Student Teaching: The High School Experience

Student Teaching: The High School Experience

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I’m preparing to start my second week of student teaching in my high school placement. Starting on Monday, I’ll be taking over the honors sculpture class, and I’m being observed while I do it! Here are some of the benefits of being a high school teacher that I’ve observed so far…

People ask me if I have a preference for high school or elementary students, and to be honest, I’m not sure. That’s okay, too. That’s the joy of K-12 certification. Plus, the more flexible you are, the more open your job search is.

High school kids are funny, and by funny I mean very unpredictable. One day they’re fine. They’re participating, being pleasant, mature, responsible, helpful, adult-like, etc… Then the next day, they’re holding a handwritten, intricately folded note and bawling their eyes out in front of everyone.

I’m learning to work with both ends of the emotional spectrum. It can be a delicate dance when you’re trying to establish yourself as an educator who needs students to participate and be prepared to learn, an authority figure who wants to create a well managed classroom environment, and, generally, a responsible adult who students feel comfortable coming to when they’re in need.

So, you’re probably wondering after that paragraph, “What’s the benefit of working with emotional teenagers?” I think it’s the teacher-to-student relationships you can build through those tough days. I’m a relationship building kind of a person. I love establishing a rapport with people and building mutual respect, so I feel like I do well with moments like those in the classroom. At that age, students want to be listened to and validated. Some students have very real challenges that they face. That being said, as a teacher it is every bit as important to have clear boundaries to protect yourself as it is to be there for your students.

On to a totally different benefit of teaching high school students: Certain aspects of classroom management seem a little easier. At least at this point—I know I’m only two weeks in! However, in contrast to elementary students (whom I love), I’ve noticed that in high school, students can keep track of time on their own, they know how to clean up and put things away for the most part, and getting their attention doesn’t require a noise making device. Once routines are set, they pretty much know what to do.

During my elementary experience, I spent a lot of time organizing set up so the students wouldn’t have to and budgeting time for clean up, sometimes up to ten minutes for certain projects. I felt like it took away from the time students had to work. There was just a lot more juggling involved with the younger students, whereas my high schoolers are noticeably more self sufficient.

Those are a couple perks I’ve noticed so far. Maybe there will be more to add in the coming weeks!

P.S. The photo for this blog post comes from the “Middle March” festival at the high school where I’m student teaching. Middle March is the fest for student organizations at the school, and I was there with the art club!! The banner says “Spread the Word to End the Word” in reference to the “r” word. Students signed the banner as a pledge to remove that word from their vocabulary, which I think is pretty awesome and another reason why high school kids are great.