Practicum is an odd thing. Prior to landing in placement, the students will have had class with your associate teacher anywhere from two weeks to two months. In that time, they have built a routine and a sense of rapport and respect with your associate teacher. Next thing you know, you come landing in. Since you are new, you will not have any rapport with the students. In addition, many students are cognizant of the fact that student teachers are temporary. Furthermore, your associate teacher is still present within the classroom as you teach, which implicitly lifts a sign reading, “you are not the real teacher”. As a result, failure to establish yourself as an authority and navigate correctly may lead to a lack of respect on behalf of your students, and thus many behavioral problems. In other words, a crash landing, which is what you do not want. So let’s discuss some things so that we can make this landing beautifully skilled and full of jaw dropping finesse.
Be friendly, but not too friendly
Students are very aware of what they can and cannot get away with. At the beginning of my second practicum, I made an active effort to connect with the students right away by talking with them about their interests such as NBA basketball. However, I did not set out any ground rules or establish myself as an authority in anyway. As a result, students in this grade 9 academic general science class saw me as a friend more than a teacher/authority. Thus, it became almost impossible to get the class to quiet down, let alone pay attention without the help of my associate teacher. Days in which my teacher was away proved to be quite problematic.
It is very important that you find the balance in the force. Be approachable and friendly, but let students know that there are ground rules and that you are more than willing to deploy consequences if need be. Maybe there might be a quiz the next day if the class does not start cooperating. Maybe the entire Phys-Ed class will miss out on their favourite sports day if students keep goofing around. This may seem almost a bit mean, but students will take advantage if no consequences are ever set in place. This approach will help establish you as more than just a student teacher, making the remainder of your placement much easier.
Some people have the energy of a 1 month old puppy and can always be energetic and loud if need be. Then there are people like myself, which I consider myself to be an introverted extrovert. I for the most part am pretty quiet, so yelling at students is definitely not within my comfort zone. Nevertheless, using that teacher voice can be an important part of the job. Now, I am not telling you to yell at your students 24/7. This would in fact be more problematic because students will become desensitized to the yelling and will become unresponsive even when you do use that teacher voice. However, I will say, if you see students repeatedly disobeying rules or threatening someone’s safety, do not be afraid to use that teacher voice. They will respect you as an authoritative figure more in the long run!
Take interest in the life of your students
We all want to feel accepted and that we are loved by others, and children are no different. Hence, with that being said you want to get to know your students and show that you care about them. For example, during my third placement, one of my grade 10 Phys-Ed students had mentioned how they were planning on applying to work at Subway as their first job. A week or two later I simply asked my student how the application had went. He was shocked that I had remembered and I could tell he very much appreciated me caring and checking in with him in this manner.
Little things like this can make a students day. If you were the teacher in this situation, maybe you could have even taken it a step further by pulling him aside for a few minutes after class to give him some interview tips. If students feel as though their teacher not only respects them but cares for them, then mutual respect will develop. This respect once again makes for a much better classroom environment and less behavioral issues.
Feeling like you got this? Oh, I know you do!
Keep striving scholar.
- Jordan Guerrero Martinez
Friendly yet Respectable Teacher | Master of the Teacher Voice | Nurturer of Students