’t write them down.

9. Find Your Marigold

If you’ve never read my article about teachers and marigolds, go read it now. I’ll wait.

Okay, that applies to student teachers too. To really have a wonderful student teaching experience, you need to find one person in the building who embodies everything you want to be in a teacher, then spend as much time with them as you can. If you’re very lucky, this could be the person who has been assigned to be your host teacher. If it’s not, go find them. It will make all the difference in the world.

More Advice to Come…

Okay, I’m done for now. I hope this has been helpful. Now I want to hear from the rest of my readers. In the comments below, share your advice for student teachers. Let’s usher in the next batch of newbies with gusto. ♥

If you’re a new teacher, the Cult of Pedagogy New Teacher Checklist will provide a structure to follow as you progress through the school year. To download a free copy, just sign up for my mailing list. You’ll get the checklist, plus all the other free downloads in my Members-Only Library. (If you’re already a subscriber and want this resource, just check your most recent email for a link to the Members-Only Library!)



  1. Adam says:

    This is SO awesome, Jennifer! Student teaching is coming up next year for me, and this blog is so valuable. Thank you!

    • I’m so glad to hear it, Adam! Keep checking back for more, as other teachers will be adding their thoughts to this in the comments.

    • April Moore says:

      Find s
      Groups to keep your ideas exciting. I just started a group to help teachers and give my self new fresh ideas!

    • Kellie says:

      Don’t be too hard on yourself. In addition to observing veteran teachers, observe your own peers. It will give you a better perspective of where you’re at.

    • Cathy Keller says:

      Good list! I teach HS and the wardrobe one is key. I’ve also had to tell student teachers to lay off the cologne (we share an office with 6 people, and it was STRONG.)

      Think of this as an extended job interview and behave appropriately. Be friendly, but don’t assume your mentor is your BFF. I don’t want to hear about you getting trashed this weekend.

      Don’t be afraid to try new things. It’s ok to fall flat sometimes. Just remember you’re new at this and you’re not going to be perfect. Just keep working hard!

    • Teacher says:

      Remember to turn off your cell phone and don’t text during class time (at least in elementary school). I have a student and she thinks it’s ok to text her boyfriend when she is observing lessons and not teaching. It’s rude. If something is important excuse yourself to reply but don’t do it too often. This is your time to learn!

  2. Elena Hershey says:

    Keep a record of everything you do outside the classroom: e.g. assisting on field trips, working with students after school, covering another teacher’s study hall in an emergency, snapping photos for the yearbook, taking notes for team meetings, devising solutions for your mentor teacher, introducing other teachers to new technology, etc. (Almost) everything you do can be included in some way on your resume and/or used to show your versatility in a job interview.

    • That is fantastic advice, Elena! Thank you!

    • Great advice! I would add: request your recommendations ASAP in the spring semester. Between completing an EdTPA (or whatever your state requires) and the general chaos of daily teaching, many in my cohort started asking for recs way too late, missing out on some truly amazing teaching opportunities because they just couldn’t apply without them.

      • Excellent. Thanks, Suzanne!

      • Yes, you will need (where I am) at least three recommendations and they need to be administrators or your college supervisors. You may have to ask and keep asking someone to observe your teaching or they may say, “Oh, I really don’t feel comfortable.” The time goes fast. This is so important!

    • Jennifer Schrimsher says:

      Thank you so much! I really had never thought about keeping a record of what I do outside the classroom. Ive added an area in my binder for this. I start my student teaching experience tomorrow in California.

    • Gracie Stafford says:

      thank you very much that is really helpful!

    • We had to have a portfolio at the end of the semester. Professors will say, “This might make a good portfolio piece.” Stay on top of this. The new thing…digital portfolios. Don’t wait until the last minute. Of course in interviews, some people will want to look at it and others will not. Be prepared to use it to sell yourself.

  3. Mandy Froehlich says:

    I would add to not only scrub your social media accounts and network in your school and community, but also work on creating a positive digital footprint and network using social media outlets like Twitter. That way when employers look for you, they not only don’t see the bad but will see the awesome things you do and how you reach out and connect. You’ll also get the best PD from connecting with colleagues on Twitter. Finally, start blogging.

    • Wow, Mandy. SUCH good advice!! I do think blogging is certainly a way to establish a positive digital footprint. If a student teacher is strapped for time, though, there are probably other, less time-consuming ways to accomplish the same thing: Participate in Twitter chats or Google Plus communities, or even set up a very simple website or online digital portfolio with static pages that tells people who you are, what your philosophy of education is, your favorite books, etc. Something that can easily be found if a prospective employer Googles you!!

      • Jennifer Schrimsher says:

        Ive started a blog on Edublogs to catalog my experiences as a student teacher, mostly for family and friends who have been on this journey with me. I am so blessed to have a host teacher who is amazing and I cannot wait to work with her. We share a lot of the same teaching philosophies and I cannot wait to really see her in action. Thank you so much for this post, and all the feedback from other readers. It really calms the jitters.

  4. Mandy Froehlich says:

    By the way, great post, Jennifer 🙂

  5. For me, the observation piece was really powerful and I’m so glad you included it in this list.

    As a student teacher, you will never again have the opportunity to see a wide range of other teacher’s styles in a way that is authentic (read: not like when an administrator or colleague is in the room). Watch as many great teachers as you can, both in and out of your discipline. I got so many great ideas just from sitting in a single class–and it wasn’t my subject area! Once you have a classroom of your own, you will be extremely limited with observing others. Do it now while you can!

