We begin with a POP QUIZ!

  1. What is the main difference between a student teacher and a teacher?

a. Maturity

b. Accountability

c. Salary

d. Responsibility

Duh, the answer is b. Accountability. (You may have been tempted to go for c. Salary, but don’t forget some student teachers have part-time jobs, so they can keep paying their rent in the semester before getting that “real” job.) As soon as you book that gig and have spent a week over the summer (or three weeks, if you’re precocious) decorating your classroom, you are suddenly flooded with confidence. You are a real adult now, and you are in charge of what happens in YOUR classroom. Heaven help you.

Student teaching is hugely important. You get to experience the schedule of a teacher, which is highly regulated; and you get to observe how they work with students in the classroom. If you’re lucky, you may even get to teach an entire unit of instruction and be present at staff meetings and parent-teacher conferences. It is the first time that you are acting as an adult, every day, away from the supervision of your professors. Congratulations!

Student teaching is also not an accurate representation of teaching. For one thing, not being the only adult in the classroom means that there is always someone there to step in if things get CRAZY. (Examples of crazy: the technology isn’t working, three students can not stop talking about the school dance, and another student just spilled the orange juice that they were trying to sneak a drink of.) Imagine Mad-Eye Moody saying “ACCOUNTABILITY” in the same tone of voice as “CONSTANT VIGILANCE.”

Also, some supervising teachers meet the requirements of the college student teaching semester, and the rest of the time, treat the student teacher as a glorified teacher aide. They don’t mean to, but they have a very good reason: It’s because the teacher only has a certain amount of time to make sure their classroom is prepared for the next test, the next performance, or the next state-mandated unit. It’s because the students will not see you as a “real” teacher yet, so they will treat your lessons with less seriousness – for you, it is serious business, but for them, it is a holiday from regular class time. This could also mean that the students will treat you BETTER than your students will treat you when you are the official teacher. Strange, but true – student teaching can give you “false” confidence.

Which brings us to two major recommendations about the student teacher to teacher transition:

  1. Confidence. See yourself as a mature adult, and believe that what you have to give the students is important. Practice your teacher persona immediately, rather than “babysitting” and making friends with every student. Think about how your student teaching experience is more than your last passing grade before graduation. This is so difficult to do – but it will help you transform the student perspective to the teacher perspective.
  2. Communication. Ask your mentor teacher deeper questions – dig for the real story about their job, their classroom budget, the school community, parental involvement in the classroom, and more. Ask them to explain how teaching in their first years was different from what they expected. Compare the amount of time you spend on your lesson plans with how much time your mentor teacher spends on theirs. Don’t be afraid to ask them anything – and ask them if you can stay in contact with them after your semester is over! I guarantee, the answer will be yes.


Next week’s post, “Learning to Trust,” will branch out on the topic of not being afraid to communicate, with some examples from the classroom of yours truly. In the meantime, if you want more, empathize and ask questions on the discussion page! Also, here are three articles about the student teacher to teacher transition:

“6 Lessons I Learned as a Student Teacher” by Heather Sinclair Wood, CNN:

“What Advice Would You Give a Student Teacher?” by Jennifer Gonzalez:

Available with access to ERIC or 2 weeks free on “Jumping in: trust and communication in mentoring student teachers” by Randi Nevins Stanulis and Dee Russell

Image from this interesting blog: 

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