I remember the weeks leading up to my final student teaching experiences: sitting at home over winter break feeling excited and nervous; anxious and apprehensive. After all, this was it. All of my college career was literally leading up to this point. I was finally going to be teaching! I was so excited. This was all that I had ever wanted, and it was just a few weeks away.
But something strange happened as the weeks turned into days. I started freaking out. How could I be ready? How was I supposed to know what to do? What to say? I turned to the faithful internet, and I was pretty disappointed in the lack of music-related posts I found about student teaching. While yes, some of the tips I found on non-music posts could be related to my situation, but it left a lot to be desired as I tried to mentally prepare myself to teach hundreds of students I had never met.
So here is where this lists comes in: these are the five things that I wish I would’ve been able to have known before I started my music student teaching.
1. You Won’t Know Every Students’ Name: One thing that is really hard about student teaching in music is that we have so many freaking students! And depending on how the schedule at your school works, you might only see each group of students a couple of times each week (if you’re lucky).
With that being said, its totally ok for you not to have every students’ name memorized, even by the end of your placement! This is something I still struggle with now, if I’m being completely honest!
My advice to you would be to just try your hardest. Try to remember as many names as you can, and if you make a mistake, just correct yourself and move on! I would also suggest having a seating chart with student names and photos! These can prove INCREDIBLY helpful for memorizing names, or to reference when working with a class!
2. Some People Won’t Understand Why You Are So Tired: One of the crappy things about being a student teacher is being in a weird “in-between” stage. You are on a professional schedule, but you aren’t 100% a professional. If your school is anything like mine was, you might still be forced to live on campus, which adds another facet of “awkward” to it!
I love my friends, but a lot of them (those that weren’t also student teaching) just didn’t understand why I was going to bed early, or why I wasn’t hanging out with them on the weekends like I used to. I truly don’t think they understood the magnitude of what student teaching really is.
Just as an added bonus, I thought I would add a (cheesy) picture of me taken in the morning of my first day of student teaching, and one that a friend snapped of me that afternoon when I got home:
3. It’s Gonna Fly By: If you really look at it, student teaching is so freaking short! That semester that seemed to go on forever when you were in traditional classes will never seem shorter than the year you student teach! It doesn’t help that most student teaching placements are also split placements, so you are only there for half of the semester! I student taught at both the middle school and elementary school levels, so I only got about nine weeks at each placement, which is crazy if you really think about it!
If you are anything like me, you are ready to be DONE with college and just get on with the rest of your life, but I urge you to try to slow down a little bit. Try to enjoy what you are doing. Be a sponge, take everything you can into your brain, store it all for later, and see what happens.
4. They Will Become “Your” Kids: I don’t care if I was only student teaching, those students were mine. I’m not saying that they weren’t my cooperating teachers’, but they were mine too! To this day I have very fond memories of the time spent with the students from my student teaching, and they still hold a big place in my heart.
And do you know what stinks about that? Leaving.
I wish I would have known just how hard it was going to be to leave my placements. Even though I was only there for such a short period of time, I really grew fond of being able to create music with my students each day. And it was hard for me to leave. Its great to feel so fondly about a group of people, but just prepare yourself for it.
5. You Are Gonna Mess Up: Yup. You’re gonna make a mistake. You’re gonna do something wrong. And you’re probably going to say something 100% innocent that your students will take to a very inappropriate place (remember when I said I student taught middle school?). But hey, it is what it is!
I wish I would have known that everyone made mistakes during their student teaching, and it’s ok to laugh at yourself every once in a while. If you’re anything like me, sometimes you can fail in some pretty epic ways! Try not to take things too seriously, and you’ll be just fine. Breathe.
To this day, student teaching is one of the hardest things that I have ever done. But it is also one of the most rewarding periods in my life. Sometimes, being a music student teacher is awful, but I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had (and the knowledge that I gained) for anything.
If you are a music student teacher, or will be in the future, I promise you that everything is going to be ok. Take a deep breathe. Have fun, enjoy it, and before you know it, it’ll be graduation day.
Bryson Tarbet is the music educator and blogger behind That Music Teacher.