  6. Ginger Travis says:

    Write down everything…good and bad! Journal, journal, journal.journal your observations, thoughts, feelings and ideas. What will you do the same as your cooperating teacher, what will you do differently. What observations do you take from other teachers and the administrators. This will give you a clear perspective of what you want to do and don’t want to do in your classroom. And, if you are in a state that requires an internship, like Kentucky, you will already be in a practice of observing, acting and reflecting that is required for most internship programs. Further, when you journal, you can go back and see what you felt about a certain situation or strategy at its inception.

    I often look back at my “student teacher journal” and gain many insights that I use in my classroom six years later.

  7. Brianna says:

    Embody growth mindset! Be willing to fail and take those as awesome opportunities to learn. Step out of your comfort zone. Try new things when you have your host teacher there to observe and give you advice.

  8. Lucy says:

    Go to the staffroom and listen, chances are that girl who is being disruptive in your class is doing it elsewhere. Knowing it’s not just you makes situations easier to deal with. Make friends and ask those friends for advise when the going gets tough. Oh and take your own mug! Nothing worse than finding you are using the head teachers mug on the first day and they can’t get their coffee!

  9. Amanda says:

    I think this is a great list. You really do want to take note of litetally everything. I just completed my student teaching last year and will be hopefully teaching my first class this year (interviewing today). One thing I would add is really learn to prepare your materials. Our school has giant ancient copiers and they love to jam every time I so much as look at them. So learn to use them and unjamm them, because they didn’t teach that in college.

    • Debbie says:

      Oh my gosh, yes!! If I charged a fee for everytime I “fixed” the copier/printer… after 30 years I could retire- to my own island! LOL
      This list is awesome, as are the comments so far. If you don’t get to observe the beginning or end of a school year, ask everyone you can what they do to start the year, or end it!! Two other things they never taught in teacher college…teaching procedures [ALL of them!], setting up seating charts, meeting families; keeping their attention at the end, closing a classroom, etc.

  10. Great advice! I’ve had both traditional and non-traditional student teachers and I’m always encouraging them to use our “resources” – attend after school voluntary PD sessions, PLCs, and work with our literacy coach when developing lessons.

    • Love this tip, Meagan. Spending time with the specialists in the building is an excellent idea, and I’m sure many student teachers would never even think of that!

  11. Jessica says:

    Love the advice! I’m currently student teaching now, so I really appreciate all this information. The part about finding your marigold especially spoke volumes to me.

    I’d like to share the tool I’m using to document my observations and best practices; it’s called Day One. This app is great because it documents my journey as a student teacher like a journal, and allows me to add photos. Another thing I like about it is that I can export my journal and turn it into a PDF. I’m thinking of using it for my portfolio because it’s so beautifully designed and looks professional.

  12. Ami says:

    This is such great advice! I would add one more thing — Don’t be afraid to try out new ideas! I’ve been a cooperating teacher, and I would love it when student teachers would try out ideas they learned in their teacher prep classes. It made me super excited for them, and sometimes I learned something new.

  13. Jonathan says:

    This is a great list, Jennifer. I think the number one thing is never being afraid of asking questions. I would also add that love every student and get to know them well. It is hard as a student teacher to come into a strange class and instantly earn the respect of the students. In fact, it is near, impossible. What will help is if you get to know your students and know them well. When the know you care they won’t act out as much. Hope you don’t mind me sharing this list with my future student teachers.

  14. Gina says:

    Get a reading list going. What have the teachers whose work you admire read that’s made a difference in their professional lives? In the same vein, get recommendations for good professional development programs. Be in the habit of attending conferences and workshops — NCTE (the National Council of Teachers of English) has student rates and I am willing to bet other professional groups do, too.

    Get out on social media and follow the teachers and organizations that you see making a positive difference. There are regularly scheduled Twitter chats, Nings, and blogs that are awesome ways to network and get resources and support.

    Carve out time and space for self-care. Teaching can be an all-consuming career and you can burn yourself out. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and spend time with family and friends. You can’t be an effective teacher if you’re strung out.

    And know that we are rooting for you! Find those marigolds.

  15. Kate says:

    This is such a great starting point for student teachers (and partner teachers!). I would add a few more – find out how really organized teachers organize their resources, documentation and time. Then try out what works for you. If you don’t make a strong connection with your partner teacher, develop a relationship with a mentor (maybe in a different school). Don’t judge – many student teachers are not aware of the district, state/provincial, administrative complexities that shape their decisions. Pick a student you consider a challenge and do your best to connect, understand and support them. You will probably learn the most from that relationship.

  16. Tia says:

    Be positive. Be present. Be visible.
    Practice building relationships with students and be on the look out for classroom routines that will work for you. Relationships and routines foundation ally help new teachers to build confidence and ease with all the rest of the job.

  17. Thanks so much for this site and the list. As a host teacher, my suggestion would be to share your learning, too. I choose to host student teachers in my classroom because I am a lifelong learner. Today’s new teachers are often more tech-savvy, which is a huge plus, especially in today’s digital classroom. In terms of your digital footprint, check out the footprints that other educators are leaving out there. Find blogs and websites that work for educators, parents and students and try building your own website shell with all of the ideas you are gathering. The advice to get on Twitter and other social media as an educator is excellent. I graduated as a teacher in 1989. I found this blog today. I’m still as excited about education as I was 27 years ago, because of innovations such as this. Networking works.

  18. Melody Moeller says:

    Talk to the para educators in the building. They have seen a lot of the teachers and they can guide you on who is great at what. Observe special education teachers and co-teachers. Ask your host teacher how to modify, accommodate, and see if they will let you create a test and modify it, or at least modify an existing test. Talk to the ELL teacher if you have one, observe if possible.

