Tag Archive: initiative


“Be a wonderful role model because you will be the window through which many children will see their future” Thomas Mckinnon

Thankfully I had an extremely successful and positive student teaching experience. Lat year I was very thankful for the seniors who gave me advice about student teaching and helped to make the process less scary. While there is no recipe on how to have a successful student teaching experience I hope the following tips may help you in some way.

20 Tips for a Successful Student Teaching Experience

  1. Take Initiative– I believe  to have a successful experience and get the most out of every opportunity you must take the initiative instead of just sitting back and observing. From my experience it seems like most co-ops are waiting for their student teacher to jump in and help instead of asking them to do something. My advice is from day one don’t be afraid to ask if you can do something or just do it.  For example during rehearsal if your co-op is working with the flutes go back and help the percussion figure out a rhythm they were struggling with. It is the little things like this that help you to get experience and is something that most co-ops want to see.
  2. Get to Know Your Students– It is very important to get to know all of your students early on. They will respond so much better to you if they know you care about them and are trying to get to know them. This starts by learning their names. Do whatever you need, but try to learn their names as quickly as possible. Not only does this show the students that you care about them it also helps a great deal with classroom management. Some suggestions for getting to know students names are; always call them by name (never just point, if you don’t know their name yet just ask them), have students put a name tag on their desk or music stand, make up a seating chart, pass back homework by calling out their name. These are just a few suggestions that helped me learn names faster. Finally with getting to know your students, try to get to know them outside of your classroom. Talk with them before and after class, in the hall etc. and find out more about them. Students will do much more for you if they can see you genuinely care about them.
  3. Flexibility– Be flexible and willing to change your plans on the spot. It is extremely important to always be well prepared, but you also need to be willing to deviate from your plans if necessary. Many unexpected things take place daily in the classroom causing you to have to change your plans on the spot. This can be scary at first, but as long as you know what you want to get accomplished that day it doesn’t matter if that wasn’t your original plan. As a student teacher  it is important to as quickly as possible to get away from relying solely on your written lesson plan. A lot of teaching is learning to fly by the seat of your pants and making it work for your students. Some days changing your plans is what is best for the students and going on with your original plan would just be counterproductive.
  4. Have an Open Mind– As a student teacher it is extremely important to have an open mind and try new things. Student teaching is a time for experimenting and trying different lessons, projects, teaching styles etc. While you want to find what works for you it is important to keep an open mind and try new things because you never know what might work the best. In my opinion some of the best teachers are the ones that are willing to try new things and are not just stuck in an old routine.
  5. Confidence– It is very important to have confidence from day one when up in front of the students. Your students will quickly be able to tell if you are not confident in what you are doing and will take  advantage of that. Of course those first few times teaching as a student teacher are nerve-racking, but try to not let them come through to your students. Show your students your level of musicianship and that you know what you are talking about. This also helps in gaining respect from your students.
  6.  Don’t Assume- Don’t automatically assume that the students know the basics. My students were lacking in basic skills which I didn’t know about prior to my experience. For example in my high school placement we were working on a scale worksheet and I assumed the students knew the order of the sharps and flats and the names of the notes, lines, and spaces (many of the students know how to finger a note when they see it, but they aren’t able to tell you the note name). Many of the students turned in their papers incorrect. After wondering why I quickly realized the students didn’t know these basics. After reviewing the basics with the students they were able to complete the worksheet more easily. By assuming this more student confusion was caused. Now before giving assignments I make sure I either review these concepts with the students or ask them if they know it before we start.
  7. Balance between Student Teacher and College Student-It is important to find this balance early on in your student teaching experience so that you don’t burn out. It is hard to balance teaching all day and then coming back to college and being a student. I believe it is still important to stay active in ensembles while student teaching, because you need an outlet after a long day of teaching, but it is important to remember that student teaching is always your first priority. Also make sure to take some time for social activities so that you aren’t working 24/7.
  8. Take Care of Yourself- Student teaching is very stressful so make sure you are taking care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, eat healthy and regularly, and take some time for yourself. Also if you do get sick realize that your body needs so rest and don’t be afraid to take a day off.
  9. Eat Breakfast- I know this may sound trivial and silly, but it is extremely important. Teaching is very exhausting and takes a lot of energy so your body needs food to help you keep going. Also, many teachers do not get much of a break for lunch so eating a good breakfast helps you last all day.
  10. Be Professional- I know we all hear this constantly, but it is very important to act and dress professional all the time. People make their first impression very quickly and it can often be hard to change this opinion. I found this is especially important in high school because you are only a few years older than the students. Even when I was dressed professionally I was often mistaken for a high school student. Dressing professionally helps the students remember that you are the person in charge.
  11. Step out of your Comfort Zone– Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone during student teaching. If you never step out of your comfort zone you will be missing out on many learning opportunities. For example during my first week my co-op asked me if I would like to lead a student independent study. I would be helping the student with his jazz music on drum set. I quickly said yes even though drum set is completely out of my comfort zone. I have learned so much about drum set and teaching through this experience and wouldn’t have learned this if I wouldn’t have said yes and stepped out of my comfort zone. 
  12. Think outside of the box– As music teachers we need to be willing to leave our comfort zone and think out of the box. Sometimes this requires extra time and work, but if that is what is going to help our students learn I believe it is well worth it. We need to be willing to try new ideas or do something that is a little different. The worse that can happen is that we find it didn’t work and have to change it for the next time. I believe that when we don’t think out of the box that is when we become stagnant and our lessons are boring for the students. Being able to think out of the box and leave you comfort zone is imperative as a music teacher so I urge undergraduates if this is something you struggle with start working on it now.
  13. Ask Questions– Don’t be afraid to ask your co-op questions. Your co-op is there to help you learn so take advantage of that because soon you won’t have a co-op there to support you. If something goes wrong in a lesson, or you wonder if there is a better way just ask. Also during those first few days when you are just observing, feel free to ask your co-op why the do something that way. Asking questions is one of the best ways for us as pre-service teachers to learn.
  14. Over Prepare- I found that especially in the beginning I had the most success when I over prepared for lessons. I would recommend planning more material than you will need if you get through things faster than you think. It is always better to have more than not enough. Also really know your lessons and songs inside out. When you are in front of the class you are focused on a million other things and you don’t have time to be thinking about the words to the songs or what you want to do next in the lesson.
  15. Reflections- Going along with asking questions always reflect on every lesson and after every week. Self-reflections are some of the best ways for us to learn and find ways to improve. For me my blog and writing these weekly posts have been my way to self-reflect on everything that has happened. I strongly recommend finding some form of self-reflection whether it be through talking with your co-op, writing journals, keeping a blog etc.
  16. Perseverance– Never give up even when things aren’t going exactly how you would like them too. Keep going and try new things. I have learned that eventually perseverance does pay off and is worth it in the long run. While there are days where it may seem easier to just quit keep your head up and keep going. Remember why you went into teaching and remember the impact that you can and will have on your students.
  17. Be Organized- Being organized is one main key to being successful during student teaching. You have so much paper work that it is very easy to lose track of things and get  overwhelmed. I recommend finding an organizational system during your first week when you are mainly just observing. How I stay organized is I keep a 3 ring binder divided into sections. I have a section for each class I teach, plus sections for school information, and paperwork for the college. I keep all my lesson plans and materials in each class section and then can quickly grab it before class begins.
  18. You aren’t in this Alone- As I have said student teaching can be very stressful and overwhelming, but remember that you are not in this alone. Communicate with other student teachers at your college. This is a great way to get advice and share trouble spots and success stories with each other. Blogs, twitter, #musedchat, and the music pln are other great ways to stay connected with student teachers and current educators. Just remember that there are other people going through the same experiences as you!
  19. Make Mistakes- Student teaching is a time for you to grow and learn. The only way we can do this is by making mistakes and then learning from these mistakes. It is very important to not be afraid to make mistakes because trust me you will make plenty of them. As my advisor always tells us “If you make a mistake make it big and then we can fix it.”
  20. Have Fun- I think one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to just have fun and enjoy every moment of your student teaching experience because it will fly by and be over before you know it. While challenging and stressful, student teaching is supposed to be a fun time so enjoy the moment. This is the only chance you get to teach while having someone with you as support, so take advantage of that and have fun. A few of my friends were dreading student teaching and I don’t know why. It is an awesome experience and you finally get to begin doing what you have worked hard for the past three and a half years. Have fun and view student teaching as the beginning of your teaching career and not as the end of your undergraduate degree
While these tips are meant to help current undergraduates who will be soon student teaching I also believe that a lot of these tips can be helpful for all educators. As always these are just my opinions and experiences so feel free to add more suggestions or leave comments. Look for some recaps on my entire undergraduate career coming soon, as I begin the transition from student to teacher!!

