Day one of my first full-time student teaching placement, I learned a few tips to share with my teaching peers. Now, I am not and do not claim to be a teaching veteran, but this is fresh in my mind (of just a few hours ago), so if you want a first hand & current perspective, here it goes:
1. Be Prepared
Aside from being on time, dressing professionally, etc.,etc… There is another way you can be prepared on your first day of student teaching. Even if you’re not teaching a lesson or expected to write a lesson plan, be prepared in other ways. It is important to start placement off on the right foot, particularly with your sponsor teacher. Be prepared with questions. Establish your space in the classroom, reiterate expectations, and ask the questions that are making you a little nervous (like what to do at lunch?). Also be prepared to be patient. Your mentor teacher is also adjusting to this scenario, and to having a new person in the classroom. So, have something to keep you ‘busy’ (like making a schedule or checklists) while your teacher may be doing their own thing.
2. Say Hello
Say hi to every teacher, staff, or admin that you pass in the hallways. A smile and ‘hello’ can go a long way with a stranger, especially when that stranger turns out to be the principal or superintendent. It is easier to later introduce yourself if you recognize the person and vice versa. By portraying a positive persona in the public spaces of the school, you are making a name for yourself where people will be talking about you – in a good way.
3. Get Stressed… Then Destress
Allow yourself to get overwhelmed by everything that is new. Allow yourself to be nervous the night before and the day of. There is a lot to absorb on the first day… especially if it is your first time in the building. There is a lot going on that you think you will (but will not) remember, so carry around a pen and paper and take notes. Not only will this boost your professionalism – showing you care enough to write it down – but you will also have some tangible notes about what you need to follow up on. I find this is extra important on the first day because your teacher will probably want to throw tons of resources at you throughout the day. Be sure to star any notes that require attention after school. To destress and cure how overwhelmed you may be, take the first night of placement “off”. Don’t have a Netflix marathon, but but instead just take a night off of planning and stressing. Take your notes and look into the things you were interested in throughout the day. Watch that documentary your teacher says she always shows during the ‘climate change’ unit. From there, create a to-do list, or a few goals for the rest of the week because inevitably there will be some loose ends you want to tie up this week and questions you want to ask your mentor.
4. Ask To Be Introduced
Your teacher may no realize you haven’t met the administration. So if you haven’t, ask your teacher to take you to the office on prep or lunch and get those formal introductions out of the way.
More importantly though, ask to be introduced to your students. Yes, this does sound crazy. But since the first day is usually observation, it can be easy to get lost in the background of the class. Your teacher may not pick up on the students’ whispers of “who is that?”. It is surprising how many classes or days (true story) it can take before being introduced to the students your in the same classroom as. An easy way to bring this up with your mentor teacher is to say; “Would you like to introduce me? Or should I introduce myself?”. Make sure to bring it up with teacher right before the bell so it is fresh in their mind.
5. Develop Your Habits
This is day one. The things your begin on day one will be the things you can refer to as “I’ve done [blank] since my first day of student teaching!”. This may be something like developing an eating habit, drinking a third period tea, stopping to chat with the crossing guard, or high-fiving students as the enter the classroom. Developing a routine is beneficial for both you and the students (if they’re involved) because it is something to rely on. A routine can be something you count on everyday and can calm your nerves on a highly stressful day.
Five little tips I have realized, that I hope help you through your first day. Good luck & have fun!