Dear Future Teachers,
As I shared last week, I received my Student Teaching placement! After a little more than 2 years of Dear Future Teachers being live, I am beyond excited to finally begin this step in my journey to becoming an educator. For readers who are looking forward to student teaching in the future, I wanted to keep a log of the various components of being a student teacher to help you prepare and provide a glimpse into the tasks you'll eventually complete when it's your turn to take to the classroom! Today, I will be sharing some of the preparation process I experienced as I wait to begin working in my student teaching placement.
Before you begin student teaching, you'll most likely develop an idea of the relative age level you wish to teach with. The first preference, which you would likely select when applying to your specific teaching program, is whether you wish to do Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Special Education, or another specialty that is offered through your school. In Secondary Education, you also have the choice of content area (Math, English, Science, History, etc).
Your teaching program partners with different schools and school districts near your campus. Depending on your campus location, you could be teaching in the same county as your teaching program, or in a neighboring district. My personal district placement process was slightly different as I am a DREAM Resident through the UNC program. My district was selected in advance as part of the DREAM Residency, but it is still part of the districts UNC has partnered with in the past.
After your select your relative grade level, your teaching program may ask for a few of your top preferences in specific grade levels as well as your preferred schools. I want to stress that you may not always get your exact preference. But, that's okay! Don't get disheartened! Most teaching programs will try to accommodate your preferences as much as they can, however it depends on which teachers in the relevant districts are taking on student teachers and how many people in your teaching cohort have similar/different preferences from yourself. In my 1-on-1 placement meeting, I expressed that I would like to be placed in a classroom between the 3rd and 5th grade. I was fortunate in that I could be placed in a 5th grade classroom! However, one of my friends in the program requested 2nd-5th grade and was placed in 1st grade. It can be difficult when you aren't placed exactly where you envisioned, but it can still be a valuable learning experience!
As you may have known already, working with students is a huge liability! Schools try to do everything they can to protect the students you would be working, especially because you are not a hired employee within their district. Paperwork can vary depending on the district, but some paperwork and tasks to plan for are:
A Criminal Background Check. The districts need to make sure there is no criminal history that would create a safety concern for the students you will be interacting with! How to complete a criminal background check varies by district. For some districts, it could be signing a release of information form where you provide personal identification information for the districts to complete the background checks. For other districts, you may need to apply through a portal to be a student teacher, which would include instructions on how to fill out the criminal background check. Some districts could ask for fees to complete the CBC while others may not!
A Health Examination Certificate. Working with students means you are interacting with a lot of different people throughout a day. Unfortunately, it can also be an easy way for different sicknesses to spread between people. To try to protect from severe and easily transmissible illnesses, there are certain vaccinations you must complete to enter the school. I personally had to update my tetanus shot and take a TB test to get signed by my healthcare provider. Your provider must also affirm that you don't have any communicable diseases outlined on your form that would inhibit your work with the school. Plan a trip to your local healthcare provider as soon as you receive your health exam forms!
Additional Forms. While the first two forms are pretty standard for many districts, certain districts may have unique additional paperwork to fill out. In speaking with other people in my cohort, I've found that some districts require recommendations for their student teachers, some require an online application process, Internet policy forms, etc. It's important to make a list of all documents your assigned district needs to make sure you fill out all the requirements on time!
If your teaching program is anything like UNC's, you may have a few weeks between receiving your placement and actually starting in the classroom. There are a few things you can do in the meantime to prepare yourself for your very first day!
Look up the bell schedule for your assigned school. What time does the school day start/end? You'll have a better idea of what times to wake up and head to your placement site as well as around what time you'd be getting out each day. Some schools may ask you to come in a little bit earlier and stay a little bit later than the students do, but the bell schedule is a great way to orient yourself.
Check how far your placement is from where you live. You may be driving, taking public transportation, or carpooling. Checking out the location your placement is at will help you from getting lost on your first day or showing up too early/late!
Go over your student teaching handbook (if applicable). Certain teaching programs may prepare a handbook for all student teachers that detail your student teaching dates/schedule, your expected dress code, and other expectations for your student teaching experience. Going over the handbook is an excellent way to make sure you cover all your bases in your preparation stage.
Preparing for your student teaching can be a little anxiety-inducing, but also exciting! All of the knowledge you've gained in your Education classes will finally be put to practice. Take a moment, breathe, and know that you are going to be well prepared to enter your student teaching site! If you have any questions about the student teaching preparation process, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org OR submit a form in my Contact Form on the Home Page!