Teaching practice: how to not be taken advantage of
So many student teachers are taken advantage of during their teaching practice periods. I of all people should know, because this happened to me during each and every practical/practice session.
The problem is that quite a few schools act as if they are doing you a favour, by allowing you to come and do your compulsory practice period by them, as a student teacher. The reality however is that by law they as schools are obligated to allow a certain number of student teachers to visit for teaching practice purposes per year. Therefore you are totally in your rights to be there!
Ways that schools “use and abuse” student teachers vary. However the most common type of violation is when the schools use student teachers to teach on their own. Very often it happens that student teachers are made to run whole classes for days (or even weeks) at a time. The reason they (schools) do this is simply to save themselves a buck; as student teachers cannot demand any form of remuneration for their time and efforts during practicals.
So just what is supposed to actually happen during your teaching practice periods then? The answer to this question is quite simple. All you are meant to do during your compulsory teaching practice period is to assist your assigned mentor teachers and “teach” alongside them. You are NOT meant to teach any classes on your own. You are also not meant to run any school sports, or do anything outside of assistant teaching.
Another problem that occurs is that student teachers are not given a chance to do their mandatory university assignments during practicals. Each year I was kept so busy playing full-time teacher for the school I did my practicals at. I therefore had to squeeze my assignments into little private moments I got with the children at the end of the day. Also, many full-time teachers, teaching at the schools you are assigned to, are not very inclined to allow “outsiders” into their space/classrooms. Therefore, very often student teachers are forced to use the full-time teachers class work and assignments and pass these off at their own ideas for assignment purposes; losing valuable marks in the process.
Teaching practice periods are a time that most student teachers despise and dread, for the reasons mentioned above (amongst others).These periods are unfortunately compulsory (albeit not very beneficial or practical in reality). They need not however be times in which you, as a student, are taken advantage of. Below I shall be sharing a few tips on how to prevent yourself from being taken advantage of during practicals:
Know your rights and what the school can and cannot expect of you. Speak to your University about what the school can legally and realistically expect you to do whilst visiting them. Then flat out refuse to do anything more than this; if the school requests it. If the school’s staff tries to be nasty to you because of your refusal, simply report their asses to your country’s Department of Education.
Don’t be afraid to report schools that are using you for purposes other than those that are allowed. It is the school that will get into trouble for doing this, not you as the student. Also, if you have reported a school, no university can expect you to go back to that school. So don’t stress too much over having to see any of the staff that treated you in an ill manner again. The proper way to report a school that was ill-treating or misusing you is by speaking to your university about the occurrence first, and then only going to the relevant education authorities (such as the Department of Education).
Make sure the school you are going to be doing your practice period at knows what your University expects you to do (assignment wise etc.) whilst you will be visiting them. Be quite clear outright on what your university requires you to do, and state the importance of being allowed the freedom to do just this.
Note that the school you are doing pracs at is allowed to make use of you for certain school related tasks however, such as;
- Playing assistant teacher to your assigned mentor teacher.
- Helping out at school related sports and other functions; provided these are taking place during school hours.
- Being involved in day to day school related events and tasks.
Only report the school to your university and the necessary authorities if;
- The school is making you run complete classes on your own.
- Some of the staff are bullying you or not allowing you to do your assignments.
- Certain school staff are trying to make you run school related events for them.
- The school is making you run their aftercare classes.
- You are being used as a substitute teacher when staff do not show up for work.
- There is a general nasty attitude towards you as a student teacher, that makes it very unpleasant for you to visit the school.
Below are two valuable links worth a read if you are a student teacher going into your first teaching practice period:
Remember, just because you are a student does not mean you have to take the bull and abuse of others.
Academics Can Kill Your Sanity 2017
Edit: Even though you are ‘just a student teacher’, you do have a voice. DON’T be afraid to use it no matter how intimidated you feel. Remember that no type of ill-treatment is okay. Don’t have the attitude of ‘I’ll just ignore it’. More and more students are admitting to me how afraid they are during pracs. It really doesn’t need to be this way. Follow the tips given above and if they don’t help, report the schools. The more student teachers’ report ill-treatment, the more likely change will come about. You have the right to your education. This includes the right to fair and rewarding teaching prac periods. Hold your head up high and take no bull! Good luck. Here’s hoping you have an amazing, fair teaching prac session!