Second Placement Done!

I managed to get a post in a week even during my second placement for student teaching. Woohoo!  I am pretty proud of myself.

I have learned so much from this placement. I feel like every time I turned around there was a little tip here or idea there. My master teacher was just amazing. Hands down, everything I could have ever wanted and more. There is no way I can repay her for all that she has done for me. I can only hope to pay it forward someday and be a mentor to someone else.

I hadn’t worked in this district prior to student teaching (something I may have mentioned my post about getting on sub-lists). Now I am so thankful that I branched out. It was an amazing experience. During my time I discovered fantastic grade level teams that were supportive and collaborative both within their team and with other grade levels. I got to see a healthy and positive school culture that was supported by staff, administration, teachers, and parents. The PTA really blew me away, so amazing to witness all the cool things they add to the school for students and teachers alike.

I am taking June off master’s courses to focus on the one thing I have left to get my credential. My TPA’s are now my focus which means I may take a bit of a break. Don’t worry, I will be back to celebrate turning them in. Until next time…

Letters of Recommendation

I suggest that you ask early in student teaching for letters. Realize that everyone you are working with from your master teacher, grade level team, faculty advisor, professors, and administrators are all possible letter sources. Ask early, they have busy schedules of their own.

At my first placement, I had a meeting with the principal before I ever started to introduce myself as suggested by my University Advisor. I encourage you to do the same to get to know them and the school. They know you need letters, asking for one isn’t going to shock them. While in this meeting, let them know that you are interested in having them come out and observe a lesson so that they can write you an honest letter of recommendation.

If you are checking out multiple schools for possible placements I suggest talking with the administration about letters right at the start. Obviously, they need to see you in action but it is important to make sure they don’t have a blanket policy against writing letters for student teachers. Yes, that is a thing I have come across. If the administration denies all letter requests before ever seeing a student teacher in action, I suggest finding a different school. Teachers regularly need letters from administrators to apply for jobs and if all your placements were at schools with an auto “No.” policy then you might be in a hard place for finding a job.

That all being said, admins are busy people with quite a bit on their plate so if they aren’t able to write you a letter don’t fret. Ask your master teacher, your professors, your academic advisor and even just a status letter from your university about your expected graduation and recommendation dates. And never underestimate the influence of just word of mouth. If you really like a school or district, let them know it.


Future student teachers: get on all your nearby substitute lists

There is a lot of paperwork that goes into student teaching.  I am going to make a fairly big suggestion for anyone looking at starting student teaching in the next six months, ready? Get on the substitute teaching list for all the districts that you live nearby. Do it now that way when the time comes to get your placements set up you have done a huge amount of the needed paperwork already. The district has already vetted you and accepted you to work in their district. I did this with my first placement’s district (in my hometown where I regularly took substitute jobs) which made starting there a breeze. I did not do this with my second placement which is a town away. I had figured, why get on the substitute list for another school district when the one in my hometown keeps me plenty busy? The answer is…to make student teaching easier, much, much easier.

Added bonus: many districts consider substitute’s internal candidates when they apply for teaching positions and grant them preferential treatment in the hiring process.


Decision Made

I took a real hard look at the syllabus and decided that student teaching is already going to be fairly demanding without another course in the mix. So I dropped MAT 674, the Masters level class on Differentiation. I feel confident that I am making the right decision.

Additionally, I am pretty sure that I will not be able to keep up daily posting during student teaching. My goal is to get a post up a week during my first placement and see how it goes. I may re-evaluate during my second placement.


So my first student teaching position starts Monday. I am currently enrolled in my last regular course (MAT 674) for my Master’s Degree  (student teaching, student teaching seminars and Master’s Capstone not included as they are all very individualized) which also starts on Monday. Originally, I thought that my student teaching seminar was going to bump my MAT 674 course off my schedule. However, my actual student teaching seminar does not start until February. So now I am trying to decide if I want to keep the course and juggle my first month of student teaching at the same time or if I should re-schedule the course after my student teaching is done. I am torn. I think ultimately all I can do is wait until Sunday night when the Blackboard for the course opens up and check out the assignments. I do not think that I can really make a clear decision without more information, but it is weighing on my mind.

