If you’ve recently reached your student teaching milestone (also known as demonstration teaching), then how you get through this next phase is going to set the course for the culmination of your college degree program and how you’ll start your career in your very own classroom. No pressure now, right?
Actually, how you perform during this time is extremely important to you as a new educator. There are things you can do now to ease the pressures and prepare for a successful experience. Those who’ve just successfully completed their own student teaching experiences have the best advice on how to organize, plan and prepare yourself for the journey. And you’ll want to start with preparing yourself mentally, first, before considering your professional preparations. Here’s a few ways to put yourself in the right frame of mind for student teaching:
Further Reading: How to Become a Teacher: 5 Things Student Teachers Should Know
1) Make self-care a priority.
An instinct of educators is to always think of others and to put family and students first. However, it’s important to think about yourself too, and this is a habit you’ll want to learn as a new teacher right out the gate. That means thinking about your mental and physical health, and your wellness, before you step into the classroom. Right now, you could be saying, “I’ve got this.” That’s great for your mental state. Having focused goals sets the stage for a successful experience. However, is your physical health ready as well?
2) Prepare to go the distance.
Dr. Krista Berry, supervisor of teacher success at Western Governors University’s (WGU) Teachers College, said that student teaching is a physically and emotionally draining endeavor for teacher candidates.
“It is quite common to experience exhaustion as you begin your placement,” she said. “So begin this new journey well-rested, hydrated, and understand that you will work lengthy hours with limited breaks.”
Most student teaching placements involve gradual a workflow that fluctuates between lighter and heavier workloads. Being ready and prepared for the physical changes will help you adapt more naturally to the various circumstances in your daily schedule. But know that you’ll adapt, and when you do, remember that daily exercise and eating regularly, along with taking time to relax and rejuvenate during your placement is important for your mental and physical life balance.
3) Delegate family responsibilities.
Preparing yourself means also preparing family members, friends, and home life responsibilities. Prior to starting your placement, explain to those around you that you may not be available to do the things you normally do, or spend the time with them that you normally spend with them.
You may even delegate and discuss ways to share responsibilities such as simple house cleaning, mowing the lawn, or other household chores. Reach-out to any supportive relatives and friends if you feel you may need extra support within your home. Demonstration teaching is a short period of time and you may feel out of balance as you are adjusting. This is a natural and normal process that Dr. Berry refers to as building your “teaching muscles”.
“With time and patience, you will come out stronger and ready for your own classroom,” she said.
Further Reading: This is how you move from being a paraprofessional to a teacher.
You’ve spent several years preparing your mind, academically, to become a teacher. Take these few self-care steps before you start your student teaching experience and they’ll go a long way towards establishing your future success for years to come.
Editor's note: This story is the first in a two-part series. Read also: 7 Ways to Professionally Prepare for Your Student Teaching Experience