“Teaching is not a profession; it’s a passion. Without passion for you subject and a desire for your students to learn and be the best in the world, then we have failed as a teacher, and failure is not an option.” – John Podojil

This week was by far the most abnormal week of my student teaching experience so far. It started off by me being in an accident on my way to school on Monday, followed by my co-op being sick for 2 days, a delay, and a snow day on Friday. Needless to say because of the weird week the kids were crazy and there was not a ton of teaching that took place, but we made the best out of every moment we had and still got to make music. As I am finishing up my first placement I am definitely still learning, but a lot off the lessons I am learning and challenges I am facing are continuing to repeat. This shows me that the lessons I am learning are extremely important and the challenges I am facing are not challenges that can be overcome in just a few weeks of teaching. Instead of just repeating what I have said the past weeks I thought I would use this weeks reflections to share the biggest  tip for how to have a great student teaching experience. Of course I am only half way done with my experience, but this is oneof the things I have found that have helped me have such a successful experience so far.

Passion

I believe the biggest tip I can give to have a successful student teaching experience is to be passionate about everything you do. The students will quickly be able to see this passion and pick up and run with it. For example one of my senior high band students said to me this week “We love coming to band rehearsals because we know you love making music. As students we like to see teachers who care about what they are doing and aren’t just doing it for a job.” It bothers me when I see music undergraduates who are just in education as a fall  back, but have no want to teach what so ever. I also have e few friends who are apathetic about teaching, but are getting an education degree because they don’t know what else to do. This apathy that unfortunately many undergraduate education students have will follow you into the classroom and your students with see it immediately. If students view their teacher as being apathetic about teaching than that will transfer into the students and they will be apathetic about learning. Today’s educational system needs teachers who are truly passionate about what they teach and aren’t apathetic. If you aren’t passionate about teaching music now as an undergraduate how do you think you are going to be after teaching for 20 years. When student teaching show the students that you are on fire for music and that you love teaching. As I said they will pick up and run with this and great things will happen during your student teaching experience. Student teaching is not an easy experience. For me, my passion and love for sharing music with students is sometimes the only thing that keeps me going. My biggest advice is be a teacher of passion and you will be amazed at the results.

Student teaching has by far been the best part of my undergraduate career. While a great experience, in order for it to be successful it takes a lot of time, energy, and effort. For you undergraduates preparing to student teach in the coming years I hope you find the tip above helpful and that it will help to make your student teaching experience as successful as mine has been so far. At the end of my experience I will be posting my top tips on having a successful experience! I am looking forward to my last 4 days of my high school placement and in next weeks reflection will share more information about my new placement.