Student teaching as a young music education major can be rewarding, but it comes with many challenges. The picture accompanying this post is from my semester of student teaching grades 6-8. It was not the fairy tale adventure that I thought it would be, but it was a great learning experience.
As a graduate student, I have the privilege of being a university supervisor to our undergraduate student teachers. Working with these young, preservice music teachers is one of the most rewarding roles that I have. For many choral music students, their semester student teaching is often thought of as a rite of passage, the chance for them to conduct a “real” group of students, the chance to put all of their content knowledge into practice, and the chance to don their professional “teacher” attire for their first day at their placement. . . it is also a chance at seeing what they are getting themselves into. . . and it can be overwhelming.
Our student teachers are placed at many different locations, working with two different age groups for 16 weeks. Many opt to spend 8 weeks working with grades 6-8 and then move to grades 9-12 for the remainder of the semester. Some may even begin with the “littles” in grades K-5. One of the biggest things that our student teachers get to battle with is their imposter syndrome as well as navigating the ways that their teacher identity complements that of their cooperating teacher(s) - or the ways that these identities might clash.
As a university supervisor, the student teachers under my care know that I am available to chat when they are feeling overwhelmed. Some of the most common concerns that I hear? - “M.R. I just don’t know how I’m going to get through this semester” or “I’m feeling really overwhelmed and anxious about all of these responsibilities, M.R.”, or “I love my students but co-op does things differently than I do”, and sometimes I am met with a simple, “Free to talk?” text message.
These conversations can be full of big emotions. Being a student teacher can be a huge challenge, but you know what? You will get what you put into it. At the end of the day, as Dr. Peterson reminds me to share with my student teachers, you are learning just as much of what you WANT your job to look like, as much as you are learning what you do NOT want this career to be for you. Take what you like and learn from the rest. And whatever you do, take care of YOU! For whatever reason, the last few weeks can be the biggest challenge (especially for you spring student teachers, anxiously awaiting graduation and your first “big kid” jobs), but your university supervisor is here for you. Reach out to them whenever you need to and they will do their best to respond quickly.
This “rite of passage” can seem daunting at first, but you can make it through! No matter what, be proud of yourself. You’ve learned so much and you are capable of being in front of your kiddos, teaching them the thing we all love; music.
Miranda (M.R.) Rowland
Student teaching, imposter syndrome, university supervisor