  19. Dennis Jenkins says:

    Great tips. A mentor-coach would also be a great help as one embarks on a new career!

  20. Danielle says:

    I completed my student teaching this past Spring. What an experience!! I had to do both general education and special education to fulfill the requirements for my certification. Both placements were completely different. The best thing to remember is even though you are there as a “teacher” you are still a guest in the classroom. Go with the flow and at times keep your mouth closed. After all, you will be leaving, there will be an end to the time spent there. One placement I didn’t want to leave and the other I was counting the days. But even in the placement where it wasn’t so great I still learned a lot. I learned what I did NOT want to do. It will be a good reminder later in my own classroom to remain positive and to focus completely on the students. Another reason to keep your mouth closed is you will hear a lot of school politics. Just sit back and listen, do not get involved. It could lead to downfall. Most of all, ENJOY the time you have. It seems like forever, then it is over in a blink of the eye. Make connections to the students and you will have a wonderful time!

    • Kendell Buckley says:

      I will be student teaching this spring! I also have two placements: Special education and General education. Any other advice you have I’d gladly appreciate. Thank you!

  21. Nancy De Leon says:

    I would add to all the great advice giving to new teachers, “Be polite and courteous with everyone !” It leaves a wonderful impression when you are well mannered. Wishing all new teachers a successful year!

    • Nicole says:

      As a substitute teacher I have learned that the office staff and tech guys are just as important as teachers. Be nice to everyone, not just because it’s right, but because they can help in so many little ways. The secretary at my school made my life so much better. Such good advice.

  22. Chris says:

    One of the best pieces advice I can give a student teacher or a new teacher is that do not be afraid to make a mistake. I know that you are trying to not only impress your cooperating/mentor teacher, the other teachers, the administration, the parents, and the students. That’s a lot of eyes on you and you may feel like if you mess up just once, even slightly, it is over and everyone has lost faith in you and your ability. That is simply not true. We all make mistakes from novices to veterans. It is ok to be wrong. It is ok to screw up. Granted it isn’t pleasurable to be either of those things, and if all of us had our way, we’d never be wrong or make a mistake. However, that just isn’t realistic. The lessons that stick, are the lessons where you screwed up. That’s how it is. Everything I know, and I’m good at, I had to learn. I learned a lot by screwing up, and fixing it. It is embarrassing. It is not a pleasant feeling, but it is reality. If you make a mistake, learn from it, make adjustments, and don’t beat yourself up about it which solves nothing. As you gain experience your choices and decisions will more and more start to be the right ones. My father told me the great thing about the next day is that it is a new day. So you made a mistake teaching the lesson for the students the previous day. Go in and explain to your students what happened and fix it. Your students will gain a lot of respect for you when you admit this and they will learn it is ok to make mistakes too (I call that a twofer). I am entering my 10th year in education and 2nd year as an assistant principal. I am still learning everyday, but I have learned to not let the fear of screwing up hold me back from helping students, teachers, and parents. As you enter each day, take a deep breath, smile, and go into your classroom to help your students get a great education. You are up to this. You will be a great teacher when you stop trying to impress/emulate other veterans around you and just be you. I believe in you!

    • Richard says:

      Thank you for this reminder. I think it’s easy to forget because of all the pressures you have mentioned, but the reality is we will make mistakes. The most important thing will be how will we respond to this. We can either let the mistake eat us up, or we can learn from it and make adjustments/improvements. Again, thank you for reminding me that it is ok to mess up, that messing up is another opportunity to learn and grow as I continue to work towards being an aspiring educator.

    • Judy says:

      Thank you!
      Your comments are, I think, the most helpful, and I appreciate your advice. I’m starting tomorrow, and I’m so happy that I found this tonight. I am too hard on myself. You’re right: I will make mistakes. And I will be thinking of your words when I do (in a good way).

    • Ferzana says:


      Thank you for that wonderful post. It’s just what I needed to hear. I started student teaching and “fear of making mistakes” is something that is constantly on my mind. It holds me back from putting forth my best self and I know it’s still early in the game. I am learning that patience is key to the whole process. I want to be the best not because I think this is a competition but merely for the students. They need excellent educators. Luckily, I am at a great placement with wonderful faculty members. Everyone is extremely helpful and I’m appreciative. One thing that I love about the education field is that you meet these people that have the same type of heart that you have. People that are compassionate, caring, considerate, and empathetic. It’s truly a rewarding experience and I know I chose the right profession.

      Once again, thank you!!

  23. Allison P Penrod says:

    Thank you go much for posting this! And thank you to everyone contributing! It’s surprisingly difficult to find good resources/advice for student teaching or even just things geared towards secondary education. Love your blog and podcast, keep it up!

  24. Laura M. says:

    Show humility. I’ve seen many student teachers in my school who arrive and already know it all, or want to appear as though they do. They don’t. Who could, just starting out? No one expects you to know everything, and you’ll get a sense of the teachers you want to emulate by the way they answer your questions.

    The point about a professional wardrobe is a great one! I’ve seen young women bouncing out of their shirts and barely able to bend over to help a kindergartner tie his or her shoe without revealing more than anyone should see in a professional setting.

    If you’re working with young children, please don’t continually talk about how “cute” they are. They ARE cute (and funny), but they’re NOT puppies and kittens and if all you can speak to is how cute they are, you’re not seeing them as learners. They are multifaceted. Be sure to look at them through the eyes of an educator, first and foremost.

