What to Expect While Student Teaching: “Elementary” Style

Media by Andrea Freeman

Written by Alyssa Gosselin. Media by Andrea Freeman.


Student Teaching; a period of guided teaching when the teacher candidate takes increasing responsibility for leading the school experiences of a group of learners over a period of consecutive weeks.

Alyssa Gosselin student teaching a class of youngsters
Alyssa Gosselin student teaching a class of youngsters. Image by Alyssa Gosselin


As a senior Elementary Education major in my final semester of student teaching at Greenville College, I have discovered that teaching in an elementary school is not for the faint of heart. In discovering this, I have also learned that student teachers should enter into their student teaching internship with many (or at least 10) expectations. Check it out:

Expect to go to bed before the rest of campus. When everyone else is living it up during the week with Pokey runs, improv shows, late-night Walmart runs, and worship at Vespers, you (as well as the rest of the grandmas in Greenville) will be sound asleep by 10:30pm. If you aren’t in bed by 10:30pm, expect to make a 7:30am coffee run to Jo’s Java because to handle 25+ students for 7+ hours a day, you will need the extra boost of energy.

Expect to become miserably sick and physically run down at least two times during your internship. With dozens of students sneezing, coughing, blowing their noses, picking their noses, drooling on their desks and netbooks, forgetting to wash their hands after they use the bathroom, and spitting on you as they talk, you are bound to catch whatever is lurking within your classroom…at least twice. I won’t even talk about lice. That’s a whole other article in itself.

Expect to see your students EVERYWHERE you go. Every weekend, without fail, I see at least one of my students. I have seen students on my Saturday morning runs, dinner dates, afternoon visits to the park, and trips to the grocery store. Greenville is a small town so you WILL see your students everywhere.

One of Alyssa Gosselin's Lesson Plans. Image by Alyssa Gosselin
One of Alyssa Gosselin’s Lesson Plans.
Image by Alyssa Gosselin

Expect to feel disconnected from the student body. In fact, expect to feel like you graduated before you even start your student teaching. Working 8am-4pm everyday causes you to miss out on many things, especially events on campus. I can sincerely say that I miss going to chapel, walking across Scott Field, meeting friends for morning coffee dates at Jo’s Java, and walking to class. Student teaching definitely prepares you for the work world, but it is a little unfortunate that education majors have to spend their last semester at Greenville feeling disconnected and “out of the loop.”

Expect to claim that you are at least 29 years old. My students ask me all the time how I old I am and if I am married. I ask them to guess how old I am, and if they guess 28 or above, I tell them that they are only a year or two off. I don’t want them to know that I am only 21, as many of them have older siblings in high school who are only a few years younger than me. If my students guess that I am 40 or older (and surprisingly they do) I tell them that they guessed correctly, and casually change the conversation.

Expect to wear the same outfits over and over. Let’s face it, at 6:00am in the morning, it’s not likely that you are going to care about what you are wearing for the day especially if its in a classroom full of 9 year olds. Also, since you are a poor college student who can’t afford an entirely new wardrobe, you have to be creative and content with the outfits that you have. I have started to realize that I have an outfit rotation. I have about 10 outfits that I wear on a two week rotation. I might switch up my scarf here and there, but other than that, the outfit I choose to wear is usually the same as the outfit I wore 8 or 9 days ago.

Expect to use student teaching as a valuable excuse to get you out of other commitments that you don’t want to do. I won’t expound on this point because I think that you get the point. If you don’t want to go to an evening activity, event, or meeting, blame it on the fact that you have to be in bed at that hour or that you have to “lesson plan” for the next day.

Artwork created by Alyssa's class. Image by Alyssa Gosselin
Artwork created by Alyssa’s class.
Image by Alyssa Gosselin

Expect to be entertained by what your students have to say or do EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. No matter the day, I am always able to come home with hilarious quotes, stories, or events that happened that day at school. With third graders, everything is comical. I encourage you to have a blog, a “happy folder,” or journal that you can cherish these humorous moments in. You won’t want to forget them.

Expect to gain loads more respect for the profession of teaching. Teaching involves more than just teaching. In many ways, teachers are raising every one of their students. Discipline and behavior management are two areas that all teachers must understand before they can truly teach their students. Some of the students are going to try to make you go crazy, so remember.

Last, (but certainly not least) expect to develop a bladder of steel. Usually, I drink a cup or two of coffee every morning. I have not done so for the last few months, however. Reason being, I have noticed that as an elementary school teacher, you do not get bathroom breaks. Why? Because you can’t leave those little rascals unattended, that’s why. The students, they may get about two bathroom breaks in the morning and two bathroom breaks in the afternoon. However, the teacher only gets one bathroom break in the afternoon during lunch and that’s it. I have experienced a few “uncomfortable situations” during my time of student teaching, and I have finally come to the conclusion that when I am a full time teacher, I will not drink as much coffee as I once did if I want to make it through the day alive.

Like I said, these are just a few of the many expectations that student teachers should possess while fulfilling their professional internship at a local public school. From the wise words of Forrest Gump, student teaching is like a “box of chocolates” because you never know what you are going to get. However, if you hold fast to these 10 expectations, you might be less surprised with the variety of things that you get.


  1. I remember those days. ;). Only, my student teaching locations were all about a 45 minute drive away, so my mornings started much earlier. You are SO right, Alyssa, non-ed majors just don’t get it. All of this is very true…I’m looking forward to the next article where you address the lice! :p Lol


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