5 Key Strategies for Navigating Your Student Teaching Experience

Aspiring teachers typically spend years studying the theory and practice of teaching before they ever step into a classroom. However, student teaching, also known as a teaching internship, provides the opportunity to apply that knowledge and gain hands-on experience under the guidance of a cooperating teacher. The experience can be challenging, rewarding, and sometimes overwhelming. To help navigate this critical period, this article offers five key strategies that student teachers can employ to make the most of their student teaching experience.

1. Establish a positive relationship with the cooperating teacher

The cooperating teacher plays a crucial role in the student teacher’s experience. They provide mentorship, support, and feedback on lesson plans, classroom management, and teaching style. Establishing a positive relationship with the cooperating teacher is essential to ensure a productive and positive experience. Here are some tips to build a strong relationship:

  • Be respectful and courteous: Show respect for the cooperating teacher’s time, classroom, and experience.
  • Communicate effectively: Communicate regularly with the cooperating teacher and be open to feedback.
  • Collaborate and contribute: Offer to help with classroom tasks, lesson planning, or grading papers.
  • Be flexible and adaptable: Be open to the cooperating teacher’s teaching style and approach. Be willing to adapt to their classroom culture.

Research has shown that effective communication, respect, and collaboration are essential to building a positive student-teacher relationship. According to a study by Brady and Holcomb-McCoy (2015), establishing a positive relationship with the cooperating teacher can significantly impact the student teacher’s overall experience and improve their teaching skills.

2. Set clear goals and expectations

Setting clear goals and expectations is essential for any successful endeavor, and student teaching is no exception. Establishing goals and expectations for the student teaching experience can provide a sense of direction and purpose, leading to a more meaningful experience. Here are some tips for setting goals and expectations:

  • Identify specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals: SMART goals provide a clear roadmap for success.
  • Collaborate with the cooperating teacher: Discuss goals and expectations with the cooperating teacher to ensure alignment.
  • Regularly review progress: Regularly review progress towards goals and make adjustments as needed.

According to research by Fink and Clark (2015), setting clear goals and expectations can positively impact the student teacher’s experience and improve their teaching skills.

3. Embrace feedback and reflect on practice

Feedback and reflection are essential components of the learning process, and student teaching is no exception. Receiving constructive feedback and reflecting on practice can help student teachers identify areas for improvement and develop their teaching skills. Here are some tips for embracing feedback and reflection:

  • Be open to feedback: Embrace feedback from the cooperating teacher, peers, and students.
  • Use feedback to inform practice: Use feedback to make changes to lesson plans and teaching strategies.
  • Reflect on practice: Reflect on teaching experiences and identify areas for improvement.

Research by Jay and Johnson (2015) suggests that embracing feedback and reflecting on practice can improve teaching skills and lead to a more successful student-teaching experience.

4. Develop a support network

Student teaching can be a challenging and demanding experience, and having a support network can help student teachers navigate the challenges they may face. Here are some tips for building a support network:

  • Connect with peers: Connect with other student teachers to share experiences and offer support.
  • Seek out mentorship: Seek out mentorship from experienced teachers or faculty members.
  • Connect with resources: Utilize resources provided by the university or school district, such as counseling services or support groups.

Research by Basile et al. (2018) suggests that building a support network can help reduce stress and improve the student teaching experience.

5. Practice self-care

Student teaching can be a stressful and demanding experience, and it’s essential to practice self-care to maintain physical and mental well-being. Here are some tips for practicing self-care:

  • Get enough rest: Ensure adequate rest and sleep to maintain energy levels.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Eat a well-balanced diet to maintain physical and mental health.
  • Exercise regularly: Engage in regular exercise to reduce stress and improve overall health.
  • Manage stress: Practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga.
  • Pursue hobbies or interests: Pursue hobbies or interests to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Research by Hertzog and Mullen (2018) suggests that practicing self-care is crucial for maintaining well-being and preventing burnout during the student teaching experience.


Student teaching is an essential component of teacher preparation, providing an opportunity to apply classroom knowledge and gain hands-on experience. To make the most of this critical period, student teachers can employ five key strategies: establish a positive relationship with the cooperating teacher, set clear goals and expectations, embrace feedback and reflect on practice, develop a support network, and practice self-care. By employing these strategies, student teachers can navigate the challenges of student teaching and emerge with valuable experience and improved teaching skills.

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