  25. Laurel Mattern says:

    Great list! Two other pieces of advice:

    1. Try to start student teaching on the first day of the school year, or even earlier! I met with my cooperating teacher before the semester started, even though I wasn’t required to be there until the 2nd week of school. I was able to listen to the teachers plan for the year as well as help with Meet the Teacher so that the parents were able to meet me. It was also invaluable to have witnessed a “first day of school” so that I had an idea of how it should flow.

    2. Stay after hours when possible (within reason). Go to planning meetings, help the teacher get activities ready, etc. This will show that you are a hard worker and are willing to go the extra mile.

  26. Libby says:

    Learn student names as early as possible…when students realize you want to know them and can call them by name they buy into your teaching.
    Jennifer……how about one of these lists for the host teacher? I am super excited to host two student teachers this fall and I think I am as nervous as they probanly are!

  27. Jennifer says:

    I love the advice! I must disagree about creating a separate social media account to friend students. I believe we need to show students that social media can be a good outlet and a great way to network without being ridiculous. I do think you need to scrub your account and take away all things that make you unappealing to administration.

    I love the marigold post! It’s so true. I had a terrible experience but I had marigolds in my life that kept me going and encouraged me to continue my passion.

  28. sameera says:

    Great work Jennifer!

  29. relationships are everything – with parents, teachers, and especially your students. Work on these first and foremost and everything else will be easier.

    Also I wish I had taken more photos in my first years of teaching! Parents really appreciate when you hand them photos of their kids at the end of the year as do the students…and it’s a great way to remember your classes after a few years have passed ?

  30. Two things:
    1) Always think of yourself as a teacher. Respect the students and expect respect from them, but remember that you are the adult and they are still children. As tempting as it is, don’t try to be their friend/buddy/aunt/uncle/mom/dad. Be their teacher!
    2) After you finish, don’t be afraid of substituting for a year or two (or even three, like I did). Being a substitute teacher will give you time to hone your craft and learn about many different teaching styles!

  31. Great points, I would like to say that students should feel comfortable with their teachers in every manner. If teachers will be free with students, then the students would find easy to share their views with them. To be a better teacher you should know your students well.

    The idea of being in touch with your students through social media is a great and appreciable thought.

  32. Monica Knuppe says:

    My advice:

    Make copies of all lessons, and put in a box to take with you. You have no idea what job you are going to get.

    Do a bit of volunteering, show up to the student games, stop by the chess club. This will help people write letters of recommendation for you.

    There are many ways to teach, there is no perfect way of teaching. Remind yourself, that perfection can cause a lot of stress. It is better to focus on what is going right, not what did not.

    I think the clothing advice is very good, college clothes really are often not work clothes.

    Smile and love your students, cause that is the best part of teaching.

    Good luck

  33. Jenny says:

    I second Adam: I’ll be student teaching 2nd and 4-6 LS in the fall, and I’m so glad I found this article and these comments before the semester hit! Do any seasoned teachers have advice for the “marigold” bit? As student teachers, we’re pushed to base our school-wide relationships off of our cooperating teachers’ relationships. How should I find and develop a relationship with a marigold, if that person is not naturally my cooperating teacher, in a professional way?

    • Grace says:

      Just be friendly and courteous to everyone. Make a habit of hanging around the teacher’s lounge when you can. I think the marigold article says “Walnut Trees” tend to hang out there, but my experience has been the opposite. Say hi and introduce yourself to everyone you meet. The people who bother to be friendly back and start conversations with you are likely marigolds. I got a lot out of commiserating with the young teachers (1st or 2nd year) in the building, since they were still getting their sea legs, too. Observing other teachers helps with this, too, since it gives you an opportunity to interact with and learn from teachers other than your cooperating teacher.

  34. Katie says:

    I would add to the observation piece – don’t just observe teachers teaching; observe students, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, support staff, coaches, etc, etc interacting. Take notes on what you like and don’t like about the school culture so that you have some idea what to look for when you start interviewing (and interview during the school day whenever possible!). I messed that one up and ended up really unhappy with the culture of my first teaching job – something I probably could have avoided if I just had some idea of what to watch for.

    Also, don’t just clean up your social media – especially if you teach older students who *will* want to follow you, change your facebook/instagram/etc name so that students cannot do a simple search to find you. Although you can easily deny their requests, it’s a lot less hassle if they can’t find you in the first place.

  35. Linda says:

    There are a lot of great ideas here! I would add the following:
    1. Observe teaching but also look at organizational practices, classroom arrangements, class schedules, etc. This is something you will be expected to create your first year and makes a huge difference in your classroom climate, discipline, etc. Take pictures of ideas you like and upload them to your own pinterest boards.
    2. BE ON TIME (and do what is expected of you). I feel like I should not really have to say this, but I have had issues with this as a host teacher in the past. If you are expected to be at staff meetings, be there. If your host teacher tells you to have a particular lesson or center activity planned, do what you have to do (come early/stay late/work at home) to get it done in a professional manner. Nothing should look like it was done at the last minute or that you really didn’t care.
    3. Learn as much as you can about organizing field trips and community outreach as well as who helps in the school with various needs (ex: What paperwork do you turn in if you have concerns about a student’s academic/behavioral performance? Who does that paperwork go to? What does a Behavior Intervention Plan look like and who is responsible for it? What does an IEP look like? Who do you tell if YOU are injured and what’s the procedure? etc).
    4. Be careful not to criticize yourself in front of the kids. If they give you a complement, say thank you. Over the years, I have (unfortunately!) heard many student teachers discount students’ complements. (EX: saying “I look fat today” or “My hair’s a mess.”) The kids LOOK UP to you! If they think you are pretty, maybe just accept that you are in their eyes.

