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Top Prac Hacks For Student Teachers

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Photo of Bronwyn
Updated | 17 min read

Emily is a preservice teacher full to the brim with enthusiasm, creativity and passion for teaching. Now in her fourth year of her education degree, she presents a weekly series on Instagram live, as Miss Teacher to Be, to share her insights into preservice life with thousands of other student teachers. If you’re a preservice teacher, this episode is a must-listen, as Emily shares her best prac hacks!

Join us on next week’s episode when Emily spills all about forming relationships with parents of your students, the LANTITE test, and how to be confident when it comes to teaching!

 

Full episode transcript below.

The Best Bits:

“The first thing you need to do is be prepared well before your prac. Whether you need to organise a budget, do some meal prep. My favorite thing to do is make a big calendar that sits in my room with huge days.”

“The other really important thing that I think is to make sure you keep your social commitments. Go out on the weekends, out with friends that’s super important and don’t make it all about school.”

“Once you make that first impression, I think everything just becomes a lot easier and smoother. Everyone will be beautiful to you. I mean schools are amazing and they want to teach you as much as you want to learn.”

Resources:

Read on The Chalkboard Blog:

How to Nail Your Prac as a Student Teacher

How to Prepare for a Teaching Interview

Resources For Your to Download Now:

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Full Episode Transcript:

Bronwyn: For the Love of Teaching is a podcast brought to you by Teach Starter. We save teachers hours each week by creating quality, downloadable teaching resources for their classrooms. Visit teachstarter.com to make your classroom buzz.

Intro: Welcome to the Teach Starter podcast, For the Love of Teaching. Join us as we chat to inspirational everyday teachers. It’s real. It’s uplifting. It’s funny. It’s for the love of teaching. Here’s today’s host Bronwyn Brady.

Bronwyn: Hello and welcome to another episode all For the Love of Teaching. I’m Bronwyn and today I’m here with Emily who is MissTeacher2Be on Instagram. She’s a pre-service teacher and she has a lot of great ideas for student teachers. Hi Emily, welcome.

Emily: Hi, thank you for having me.

Bronwyn: It’s lovely to see you here today. Now, often when teachers are on their pracs, especially if it’s the first one, they can find it a little bit daunting to go into a new classroom. All these new kids and faces and an observing teacher can all be like a bit much. What are your top tips for prac?

Emily: Oh yeah, they can definitely be super daunting. Even any of them might find it’s new kids, new teachers, new people that you’re meeting, I have two main top tips that I like to share with everyone who asks. The first one is to exude confidence. It doesn’t matter how confident you are, whenever you’re meeting anyone, my favourite thing to do is stand up nice and tall, shoulders back and go straight in for a handshake. Whether you’re meeting the receptionist, your prac teachers, the principals, anyone, straight in for a handshake. It actually takes quite a few people back and it’s just such a great first impression.

Bronwyn: Good one.

Emily: They definitely see that confidence even though you might be a little bit nervous underneath. My second tip is also to help with the confidence, because I think that’s the most important thing on prac. It might seem really like a no brainer, really trivial, but it’s to work out your first week’s worth of outfits.

Bronwyn: Oh outfits?

Emily: Yeah.

Bronwyn: Okay, I hadn’t thought of that one.

Emily: With schools these days they all have different outfit standards and all of that kind of thing. Sometimes it’s just something going on in the back of your mind, and you’re thinking, “Oh can you wear open toe shoes or does this school allow jeans?” I think to have that first week planned out and have appropriate clothes already there, really just relieves that little bit of stress. It might not be right in the forefront of your mind, but through that entire day if you’re wearing something that you know is perfect for the occasion, then you just won’t have that sitting in the back of your mind. You can really focus on the confidence.

Bronwyn: Yeah, that’s a great one actually, because often like you’re coming from uni, so you’re coming from an environment where you’re with other students. You’re casual and then you go into professional environment and you might not have ever had to think about professional clothes. You might have worn a work uniform at your part-time job or your comfy clothes at uni, but yeah. That’s also about first impressions, isn’t it? Like you said with the handshake, but also to look professional. What tips do you have because often students are on a tight budget for getting a wardrobe happening which is teaching appropriate on budget?

