Student Teaching Essays

The student teaching experience allows you to put everything that you’ve learned about education and your subject matter into action. You get to test the waters under the supervision of an experienced teacher who can guide you along and help you become the kind of teacher that you want to be. If you embrace the opportunity, you can learn a lot from the experience. In fact, here are some things that I learned during my time as a student teacher.

Prepare for the Unexpected while Student Teaching

During my student teaching experience, I spent a lot of time preparing each lesson plan. I worked hard to research different ways to present the information for each lesson. I looked for activities that my students would enjoy, and I made sure that I had all of the materials and other things that I needed before class started. Even then, there were always things that would go wrong. Technology would fail. Students would complete activities quicker than planned. Or students would require much more time and explanation than expected.

As such, I realized that I needed to be prepared as much as possible, but, more importantly, I needed to prepare to be flexible. You never know what’s going to come up or what will catch the students’ attention. When creating lessons, remember that you need to be prepared for changes. Figure out alternative activities in order to help your day go as smoothly as possible and allow your students to gain the most from the lessons.

Make Friends

Photo by thetaxhaven

Teaching is difficult. You’re going to have rough days, and you’re going to need help sometimes. Introduce yourself to the librarian, cafeteria staff, administrators, custodians, secretaries, and other teachers. As I talked to other teachers about lessons that I was working on, they had plenty of suggestions for activities that I could use. I loved getting ideas for tried and true activities for my students, but I also enjoyed the tips and ideas that they could provide to help me grow as a teacher. They could also help you land a teaching job, too.

Not only can making friends prove to help you as a teacher, but it can also make your day more fun. Rather than eating lunch in your room every day to catch up on work, go to the lunch room and mingle with other teachers. Talk to teachers on the playground. Use the time to get to know others, and you just might end up making a friend for life.

“Dare to Disturb the Universe:” Be Fearless as a Student Teacher

In high school, I had a teacher who always encouraged us to “dare to disturb the universe” as quoted from T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” To me, this meant that we shouldn’t be afraid to do something different or to think outside of the box. When it came to student teaching, I found that I needed to listen to this advice again. I wanted to excel. I wanted to get great recommendations from my cooperating teacher, and I wanted my students to really learn the concepts.

What I found was that student teaching was the perfect time to think outside of the box and try different things. If they didn’t work, they didn’t work. At least, I got to try them in a safe environment. And in the process, I got to work on vital skills for teaching, such as classroom management. Luckily, I had an awesome cooperating teacher who set me free to try new things. Of course, it was always helpful to have my cooperating teacher review my lesson plans and advise me on things that I could do to improve my ideas to ensure that they were viable in the classroom.

Show Confidence

Confidence is crucial for a great student teaching experience. Students need to see that their teacher knows what he or she is talking about. They need a teacher that demands respect. When I first started as a student teacher, I was awkward and unsure of myself. I wasn’t sure what my cooperating teacher would think, and I worried about how my students would perceive this teacher who didn’t look old enough to teach in the first place.

As I fell into my groove and gained more confidence as a teacher, I found that my students not only respected me but felt more comfortable talking to me, too. Confidence meant I could be myself while still demanding respect from my students and colleagues.

Get Involved

Immersing yourself and taking advantage of every opportunity afforded to you can really enrich your student teaching experience. One of my biggest regrets as a student teacher was that I didn’t get involved more. Sure, I attended all of the meetings and met with parents. With the amount of work I put into creating lessons, I chose not to volunteer in after school activities, for example. I wish that I would have taken the opportunity to get more involved. You can gain more experience, meet more people, and find a new niche within the teaching community.

Seek Feedback on Your Student Teaching

One of the most important lessons that I learned was the importance of feedback. During your student teaching experience, you want to find ways to improve your teaching skills. Don’t be afraid to ask your cooperating teacher for advice. When observing you in action, he or she will notice things that you hadn’t noticed before. Maybe you use too many filler words, look at the floor too often, or stand in one place the entire time. Your cooperating teacher can point out these things to you, so you can make the necessary changes to improve.

More than just asking for feedback, you need to have a good attitude about the information that you receive. What will you do with this information? I found that when I was teachable and willing to hear criticism, I saw greater improvements in my teaching and increases in my confidence.