    And most importantly, be open to learning! (It never ends!)

  36. Kristin says:

    This kind of goes with networking, but if possible ask the principal or assistant principal to come observe your teaching at some point. Usually they are glad to do it if they have the time! Anyone who has seen you teach can be a reference when applying for jobs and it may also be beneficial if you apply at that school because they have personally seen you in action! Plus, it’s nice to get feedback from them! With that comes being open to constructive criticism from whomever it may be from. You’re just beginning your career! You aren’t going to be perfect and there will always be room to grow and improve!

  37. Stephanie Caraway says:

    Keep a journal. Write in it every single night. Write about your day, your fears, celebrations, confusion, your new friends, mistakes, successes, life. Make it both a professional and personal journal so that you aren’t torn about what you should and should not write. Keep it private.

  38. David says:

    When I was a first year, alternate route teacher, I walked into the classroom like a deer in the headlights. My “challenging” students immediately sensed my lack of experience and authority, and chaos ensued. So my advice to any beginning teacher would be, “Never let them see you sweat.” Project authority, even if you are sure you have no flaming clue what you’re doing.

    Also, regarding social media, our state’s teacher code of conduct forbids us to communicate with students by any media other than official school channels, like my school email account. Before setting up that professional social media page, check the rules in your area.

  39. I am a new teacher blogger myself, and after I published my latest piece (“The Do’s and Don’ts of Student Teaching”) I found this piece! Awesome advice here! Thanks! I’ll be starting my 18th year of teaching this fall, and I just started blogging at the beginning of July. I’ll be sure to follow your website – it looks like it has great content. If there are any teachers looking from some goodies and freebies, that is my focus at I’m looking to pay it forward to other educators!

  40. Awesome list! Love its practicality. From the other side–tips for teachers of interns–here are my top 8. It was originally a much longer list, but couldn’t keep them all. What an honor it is to be a mentor teacher for that intern!

  41. Lauren says:

    Go to meetings with your mentor teacher and participate, especially in content planning. It will give department heads or instructional specialists at the school to meet you, which is definitely good if you are hoping to get a job at that campus or district later.

  42. Michelle says:

    This article caught my eye right away because I will be student teaching this spring and feel pretty nervous! I think like my online profile is pretty tame, people will know my favorite animal is a giraffe but I think that’s okay.
    I also like that you include a lot of specific examples. For instance, you describe what networking actually looks like as a student teacher. Deciding to volunteer at extra-curricular activities may seem like a lot of work when you’re already exhausted but I think it can be well worth it.
    Overall, you and the comments included have a lot of great advice and I thank you for it!

  43. Amalia says:

    I’m a preservice teacher at the University of Illinois gearing up for student teaching in the spring and I couldn’t wait to read this article and the comments to hear everyone’s advice for student teachers. I’ll admit that student teaching is something I’m both very excited to start and also very nervous to start. I really thought that each piece of advice in this article seemed genuinely helpful and I’d say the same for many of the comments. I do have one question I have for you or other teachers in the comments that wasn’t brought up. As a student teacher, do you have any suggestions for how to get to know your host teacher before officially starting your student teaching? Would you say it’s better to meet your host teacher first outside of the school setting or is it better to meet in the classroom?

    • Grace says:

      Ask your host teacher. I invited mine out to lunch, but he just didn’t have the time. We did exchange several e-mails, however, which helped, and ideally, you’ll have a lot of opportunities to chat with them during your plan periods. I don’t think not meeting them ahead of time is a huge issue; it wasn’t for me. That being said, the first time I met my host teacher was when I walked into his first period class, so I definitely would have at least preferred to have touched base with him ahead of time. If you can, some student teachers go in for the teacher work days at the beginning of the school year (or around report card time), but again, ask your host teacher. He or she may be counting on getting a lot of work done that day and might not have time to talk to you, which just comes with the territory of this job.

  44. Chris says:

    My advice for student teachers? Work on figuring out your “teacher personality”. If you know who you are, what you will (or will not) share in terms of your life outside of school, what you will or will not tolerate for behavior, etc, it will project that sense of “adultness” and strength that kids look for.

    That being said, be humble enough to learn from anyone & everyone you can, and to make adjustments to your philosophy as new information and experiences come in.

    Accept your non-perfection as a growth opportunity for everyone involved & an opportunity to learn and model flexibility in the face of adversity for your students.

    • This is awesome advice, Chris! I think a big part of developing that personality is looking around for teachers you admire, then cobbling together the pieces of their personalities that work for you.

  45. Kevin says:

    Be yourself. Treat kids with respect and empathy. Schools are not the precursor to the military. I teach high school so I can’t speak about the little ones. Forget everything they told you in ed classes. We aren’t here to develop test takers.

  46. Teresa Johnson says:

    This is awesome! How can I print this? Would love to have in print form.

    • Hey, Teresa! This is Holly, a Customer Experience Manager. The best advice we have right now is to copy and paste into either Word or Google Docs (or whatever you’d usually use). Jenn is in the process of finding an easier solution, but for now, that’s what we’ve got. I’m sorry we don’t have a better way yet!

  47. All great suggestions and sound advice! I would add, if possible, try to find a “master teacher” and work with that person or at least find one for a mentor with whom you can meet regularly to have a conversation about challenges, concerns, observations, and best practices.

