As each education major nears the end of their college experience, they look forward to one last piece to conquer which promises to be the most challenging and rewarding piece of their education: student teaching. For each student majoring in elementary, secondary and even physical education, student teaching is that last step to graduating. It is also a test to see if they can handle the classroom and the stress that goes along with being a teacher, but it does promise to be an experience. Student teaching usually takes place in the last semester for teaching students, and places them in schools that coincide with the area of teaching they have been studying for three years; an elementary education major to an elementary school, a secondary education to middle schools and high schools, and physical education majors who not only spend time in elementary schools, but also in secondary education schools.
Each student is given a supervisor and a supervising teacher who they mirror all day everyday for the next three months. Not only do they mirror their actions in the classroom and learn from them, but students engage in every activity the teacher does,
“I get the full experience in my school,” fourth-year elementary education major Shannon Whitney said. “I come in when my teacher does, and I leave when my teacher does, and I also do the outside stuff, like attend meetings just for teachers and attend parent nights. I really get to feel like I’m a teacher.”
Whitney, who student teaches first graders at Hancock Elementary School in Norristown Pa, loves the experience.
“I love my school and the staff there, my teacher is always there to help, and so is all the staff,” Whitney said. “I really feel like I’m learning a lot.”
Her supervising teacher, Carrie Barnshaw, is a first grade teacher who also enjoys having student teachers.
“Any extra hand in the classroom is always nice, but the students also benefit from having a student teacher, because they learn more and in different ways,” Barnshaw said. “It’s also really important for future teachers to get the experience of being in the classroom, and with the students”.
For physical education majors things are a little different. Not only do they go to an elementary school, they also visit a secondary education school, like a middle school, which gives them more experience.
“Its more beneficial student teaching in both schools,” fourth-year physical education major Katie Lunger said. “You see students at different developmental levels, and you learn a variety of ways to discipline and do activities, and they are definitely on different levels socially.”
For physical education majors, they do not just stick to the gym. As you move on to secondary education, students also get the experience of being in the classroom as well, because they get to teach health classes.
“I like middle school a lot,” Lunger said. “It’s great to get that classroom experience too. I see the kids in two different lights. I see them in the classroom and in the gym, and many students act differently.”
It is not all fun and games though. Student teachers are writing lesson plans and learning to be teachers, and they engage in all the activities that they would if they were a real teacher. Students just get some guidance.
Those first few weeks can be a stressful time. Although students have been learning to write lesson plans through their education, they are now putting them into action.
“I was pretty nervous at first, but my teacher was really great,” Whitney said. “I observed at first then gradually got into teaching alone, now I love it”.
“I’m definitely learning a lot,” Lunger said. “There is a lot of work, but the student teaching experience has been really great.”
Although student teaching promises to be stressful, it also promises an experience that most students will never forget, and is well worth it.
Lauren Whitaker is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at LW588061@wcupa.edu.