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5 Things To Know About Student Teaching

If you are enrolled in WGU’s online teaching programs, working hard toward earning your degree and achieving your goals of becoming a teacher—the next significant step in your journey is student teaching. This milestone puts you one step closer to having a positive impact on students and making a meaningful difference in the classroom. 

Whether you’re just starting your online teaching degree program or your student teaching opportunity is just around the corner, it’s smart to be prepared for the essential next step of gaining critical in-class work experience. 

Already signed up for student teaching? Check out our previous post: Making the Most of Student Teaching

What does student teaching involve? Student teaching is a requirement that asks you to take what you've learned and apply it in a classroom setting. It’s an opportunity for those enrolled in teacher education programs to get a feel for working with students, preparing lesson plans, and what it will be like to be a certified teacher. Here are five things you need to know as you prepare for your student teaching experience. 

1. Meeting Deadlines

This is one of the first times in your program at WGU when you will run into strict deadlines. Student teaching is offered in two cohorts throughout the year: one starting in September and one starting in January. Your Program Mentor can help you submit your student teaching application on time to secure placement in your preferred cohort. Once you are placed in the cohort, you will have three audit deadlines to meet. The deadlines refer to the number of tasks you may have left to complete, when you will need to have certain tests taken, and when you need to have your Preclinical Experiences (PCE) completed. These deadlines are on a document called the Timeline. Your mentor can help you find the correct Timeline for your cohort and program in the student handbook. There are also deadlines for when you’ll need to complete your content exams taken by. You can find all of these deadlines on your Timeline. The purpose of these audits is to ensure that you have completed your coursework and are prepared to begin your student teaching. This aids you in creating an enjoyable and minimally stressful student teaching experience. 

2. Navigating the Placement Process

Securing a student teaching placement is similar to job hunting. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this on your own. WGU will assign a placement specialist who will do the initial outreach for you. Think of schools and districts as potential employers with available positions. Your placement specialist serves as a liaison. They will forward your information and résumé to these institutions to help you secure a student teaching position. Schools and districts ultimately determine whether and when they have an opening for you. While WGU cannot guarantee placements, they can help you apply for several student teaching opportunities to enhance your chances of securing placement.

3. How Long Does the Placement Process Take?

The duration of the placement process varies. It can take up to six months to be accepted for a student teaching position. The decision-making process is in accordance with schools or districts and their hiring procedures, which can take time to be finalized. While your placement specialist will keep you informed throughout the waiting period, keep in mind that they are constrained by the school or district’s hiring procedures. Once a student teaching placement is secured, you'll receive an email detailing the initial arrangements. Following successful completion of your final audit, you'll receive information about your student teaching placement, including the cooperating teacher, grade level, clinical supervisor, and contact information.

4. The Background Check

You must have a current cleared background check to work in any school. Background checks are valid for different time frames in different states. The background check you completed for PCE may be due to expire during your student teaching period, or it may not meet all of your state’s requirements. In both cases, you’ll need to undergo a new background check. Have all of your documentation ready to complete this step as soon as possible, as it can take time for the results to come back. Being prepared to complete a new background check can expedite the process so you don’t have to postpone your student teaching opportunity due to delays. 

5. Student Teaching Is a Full-Time Commitment

To fulfill program and licensure requirements, you must commit fully to your student teaching placement. You may need to make necessary arrangements such as taking a leave of absence, resigning from current employment, securing daycare services, or arranging reliable transportation. Your placement will typically be 12 weeks long, depending on state requirements, with a possible extension to 16 weeks for special education certification programs. Student teaching must be completed in a designated cohort and may not be done in the summer. As a guest educator in a classroom, you will work under the guidance of a licensed cooperating teacher. A clinical supervisor will also observe your teaching skills. You will be evaluated and graded based on the observations of your cooperating teacher and clinical supervisor. 

Understanding how to get on the path to student teaching is an essential step toward becoming a licensed educator. As you prepare for this milestone in your teacher education program, your placement specialist will be happy to answer any other questions for you.   

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