  48. Sarah says:

    Be yourself. Bring your own personality to the classroom. Some student teachers feel they need to mold themselves into a copy of their master teacher. Don’t deprive your class of your unique personality and experiences. It can also be a breath of fresh air for your host teacher.

  49. Cal Hadd says:

    Advice:Run. Run Fast. Turn around, run and keep going. Don’t look back. Seriously.

  50. Grace says:

    This is all great advice! This article sums up what I usually say to new teachers. I would also add: be mindful of how you treat not only the other teachers, but also the other staff members: secretaries, custodians, security staff, etc. Secretaries especially are a) the best humans and miracle workers and b) very tight with the principal. If you are rude to them, chances are word will get back to the principal, and it will reflect poorly on you professionally.

    Secondly, try your best to get along with your mentor teacher, but if you feel like they don’t like you or it’s a poor fit, don’t panic. I was blessed to have two mentors I loved, but a lot of other student teachers in my cohort learned just as much from not-so-good mentor teachers. They just learned a lot more about what NOT to do. One girl had such a conflicted relationship with her mentor, the program was willing to find her a new one, so if you feel the problem is irreconcilable, you can always go to your professors and advisors and ask if they can move you anywhere else. Respectfully disagreeing with your mentor doesn’t make you a bad student teacher and isn’t the end of the world. It just means you have different philosophies, and you have an opportunity to learn more about why they teach like that and what the relative benefits and drawbacks are.

  51. halala says:

    Jennifer thank a million for this open conversation and the great list you wrote in here I will be starting my own teaching practice on 18 april 2017, gotta say I am a bit nervous on whether I will leave a remarkable mark, or whether the educators will be welcoming however this and these comments have helped me a lot. out of the school politics focus on the learners, ask questions, observe a lot and writes, work effortlessly hard. thank you guys a lot. God bless

  52. Deborah says:

    1). People are complex and children are more so. You need to connect emotionally, before you can teach them. Sometimes they will need you emotionally and you need to stop everything to meet their needs. Don’t brush this aside because you’re busy. This is the most important part of being a teacher.

    2). Find the people in your building who will support you. Just like in any office or school, there are people that will not be respectful or considerate of you. Try to avoid these people in a respectful way and seek the supporters around you. If you cannot escape a toxic person or they are trying to sabotage you, leave and don’t look back!

    3). Find balance and take care of yourself. It is easy to burn out emotionally and physically in teaching.

  53. Kaitlyn says:

    I still have three semesters left before student teaching, but I’m already so nervous about it. I’m also nervous about the certification tests.

  54. 1. Have a sense of humor. There’s a treasure trove of pristine teenage/pre- teen humor out there that you can use appropriately to enhance your teaching and provide you entertainment.
    2. Observe other teachers a lot.
    3. Use as much non-verbal communication as you can.
    4. Communicate with parents.
    5. Have your co-operating teacher film some lessons.
    6. Exercise!!
    7. Budget time away where you separate completely from the classroom and let it all out!
    8. Appreciate the intrinsic rewards. You shan’t be rich.

  55. Donn Gallon says:

    Participate in everything you can get to. PLC’s and if you have an idea and can share do it. You are seeing things fresh and you might have an insight that people who have been there a long time might miss. Another plus is that you have exposure to the latest ideas and trends from your class you may also have insight that people out of school a long time might not be aware of. Also show up to the extra curricular things at the school you are student teaching at. Sports games, recitals, family nights, PTO/PTA etc… Showing you care outside of normal business hours might get you a leg up if they have open jobs after you finish your assignment. Even bigger is that the kids really do notice who is there and that is who we are ultimately there for. So many smiles for me when I was student teaching the next day after circulating at after school events.

  56. 1. Don’t be afraid to change the way you approach your lesson by 3rd period if it didn’t work out 1st and 2nd period (for high school teachers with only one class). Whatever is written on paper as a lesson plan is a guideline, but the classroom is a living and breathing “thing!” Make changes as you need to and be flexible.

    2. Always have a plan B for technology. Always.

    3. Get to school early. Walking in 10 minutes before the bell rings doesn’t come off well.

    4. Do not try to be friends with the students (at the high school level). You don’t have to do the whole, “Never smile the first semester” junk, but do remain professional and don’t get pulled in by their questions of where you shop, if you have a boyfriend, what do you do on weekends etc.

    5. Do your best and know that the teacher you are today will be very different from the teacher you will be in 5, 10 or even 25 years. That’s okay. You should always be changing because the field itself is in constant change.

    6. Save notes of praise or make a folder for nice emails from coworkers. Go back to this folder on rough day. 🙂

  57. Beth says:

    Have fun! Create good memories. I had the BEST student teaching experience. I immediately was a co-teacher and then moved into responsibility for the class. My mentor, of course, always ultimately had control….but she was so seamless in letting me “manage” the class from the beginning. She was the invisible safety net that I didn’t have after I had my own class.

    Appreciate your time. Have fun. These first few years have been super hard, but I hold on to the memory of fun during student teaching and know that over time this will become my classroom. I will eventually be my own safety net…..

  58. Linda Spycher says:

    Take care of yourself! Get lots of sleep. Keep a regular schedule. Eat healthy. Take vitamins. Don’t be surprised when you get sick. You’re going to be exposed to everything imaginable; sick happens.

  59. EL says:

    Always plan plan and over plan. Have a place for ” absent” work. By that I mean if you’re ever absent unexpectedly. You never know when a sickness or emergency may keep you out of the classroom. Be friendly but resist being a know it all!!! The secretary is your best friend!!! Woo her ( or him)!!!!

