Student teaching is a pivotal part of a prospective teacher's career. It's a time when future teachers work alongside classroom veterans to demonstrate skills they've learned and gain real-life classroom experience. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for student teachers to get the full experience.
As schools continue to adjust to remote learning, student teachers face new challenges. They must figure out how to connect with their students and host teacher in the virtual environment, and they must adjust to new technologies and their glitches.
Further Reading: How iDialogue Connects Students Across Continents
Here are a few challenges student teachers face during remote learning—and a few tips on how to overcome them.
Connecting with Host Teachers
Successful remote learning depends more on teachers and the design of the learning program than the in-person instruction. While it might seem as though a lot of weight is on you, your host teacher is there to help you. However, you must be prepared to receive, respond to, and implement constructive feedback.
Host teachers are doing their best to prepare virtual learning instruction plans, and challenges will occur. It's incumbent on you to know when to connect with your mentor teacher and when to ask for help. Experienced teachers can be intimidating. When I was student teaching, I didn't have a good experience in one of my placements. In hindsight, I wish I had asked my mentor when a good time to connect with her was instead of just winging it.
In the virtual learning environment, you can easily email your teacher and never feel as though you're bothering them, as they'll respond to your questions when it's convenient for them. Remember: When you are in a remote mentoring relationship, you need to embrace flexibility and understanding. Ask your host teacher when the best time to connect with them is.
Connecting with Students
Forming a connection with students is essential for student development, whether you're in remote learning or in the classroom. The American Psychological Association says that positive student-teacher relationships have long-lasting effects on students' academic and social development. Having a good relationship with a teacher might also motivate students to come back to online classes.
It's important to imagine the learning experience from the perspective of the online student. Ask yourself what it would take to capture your attention if you were learning online. Forming relationships with students, teachers, and faculty will only add to your student teaching experience.
One of my favorite ways to connect to students is through small check-ins: phone calls, postcards, leaving small gifts on the porch, or putting up secret yard signs. You could also try to connect with your students by making virtual meetings fun. A colleague of mine has dress-up days (pajama day, hat day, color day, etc.); I've heard of other teachers hosting online scavenger hunts or "fort nights" where students build forts and have virtual class inside. Find creative ways to connect—any contact will make a world of difference to students.
Dealing with Technology (and Glitches)
It's important to manage your expectations and get familiar with the technology you use to stay connected.
Whether you're a tech-savvy teacher or not, you must know how to get around your digital platform. You should be able to navigate your way around classroom announcements and assignments and know how to post and comment.
No matter how well-versed you are in your digital platform, though, you'll run into problems. Your school should have an IT professional on staff; keep their number handy. Have a clearly communicated and readily available backup plan, too, so students know what to do if there is a tech glitch.
Further Reading: How to Combat Absenteeism during Remote Learning Days
Have fun and take risks—but remember that we're living in an uncertain time and that everyone is just trying to do their best under the circumstances. Use this concept as a driving force to learn new things, take on new challenges, and be ready for the unexpected.