Student Teaching Seminars Scheduled

Since I live so far from a physical campus (and my first student teaching position is about a block from my house) I put in a formal request for an exemption to allow me to take the student teaching seminars online instead of in person. The request was conditionally approved over the holiday break but the notification did not explain what “conditionally” actually meant. Later, I found out it depended on whether there would be an online course available. Today, I was notified that I was (finally) enrolled in my student teaching seminar courses. I checked, they are online and that means that I do not have to commute to a University campus for the seminars. Woohoo!

Meeting with a Master Teacher

I met with my first master teacher today after school let out for the holidays. We went over what the schedule for the school, the weekly schedule for the classroom, the requirements for my program, student testing and scheduled when I will take over the class full time. We discussed my TPA requirements and made a plan for when I will gather the needed work samples from the class that is needed to complete TPA #3 and TPA #4. We talked about what the students will be working on when they come back from break. I came up with some ideas of how to expand the technology portion of the assignment and create a hands-on aspect as well to appeal to different learning styles. All in all it went fabulous and I am super excited!

Student Teacher Orietation

Today, I had my orientation for student teaching. It went well. I got there super early, as usual, so I had a bit of a wait. We talked about who all you need to contact if you are going to be out sick and substituting for your master teacher.  We were informed that we will be observed by our university supervisor eight times total, four during each placement/level periods.

We went over the requirements for:

  1. multiple subject elementary teachers, it is 40 days in a lower elementary placement and 40 days in an upper elementary placement
  2. single subject teachers, it is 80 days in their subject, half of the teaching periods at one level and the other half of the teaching periods at a second level so it could be half freshmen English and half sophomore English

For my university/program, they like to schedule you 45 days to provide you with some cushion in the event you miss any days.



Working Ahead: Discussion Boards

I know lots of peers that have taken online courses find discussion boards to be busy work. They find it pointless and a waste of time. I admit I was among those ranks at one point before I started at National University when I was still working on my BA. I was always rushing to get my posts in at the last minute (sometimes forgetting), they were an afterthought. I started National I started off much the same and then I realized I was the problem, not the discussion boards.

So I tried creating my own deadlines for posts, my original posts by end of the first day of each week. It helped, so I decided to go one step further in my next class. During that first week, I posted week 1’s post on the discussion board and wrote week 2’s posts in a google doc. I kept this cycle up for a month.  I particularly liked writing my discussion posts early as it helped me from rushing through them like an afterthought. I noticed that the earlier I posted the more peer responses I tend to get, which was also validating to the exercise.

My next class, I wrote and posted my discussion board posts for week 1 on the first day of class, week 2 on the day that our original posts were due for week 1 (so a week early). I kept this cycle (posting a week early) up for a month.  I noticed that not only did I get a ton more peer responses but I also saw a big increase in other students posting their initial posts and responses early.

I have tracked the pattern and concluded that the sooner someone posts into the discussion board the sooner others will post. Discussion boards are like a floodgate, if you start the flow early your peers will often follow suit.

I make a point to engage with anyone that responded to my postings (original and my responses) so I have the benefit of a real discussion with peers. I noticed when I do this early in the class others will follow suit and be responsive to their post’s comments as well. I think that the real point is to create an actual dialogue between peers but you only get that if you post early and respond to the comments on your post or even other posts. I have gotten some great tips from peers, often from their second or third reply in our board conversations.



National University

I have been attending National University online to earn my teaching credential and masters in education degree. I absolutely adore the format the school uses and think it is perfect for adults who have a heavy load of other obligations to juggle with school. Yes, going to school online takes a certain amount of self-discipline but their program is so different that you really have to give it a shot, judging it by other universities where classes last 8, 12 or even 16 weeks just doesn’t compare. Students take one class at a time, meaning you never have to manage floods of homework from a bunch of different professors one week only to have no homework the next. The workload is pretty even from week to week usually: two assignments, two original postings to a discussion board and four responses to peers. Each class lasts just one month so you don’t have time to lose your motivation (or slack off). You also know the assignments upfront on day 1 of the course with deadlines included, to me that was a life saver as I could plan my month to ensure I did not overload myself.