Emily: Oh definitely Kmart. I mean you don’t need to be doing the Gormans or anything like that just yet. A tip that I was told which I hold really close is, to do separates. While a dress is really great, there’s that element that with separates you can mix and match. I like a really nice black pant that is nice and work appropriate, stops at the ankles. Some flats, just some little ballet closed in ones, and then you can mix and match tops. Make sure that’s not too slippy, what’s the old saying, you can’t see up down or through. I mean teachers have such a versatile job you’re doing all different types of things. You’re bending over to desks, you’re sitting on the carpet. You’re going out to the oval, you’re doing all different types of things. Just something that you’re comfortable in mainly.

Bronwyn: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, so true. I like you said with the Gormans and stuff, they are so gorgeous and a lot of teachers do wear them. I think especially when you’re beginning and you can’t really afford that, to destroy clothes and kids wipe everything on you, paint, boogers, all the rest of it, so that’s a great tip. Kmart, budget clothes and separates. Awesome, Em, that sounds really like great wardrobe tips. Sometimes when teachers go on pracs they don’t expect certain things to crop up. What are some common challenges for teachers undertaking their prac that you can think of to sort of pre-warn them about?

Emily: I’ve had amazing prac so far with not too many challenges. I have had quite a few friends though who have come across some. One big one is, not great communication with their prac teachers, which I think is the key to any prac is having that communication. Keeping it open and forming those relationships, because that is what’s going to make your prac amazing if you’re making that relationship. I definitely think treat it like a relationship that you’re fostering. Keep it professional, but also be happy to be there. Not complaining about all the things you’ve got going on or how tired you are. Yeah, really keep that communication open with your teacher.

Bronwyn: Yeah, so be positive and open to that relationship. That’s a great one. Yeah, that’s so true, because you can learn so much from your prac teachers. Like I still remember things now that I learned during pracs and get so much more impressionable as a new teacher because you really have such a wide scope of learning going on from all directions. That’s a really great tip. Now you work as well as studying Emily, and a lot of prac teachers do, because we’re support ourselves through uni. We’re having to feed our stationary habits. How do you balance everything?

Emily: This question is so important. I definitely say the old saying, prior preparation prevents poor performance.

Bronwyn: I think there’s another word that’s supposed to be in there.

Emily: It’s so important. I make sure to organise it all. The first thing you need to do is be prepared well before your prac. Whether you need to organise a budget, do some meal prep. My favorite thing to do is make a big calendar that sits in my room with huge days.

Bronwyn: Yes, I have seen your amazing calendar and it’s incredible. If you go into Instagram guys, go to visit M’s page, it’s @missteacher2be with a two, number two. Oh my goodness, in her highlights reel she has got this incredible calendar setup. If you’re a prac teacher or even a practicing teacher, you need to see it. Well done you, that’s like goals.

Emily: Yes, it’s super helpful, and it seems like something so little, but by just having huge big dates you can write in all of your due dates for starters, when your report’s due for prac and all of that kind of thing. Then as you begin planning with teaching you can start writing in your lessons and it’s just a really nice visual, a nice countdown to how many days are left and all of different types. You put everything in there.

Bronwyn: It’s such a great idea. I remember actually when I finished uni for the first six months of teaching, I had this recurring nightmare that I had forgotten to hand in an assignment in.

Emily: No.

Bronwyn: When you just said the due dates, it kind of triggered me, because I remember feeling like, I’d have this nightmare that something had been due. When you’re a student you’ve got prac plus assignments are still due, plus you’ve still got to attend some of your classes and go to work. Just do everything else, whatever else you have going on in your life. If you’re a mature aged student you might even have your own family or oh my goodness, yeah, it was a nightmare, like literally a nightmare.

Emily: Oh my gosh.

Bronwyn: It stopped now 10 years later.

Emily: The other really important thing that I think is to make sure you keep your social commitments. Go out on the weekends, out with friends that’s super important and don’t make it all about school. I find that it is quite a lot of work on prac because you are running detailed lesson plans for every single lesson that you’re making. You’ll be up until 12 most nights and then heading to bed, waking up. I think that yeah, making sure you still have time for yourself is really important. The other thing is, being able to debrief, so every afternoon my friends and I after prac will call each other. Some days it could be in tears, some days we’ll be raving about the perfect lesson that we did, but it’s so important to get that out. You can go home and talk to your cat, to your dog, talk to your family, but just let that day go, whether it was positive or negative. Then start the next day fresh, I think is super important for your wellbeing as well.

