A great, talented, and dear friend of mine is about to begin her fourteen week teaching internship at an elementary school. I remember the time before I began student teaching as exciting and extremely nerve wracking. It seemed so long, and, honestly, I really didn’t know what I was doing. Presenting a lesson in front of your college Curriculum class is totally different than actually teaching it to children. By the end of my internship, I was a different person, and all for the better. Here are some words of wisdom to hopefully ease the nerves. You’ll be great.
1. Learn from as many people as you can and ask lots of questions. Every teacher has their own style and methods. Get to know them so that you can create your own style and learn how you best teach. Usually elementary schools only have one art teacher, so look for advice in other places, as well, such as: the kindergarten pod, library, and music room. You can learn from everyone.
2. Give lots of hugs. Love your kids. Make them feel special. Because they are.
3. Imagination! Elementary children love to use their imagination and play games. It is such an effective way to teach.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Everyone messes up at times and wishes they responded to a situation in a different way. Just like a cross country workout that didn’t go as planned: learn from it and move on.
5. Write down everything because you will forget the advice from other teachers, the lesson ideas that pop into your head in the middle of the night, and all of the cute things the kids say. Buy a notebook now and take it with you everyday.
6. Understand that you have to work in someone else’s environment for a long period of time, and you probably won’t be able to fully develop your own teaching style. That’s okay because you are learning. Eventually you will get a job and have your own space to teach your own kids in your own way.
7. Take pictures! Of artwork, children working, the classroom, you teaching, and events. All of this can be put in your portfolio so that you can show your future interviewer who you really are. And teachers know showing is much more effective that telling.
8. Search blogs. I have learned so much about this profession from teachers who I have never met. Look up lesson plans, discipline plans, bulletin board ideas, and everything in between. Write it down.
9. Towards the middle of your internship, ask your principal to observe you. It is not required in our program, but he or she knows the school and the kids like no other. The principal will be able to give you invaluable advice. If you have the observation in the middle of the fourteen weeks, you will probably be pretty comfortable teaching and you still have time to put the advice into action. A nice written evaluation also looks very good in your portfolio.
10. Know the school’s emergency plans. Where do you take the kids during a fire drill? What is the system for reporting all kids present and who do you let know that you are missing kids? What happens during a lockdown and tornado drill? I had a lockdown and tornado drill on the same day and I was with a substitute who was unfamiliar with the procedures. Thankfully, the school staff found me and let me know beforehand what I needed to do. I never would have guessed that I needed to take my kids down to the kindergarten wing.
11. Be prepared for your lesson. Know your materials, know your kids, know your lesson plan inside and out. But also be flexible and don’t be afraid to change a lesson on a whim. Know that nothing ever works completely as planned. When the bulb in the projector goes out right before fourth grade, what do you do?
12. Get plenty of sleep. Expect to be exhausted by the end of the day for a while. Think Art Camp, but for more than two weeks and 10x the kids.
13. Have fun. Seriously, you have the best job in the world. You get to work with creative, funny, crazy, compassionate, young artists and show them what you are passionate about. You will also be surrounded by the most genuinely kind, supportive, and caring coworkers and people you will ever meet. What could be better?