10 Tips for student teachers on placement

I was recently asked by a reader if I could give my tips for surviving teaching placement, practicum, teaching experience. Having gone through the experience myself and having watched two sets of student teachers come into our school, I’m not too far removed but I also get the benefit of seeing part of the other side of the fence. However I’m not at the point where I have enough experience to mentor a student teacher so I can’t give the Associate Teacher’s point of view.

1. You are there to learn
Going into placement you have two what might seem like mutually exclusive goals. On one hand, you want to show what an awesome teacher you are to your Associate Teacher/School and get that elusive permanent teaching job post-graduation. But on the other, you are there to learn. Here’s my advice, stick with the former and the latter will take care of itself. Soak in as much as you can, ask questions, make mistakes. Lots of them. The most important quality student teachers need on placement is teachabilty. Nobody expects you to be perfect when you arrive. Being able to show improvement and take on advice is what will impress your associate teacher.

2. No staying out late on a school night
A student teacher from another institution once showed up to my placement school very hungover. While it’s not against the rules to have late nights on the town, it really isn’t a good look on placement and you will be judged negatively on it.

3. Building relationships with your students
There’s a fine line to be trod between being liked and being respected. Often student teachers try to be buddies with the kids and then find classroom management is a challenge once they take full control. By all means be friendly with your students but remember that this different from being their friend. The kids will test the boundaries just by your mere presence. They’ll want to know if the no-nos with their own teacher are a yes with you. Make sure you find out from your associate how behaviour is managed in your school and if you are unsure in any situation, ask your associate teacher.

4. Observe other teachers doing their thing. Ask them lots of questions.
While the bulk of your time will be spent in your Associate Teacher’s placement, do make sure you that you arrange time to see other teachers doing their thing. If you are teaching juniors, ask to see a Year 5/6 class. If you are at an intermediate, be sure to spend some time in the specialist classes. Ask lots of questions. Teachers by their very nature are usually keen to share their knowledge with others.

5. Keep up with your paperwork
Universities love paper. Every week you’ll likely have some sort of form to fill in to keep your university happy. It’s really important that you familiarise yourself with the paperwork requirements of your placement and make sure that you keep yourself up to date.

6. Never say ‘no’ to an opportunity to teach
If a teacher is handing over control of the classroom to you, it means that they trust you. Yes things might go horribly and you will have your share of bad days. Even taking the roll will help you learn and grown into a better teacher. It’s not unheard of for student teachers to be called on to cover a class but strictly speaking you should have a registered teacher in the room with you.

7. Planning
A source of grizzling about student teachers from associates often comes from planning. No teacher will let you in charge of your class without lesson plans. I think some teacher education providers could do a better job of teaching student teachers how to plan a lesson effectively. However to head off uncertainties in planning ask to see your associate teacher’s template early on and adapt that (with permission) for your planning.

8. Be Professional
In essence your placement is an extended job interview. Dress professionally, be on time, attend all staff meetings. Try and schedule a meeting with the principal of your school during placement. Make sure you have questions prepared in advance to make the most of the meeting.

9. You’re going to get sick
There’s no nice way of saying this schools are vectors of disease. At some point you will get heinously ill and most likely at the most inopportune time.

10. Thank you
It goes without saying that you need to thank your school and associate teacher for the placement. A small gift and a heart-felt card for your associate is probably a good idea. Some sort of morning tea or some offering of food wouldn’t go amiss either.

Anymore tips for would-be teachers?

21 thoughts on “10 Tips for student teachers on placement

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  1. You are a real gem Stephanie. Love your blog, love your posts. I’m currently on practicum. Today was my first day and this is a very helpful blog.


  2. Great tips, Stef! The thing I love most in student teachers is initiative.

    I’ve been blessed with some wonderful student teachers who show so much initiative in the classroom whether teaching or just observing. This might be anything from helping children who need assistance, handing out work, helping with correction, organising resources and so on.

    Having a student teacher who can lend a hand without being ask is invaluable!

    Sometimes in the busy day it’s hard to give direction constantly so I definitely encourage student teachers to show as much initiative as possible!



  3. I’m in my first year of teaching and I agree wholeheartedly with every point! I would only add – remain positive! Your associate might not remember every single thing you did during placement, when a prospective employer calls for a reference, but they will remember if you were organised, motivated and easy to get along with, or whether you were an awkward fun-sponge who made no effort to develop working relationships with school staff.


  4. Of course, even if you do all of these things you may be unlucky enough to have a teacher totally uninterested in you or your professional development. My associate on my final practicum was never available for (pre-arranged) feedback meetings – her Avon orders took priority. She also didn’t bother to send the feedback form to the university (which I only found out about a month later). She did find time to complain to me that the allowance that she was paid to have a student wasn’t enough – oh and that it was “embarrassing” to her that I had asked another teacher for help when I couldn’t find her. She was a good teacher as far as I could tell but a terrible associate.


  5. Reblogged this on Edc3100katbrown and commented:
    I’m starting to realise that PRAC is only 3 weeks away and not only do I need to complete a million things before hand, I have a million things to do during PRAC. The requirements this year are pretty overwhelming.. And now the PRAC office has chosen to select all placements in Queensland which not only puts more pressure on them., but also makes it slower for us to find our our placement details and more anxious about how far we will have to travel and who we will get as a mentor. Anyway, I was looking through blog post about PRAC and I came across this one. Stephanie’s post has given me some handy tips that I’ll definitely take on board! I’m always interested in what other teachers have to say about PRAC and behaviour management a day it’s really interesting to read through. So thanks for that one Stephanie!


  6. Reblogged this on Rachel Kim's Blog and commented:
    It less then 4 days before placement and I feel a little unprepared with assignment creeping up too quickly! However, viewing these ten tips is useful before going on placement. I am excited but I know this placement might be a little challenging! Finger crossed I do great job and learn to become amazing teacher.


  7. Reblogged this on jodimichelle91 and commented:
    Next week I begin professional experience, my last prac until I start my internship next year! how exciting (in a scary, exciting yet nerve-racking way) I have seen this page re-blogged a few times whilst viewing the posts of those I follow and thought it was a great read to lead me into next week. I feel as though I have had these key points said to me a lot of times, but now I think they have FINALLY sunk in, and that asking questions doesn’t mean your silly, it means your engaged, be confident in what you say and do, and accept the praise when it is given, teachers wouldn’t say it if they didn’t mean it!



  8. Hello, my name is Shon Schaffran and I am a graduate of the UAS (University of Alaska Southeast) MAT program. I currently live and teach on the island of Maui. A couple of years ago I wrote a ebook/pdf., on classroom management. I have recently revised this ebook:

    Basic Steps to Owning the Room: A Practical Guide in Classroom Management

    I am giving this out for free to anyone who is interested and may be helped by it. Please go to the website below and click on the “Basic Steps to Owning the Room” tab and follow the prompts. Thank you for your time. I hope that this will be a good resource.



    Shon Schaffran


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