Bronwyn: Yeah, that’s actually a really good point and I hear that a lot actually from teachers saying that they need, they rely heavily on their teacher tribe. To have that network of support to vent everything or to celebrate your successes, whichever way it is just to be able to talk about it. Yeah, prac is full on and it’s so hectic. It’s interesting also that you say to go out with your friends and do things for yourself while you’re on prac. I think when I was doing prac I used to just put everything on hold for the couple of weeks that I was going to be no prac. Back then there was a long internship and I did not do anything or see anybody. I was just a couch potato in my downtime. I think yeah, for sure you need to still be yourself.

Emily: Yeah, definitely. You need to be your best self for the kids and the students and even the teachers and your colleagues. By taking care of yourself first, then you can be the best teacher that you can be.

Bronwyn: Yeah, that’s awesome, well done. That’s a really good tip. Regarding the time you’re actually going to be spending teaching, because some of your pracs is observing, observation of other teachers. Some of your pracs are actually you taking the reigns and having the class and then sometimes it’s just all you. Like you’ve got it. It’s your turn. How much teaching will you actually be doing in prac on second, third and fourth year pracs?

Emily: Yeah. The first kind of year is very, it’s quite short. I think mine was about a week long, and it was just observing. We did do some small group work, some reading books and that kind of thing. Second year it ramps up a little bite more and you start to do more of that group work, guided reading, that kind of thing. A few class lessons are activities. Third year is really, really fun. I found that that was one of the best pracs for responsibility wise and length definitely. I had a four week prac which flew by.

Bronwyn: That’s quite a big chunk.

Emily: Yeah, but it was really fun. The first two weeks I was just doing maybe one or two lessons a day. Then the last two weeks I was pretty much full-time teaching with a bit of relief here and there with the teachers jumping in. That was really good. Then fourth year pracs are the most exciting, so mine is happening in a couple of months, in August.

Bronwyn: Yay, exciting.

Emily: It will be seven weeks of full-time teaching, which will be crazy, but I’m so excited.

Bronwyn: That’s almost a whole term.

Emily: Yeah.

Bronwyn: Sometimes they go for nine weeks, so that’s great.

Emily: Yes, it will be really exciting and obviously full responsibility teachers can sit back and take a break. Yeah, I’ll be in charge, which is kind of daunting, but so exciting.

Bronwyn: Super exciting and Em, you’ve totally got this. Like if you have got it down part by fourth year I think people are feeling a bit more confident in their practice and in their pedagogical approaches. You kind of developed what is your style and what theories inform you. Yeah, I can’t wait to catch up with you after your prac and see how that all goes.

Emily: Yes.

Bronwyn: Yeah. When you are applying to go on to pracs, how do you make sure you land, A, a prac school that’s close to your home? B, somewhere that is like a good school that you’ve heard is supportive or is a community that you want to be a part of? How can you go about lining that up?

Emily: Yeah, so you definitely do your research and work out where you want to go. I think that you can’t necessarily get a bad prac school. I think any experience is amazing even though it might not be the best and you might have some struggles, I think that you learn so much in all different settings. That’s really important to remember. When you’re thinking about getting a prac school and applying and asking for a position at a prac school, I think getting in there and introducing yourself, make it known that you would really love to be a prac student there. At the end of the day, if they don’t know, they don’t know. You need to let them know that you’re interested and you’re there and you’re ready and you’re really keen.

Bronwyn: How can you actually approach the school yourself and go up to the office and introduce yourself or?

Emily: Yeah. Well every uni is a little bit different, but I think that by heading in and hand your resume or anything like that, see if you can get a meeting with the assistant principal or the prac coordinator of the school. Just have a chat, they might not have any positions, but at the end of the day you’re still getting in the door, you’re still having those conversations and making those professional relationships, which is really important.

Bronwyn: Yeah. That’s true. What tips do you have for somebody that’s probably not as confident as maybe you are in going and approaching somewhere? How can you sort of bolster yourself to be like, “Yes, I can do this. I can go and visit,”?

Emily: Yeah, well comes down to first of all yourself, so make sure you are looking confident. I think if you are thinking, “Damn, I’m looking good today,” that is your day, so head in. You can take some notes with you, maybe some units that you thought you did amazingly at uni. Anything that you want you can take something to hold in your hand. Definitely start with your firm handshake at the start. Hold yourself up nice and yeah. Once you make that first impression, I think everything just becomes a lot easier and smoother. Everyone will be beautiful to you. I mean schools are amazing and they want to teach you as much as you want to learn. Yeah.