  60. Barbara Conrad says:

    Learn to ask other students to add to what another has answered or restate what was just said. It keeps everyone listening to the discussion since they may have to contribute at any time and be aware of what others say.

    But best of all , it eliminates the back and forth teacher student pattern of question and answer. It generates a room full of contributors.

  61. Find ways to laugh and delight at what the students are doing. Seeking out ways to appreciate students helps with teacher-learner bonding. Contrast this with the instructor who is braced for the class to get out of hand. So find things that are adorable about kids—even the ones who challenge your authority. For example, watch how expert teachers send a misbehaving kid into the hall for a private talk. They still appreciate their own professional role (hey—I’m a teacher and I’m helping out!). They look for ways to signal to the challenging child that tomorrow will be a do-over. Their affect and language signals that they are too professional, too awesome, and too together to become uptight by a child’s tantrum.

    Confident teachers manifest vibrant personalities that are bigger than the default teacher role. They find ways to share who they are, so that they aren’t just a school functionary. The more texture there is to your personality, the bigger your personal charisma.

    Enjoy being you. Enjoy your kids. Enjoy this time of your life. This is your story. Be your story.

  62. Dylan Smith says:

    Teaching needn’t be a lonely struggle, not ever. Strive to lead like a parent. Offer dignity and partnership to your Ss. Share plans for the week ahead, and invite feedback when appropriate. Warmly articulate the pay-offs of acceptance, and cooperative discipline. Train them to be curriculum and assessment experts. Recognize and celebrate growth. Have some fun.

  63. Kenedy says:

    I really like this post… especially the part about the “next year notebook”. I am a new teacher and during my student practicum I started a list of things I would need to set up for the beginning of the year (even simple things like class rules or daily schedule) and that list was a huge help when I got hired two weeks before classes started! I would also add to keep things in perspective during practicum. I was really hard on myself as a student teacher and had partner teachers with really high expectations of me as well. I really appreciated all they taught me, but honestly I feel like it is easier to have my own class. I am less burnt out after 4 months with my own class then I ever was during practicum. Your advice about having a buddy was key. Having friends who can compare experiences and put things into perspective helped me realize that I could still make it as a teacher, and that’s it wouldn’t always be that hard!

  64. Michaela Bush says:

    I’m new to this website and will definitely be following it. I’m currently a junior in college with my Bachelor and I’ve been researching my Master’s… I know I have a while to go until I reach the end stages of certification like student teaching and the exams and whatnot, but I thought it’s never too early to ask questions. I don’t really have many people to talk about this, so I’m really hoping someone can provide some insight…I love the idea of helping kids with English, and I’ve always been passionate about the subject area. I help some individuals and friends online with editing and grammar topics and enjoy that thoroughly, but lately, the more I research the process and eventual tasks as a new teacher, I get a full-blown panic about it. Can’t even sleep! Just everything seems so hectic and simultaneously like a thin line that doesn’t allow for mistakes. One minute I’m excited for the opportunity to help kids in a subject area that a lot need assistance in; the next I’m can’t-breathe-terrified. Some people say they could never see me teaching and others say they hope I do so. I’m a rather quiet, introverted individual who can also talk endlessly about the subject area, but lately I’ve been wondering if I’m just not cut out for the job–or if the idea of being so close to a final, lifelong career is just freaking me out. Maybe I’m just not suited for teaching? Did anyone else experience this amount of doubt and nervousness about their teaching career? What are some things I can consider about secondary ed (good, bad, and the ugly)? Any advice would be appreciated so, so much…

    • Hi Michaela,

      I work with Cult of Pedagogy and we’re glad you found us! You’ve got a lot on your mind – and I can see it’s wearing on you. You sound excited about teaching, but it’s feeling pretty scary and the unknown is starting to shed some doubts. I’m not exactly sure what kind of research you’ve done, but any time I read too much at one time, I also get that overwhelming feeling which usually is a signal for me to take a step back and slow down — get back to taking smaller steps that are manageable. While it’s true teaching can feel very hectic and overwhelming, it’s also really really rewarding. You seem to recognize that you still have quite a bit of the program to go through, so is it possible to talk to your advisor, your teachers, or other students who’ve gone through the program about maybe just 1 or 2 of your top concerns? And as far as mistakes go, while there are many important things teachers need to keep track of and understand, I wouldn’t have been the teacher I was if I didn’t learn from my mistakes. Here are some articles that touch upon the things that are on your mind — I hope they’re helpful. 7 Strategies for Surviving as an Introverted Teacher by John Spencer, 11 Things That Happen When You’re a Teacher and Also an Introvert, and Where Should I Teach? Comparing Elementary, Middle, and High Schools by Brian P. Gatens

    • Katie says:

      Thank you for the advice and tips for introverts and second career teachers! I’m in my first student teaching placement currently and am having all the feelings of doubt and insecurity compared to everyone else. It’s comforting to know there are others out there who are going through the similar things. So glad I stumbled on this website! Already signed up to follow more.

  65. Beatrix Whitehall says:

    I am so overwhelmed right now! I am in the middle of my student teaching, and it doesn’t seem to be going well. Sometimes I wonder how I will ever pass this semester. I was just informed that my midterm grade is not going to be good. How do I get out of this hole and back on track? I have trouble with lesson plans, among other things, and I cannot seem to get students off their cell phones. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  66. Christian Lemke says:

    I had wished for advice to do with this when I began: Teaching is often solitary work, but need not be lonely, and, relax into not knowing exactly what to do next. Trust your instincts, and allow ideas time to percolate. It’s unwise to think that spending solitary time thinking, instead of grading 3 more or answering an email, is time wasted.

