Everyone seems to agree: The more hands-on, pre-service experience in the classroom—where you observe and practice with an effective teacher who gives you helpful feedback—the better.
Why is this important?
Practice makes perfect. In fact, teachers with classroom experience as a part of their prep program are more likely to feel prepared for their first year in the classroom. Having the opportunity to observe other teachers and practice teaching is important for success as a first-year teacher.
What can this look like?
Pre-service, hands-on experience can come in a variety of forms.
- In traditional undergraduate or master's programs, your pre-service program typically includes one or two semesters of working in an experienced teacher’s classroom. This is usually called "student teaching" and often occurs during your final year.
- Alternative licensure programs may offer several weeks of pre-service practice with an experienced teacher during summer school. Once you are in the classroom, your learning continues as you teach your own class, supported by a mentor, and engage in additional professional learning with your program cohort throughout the school year. These programs work directly with school districts to train teachers concurrently while they are teaching in the classroom. Find more information about them here.
Heads Up: Several alternative licensure programs have "internship” or “on the job" components. This can sound like pre-service experience, but it is just the term for your first year as the primary adult in the classroom before the program recommends you to receive your license. Some programs will have pre-service experience before this internship year and some will not—just make sure you understand the details of the program components before you sign up.
As a rule, more pre-service experience is better, but quality definitely matters. Make sure to ask any prospective programs about what the pre-service experience entails, including how long it lasts, how they select mentor teachers and how you will receive feedback on your practice.