Bronwyn: Yeah, and that’s right. School staff are very welcoming. If you think about their reception staff, they work with kids all day, they help kids all day, and they coordinate all the teachers. Yeah, it’s a great idea. There you go, student teachers, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Emily: Yes, exactly.

Bronwyn: Make yourself known, cool, okay. We talked about this a little bit before, about clothing and preparing yourself for prac and you were saying that some of the items you would wear on a prac. Are there any like dos or don’ts? What’s a massive no, no for something to wear on prac?

Emily: I have a bit of a funny story. It was my first year prac and I was wearing my black pants and my flats. I bought this beautiful top, it was really stunning. It was a bit of that slippery kind of material, but it was really nice. I wore a little singlet underneath to kind of coverup the chest area. Very appropriate until, the kids were lining up after lunch. I was standing at the front, and I thought, “I’m going to take some initiative here, and I’m going to quite them while the teacher’s chatting and do some fun hand movements,” and that kind of thing. I put my hands straight up in the air to get their attention and my top just flew right up.

Bronwyn: No way.

Emily: It was just kind of sitting.

Bronwyn: You got their attention.

Emily: Yeah, and they all went, “You’ve got a belly button.” Yes, yes I do.

Bronwyn: Amazing. The teacher has a belly button.

Emily: I went, “Oh gosh,” and I did not wear that anymore.

Bronwyn: Oh my goodness.

Emily: I think try the things on before you buy them, do all the movements that you’ll be doing.

Bronwyn: Yes, sing “If You’re Happy and You Know it”, move those hands around.

Emily: Some star jumps yup. Make sure it’s all fitting well. It was just sitting on the pant line that was the thing, so as soon as that hand went up it went …

Bronwyn: Oh I have a terrible one. When I was on prac I was wearing this long flowy skirt. This is the last I ever wore a long flowy skirt, they were really in fashion at the time. I could feel this kind of like resistance as I was walking through the classroom. I was thinking, “What is that pulling at me?” I turned around, and a prep student was using my skirt as tissue.

Emily: No.

Bronwyn: It’s like, “What are you doing? Oh my gosh.” I had no spare clothes, I learned a lesson that day, always have spare clothes in your car, because you never know what’s going to happen. That served me well overtime. Just a pair of gym pants or yoga pants.

Emily: I love that.

Bronwyn: Yeah, just have something extra.

Emily: That’s a great tip, oh my goodness.

Bronwyn: This is funny, you never forget these things do you? Okay, and the other thing I was going to talk to you about is, when you’re on prac, sometimes you’re so I guess engrossed in your teaching and you’re a bit introspective. You’re thinking about what you’re doing and you’re also thinking about your students. Then to some extent you’re thinking, “Is the teacher liking what I’m doing?” Picking up on their vibe as well. There’s someone that you also have to connect with, and that is the parents, because you’re going to have to as a teacher when you do graduate. What are you tips for communicating with parents of your prac students? You’re only there for such a temporary time in their lives, but how do you connect with them?

Emily: I think for my next prac, this is definitely something that I’m going to try and work on a bit more. It was only last year in my third year prac that I really got to start connecting with parents. I was able to sit in on some parent-teacher interviews, which was so valuable.

Bronwyn: Oh that is a great one.

Emily: So valuable, so definitely ask your teacher if you can. Sometimes it’s quite sensitive, but if you can I think that is the best idea, so chat to your teacher about that. I think that definitely forming the connections with parents is so important, because while you might not see them very often, the kids are coming home every night and saying, “Oh we did a science lesson with Miss so and so today. Oh this is really great.” They’re definitely hearing about you at home, and if you do have the opportunity definitely introduce yourself. They might have some younger kids coming through in the next couple of years that you might teach.

Bronwyn: That’s right.

Emily: That would be amazing to still have that connection.

Bronwyn: It’s not always just, you’re right, that it’s the families. It’s the whole family that you’re getting to know, because often when you are a prac in a school you end up working there because you’ve become known to the school, and a job might become available. Yeah, you never know what that networking is going to actually do for you.

Emily: Yeah.

Bronwyn: Yeah. Thank you so much for joining us today on For the Love of Teaching. M it’s been so lovely hearing your tips and tricks for prac hacks. I’m looking forward to seeing you next week again on For the Love of Teaching.

Emily: Thank you so much for having me.

Bronwyn: Bye. Don’t forget to subscribe to For the Love of Teaching. Next week we’re going to be talking to Emily again about preparing to teach, nailing the LANTITE test and forming strong relationships which will set you up for success.

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