  67. Sharon Pelech says:

    A great discussion! I would say even though the pressure is on for you to perform, get to know the students and who they are as learners. Spend time before being in front of the class working with small groups and individuals so you really have an opportunity to connect and learn who they are and their interests/needs.

    Also use this time to try new ideas and ways of teaching, don’t just stick to how you are taught. With having partner teachers and university support, you have a safety net. Step out of your comfort zone!

  68. Bonnie says:

    Above all else, be flexible. Maybe there’s a sudden assembly that cuts right into your lesson. Don’t kvetch. Breathe. Rethink.
    Always be respectful to your students. Your model is good for them. Someone calls another “dummy.” You say, “Unacceptable. No one is a dummy in this class. If you feel your classmate needs help, offer it.”
    Listen to them. Some mighty wise words have escaped my students over the years. It’s that pause you take that makes you a better teacher.

  69. I agree with much of what has been said. I tell the student teachers that I have worked with is what you observe from the experienced teachers did not occur over night. I struggled with class discipline and class management as well as making myself a presence in the classroom I agree with wardrobe tips as well. Students are looking at what we wear and form opinions with that first encounter. A good pair of shoes is a must because you will be on your feet all day. Don’t get involved with the politics on campus and make the office manager your best friend because he/she is the person running the school operations. Make time for yourself because this job is extremely stressful. It is ok to fail and not reach every student because if you focus on saving every student you will burn out. Join Twitter is you haven’t (create an account strictly for education) as there are wonderful resources and teachers who are willing to share, share and share.

  70. Claudia Marie says:

    Thank you Jennifer, there are some awesome tips. I wish I had come across this when I first started. One thing that I struggle with is the work load between student teaching and also taking Masters classes. It’s good because I am still in the student experience so I understand work from the students’ perspectives. However, what are some ways that you think are important for student teachers to learn how to recharge before entering the field? When you have so much on your plate and so much to accomplish what keeps you going?

  71. Peg says:

    The number one piece of advice I would give, especially if you are working with challenging students is, NEVER take anything personally. Kids who are acting out are hurting in some way, and it’s not about you. Be kind, be patient, and don’t internalize the crazy. 😊

  72. Eszter Ablonczy says:

    It was very helpful to read your thoughts and the comments, too. For me, it will be important to find and spend time with “marigold” teachers outside of school. When teaching, not to dwell on anything for too long, but keep the flow fast-paced. I will remember the advice about taking time to not say anything, just wait and let the silence do its job. Not letting myself be worn out and exhausted, so I can maintain a positive attitude, see the good in all students, and be encouraging and respectful toward them.

  73. Alyssa Gill says:

    I am currently student teaching, and after reading your blog can 100% agree with everything. I, too, have a peer who is in the same school as me doing her student teaching as well. She has been an absolute lifesaver when I needed extra advise and help on assignments and situations during my experience. I also loved the marigold idea. My cooperating teacher is someone that I definitely view as my marigold, someone that has the same teaching style that I do and I want to be like.

  74. Resa says:

    Good advice. I’ll add a few things:

    – Observe classrooms as often as possible during your college years. Teach a 10-15 minute lesson as often as possible. The classroom looks very different from the teacher’s side of the desk, and this is a way to be SURE it’s for you.
    – Every time you observe in a classroom, leave a thank you note on the teacher’s desk. You may end up student teaching (or applying for a job) in this school, and you want every teacher to have a solidly positive impression of you.
    – Sign up to be a substitute teacher in the county where you hope to student teach. The two main ways teachers get their first job are 1) student teaching and 2) substitute teaching.
    – Recognize that every time you go into a school to observe, you are applying for a job. We teachers remember the college students who come in wearing sweatpants and playing on their phones vs. the ones who come in appropriately dressed and paying attention.
    – On that subject, never bring out your phone. It goes back to that, Recognize that you’re applying for a job.
    – When college students come into my classroom to observe, and they ask how they can prepare for student teaching, I tell them that in every semester leading up to student teaching they should buy one professional outfit and put away a bit of money (no matter how poor you are in college, student teaching is probably going to be more difficult financially).
    – Develop a system for keeping up with lessons people give you. These will be infinitely useful in the future.
    – Never fail to give credit for other people’s lessons. Teachers are nice about sharing, but we don’t like to be taken advantage of.
    – Student teaching is more difficult than real teaching because you’re always being watched.
    – It takes three years to feel comfortable /feel like you know what you’re doing in the classroom.

  75. Fatemeh albooyeh says:

    Great Advice! I will be starting my student teaching in Spring semester and I am very nervous. Reading this article and the comments was extremely helpful. As I see myself as an introverted person, I feel like I need to hang out here more often to find solutions to fix my problems. English is my second language and it has made it very difficult for me to initiate a conversation as I am afraid to make a mistake. I really like this website. Thanks for the great information!

  76. Mallory Riebhoff says:

    Thank you for all of the advice in this read! I was wondering if you would be able to write an article about sample questions to ask your host as a student teacher or advice for being with the kids in the classroom for the first time?

    • Margaret Harris-Shoates says:

      Hi, Mallory! There are a few suggestions for sample questions in Section 1 of the post: Ask All the Questions. It’s likely that many more will come to you as you encounter various experiences in classroom. A good rule of thumb is to ask “Why?” often. This will help give you insight into your host teacher’s decision making processes and will hopefully support you in making strong decisions rooted in your own teaching philosophy in the future. You may also find some inspiration on the Cult of Pedagogy First-Year Teachers Pinterest board. I hope this helps!

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