Student teaching was a great experience. It had its ups and downs, but I became a better teacher by working to make the most of my experience and looking for opportunities to learn.

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Students Teach Students: Using Student Essays To Build Coping Skills and Self-Esteem

Essays written by teens about issues that teens face might help build students' self-esteem and their ability to "triumph over trouble."

Dealing with death. Depression. Self-esteem. Moving to a new school. Drug dependency. Peer pressure. The immigrant experience. Body image. Alcohol abuse. Pregnancy. Family problems. Failure. Racism.

Teens tell how they deal with those and other challenges in their own words in the book From Darkness to Light: Teens Write About How They Triumphed Over Trouble. The book offers more than 60 inspiring essays written by teens.

But the stories tell much, much more about teens -- about their resiliency and about their abilities to overcome obstacles.


Any of the essays in From Darkness to Light, published by Fairview Press, might be used in the classroom to motivate thought-provoking discussions about issues that many teens confront. Teachers might use the essays to spur discussion about why some teens seem to have the ability to face and overcome life's major hurdles -- and why others don't.. Discussions can help teens identify their own strengths, help them develop resiliency -- the ability to bounce back, and inspire them work toward their goals and dreams.

The two essays that follow don't deal with any of the thorny hot-button issues that many of the teen's essays in From Darkness to Light deal with -- issues such as teen suicide, physical abuse, or death of a sibling. Rather, these two essays offer up two optimistic stories with fairly universal themes; we read of one teen's personal view of failure (and related issues of peer pressure and body image) and another's story of coming to terms her disability.


The following questions can be used as a warm-up to reading the two essays. The questions might be used with an entire class or as a small-group discussion activity.

  • Ask students to define resiliency. What are other words or phrases that mean resiliency?
  • Ask students to discuss whether they believe people are born resilient or if resiliency is a skill or trait one can develop?
  • Ask students to discuss whether they consider resiliency to be a desirable characteristic. Why or why not?
  • Ask students if they consider themselves to be resilient. Ask them to rate themselves on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 indicates no resiliency and 10 indicates very resilient.
  • Ask students What or who contributes to someone's ability to be resilient? (Brainstorm and list.)
  • Ask students what they think enables people to be resilient.
  • Are there role models or people who contribute to someone's ability to be resilient?
  • Are there people in your life who you consider resilient who might be inspirational to you?


Warm-up activity. How important is attitude when trying to succeed? Can you have fun at a sport or a game even if you're not very good at it? Is there more or different pressure on boys when it comes to playing sports?

Self-report. Ask students to write or tell their responses to these questions:

  • If you're not good at something, but you enjoy it, do you continue with it or do you quit?
  • What do you tell yourself it you're not good at something?
  • How competitive are you?

Read the essay. Click here for the text of the essay "Getting Started."

Action steps. After students read the essay, invite them to write or discuss their thoughts about these questions:

  • Do you think you have an accurate picture of your strengths and limitations?
  • List five skills you have.
  • What's one thing you'd like to do but aren't very good at? List three steps you could take that would bring you closer to being better at it.
  • Describe what an optimist is. Are you an optimist?


Warm-up activity. Read the definition of disability in the dictionary. Is it described in a positive, negative, or neutral way? How do you feel when you see someone in a wheelchair? What kinds of assumptions or judgements do you make about that person? If you had a friend in a wheelchair, would they be able to enter your house? List places that you can think of that aren't "handicap accessible."

Self-report. Ask students to write or tell their responses to these questions:

  • What are some things you would have to stop doing if your were in a wheelchair today?
  • What are some places you couldn't go to today?
  • How would being in a wheelchair affect your attitude?
  • How about your self-esteem?

Read the essay. Click here for the text of the essay "Life With a Disability," by Amber Junker.

Action steps. After students read the essay, invite them to write or discuss (as a class, or in small groups) their thoughts about these questions:

  • What are some things that would change about you if you were in a wheelchair today?
  • Could you be happy in a wheelchair?
  • What is a disability that would be most difficult for you?
  • Would your friends change? Why or why not?

Finally, the essays in From Darkness to Light might motivate students to think and to write about obstacles and challenges they've faced.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1997, 2005 Education World

Updated 07/19/2005


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