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Teachers are compassionate and giving people who want the best for their students, and becoming a teacher is an exercise in selflessness and dedication. You give so much of your time and energy to your coursework, to the theory of teaching. Theory can only get you so far, however, and your student teaching will be the most important part of your education. Though most of these internships seem long, the time will fly by, and if you’re not careful, you may finish your student teaching feeling like you could have gotten more out of it. Here are 7 tips for making the most of your internship from the very beginning!

1. Ask questions constantly

While it’s pretty obvious that no one going into student teaching knows everything from jump, the reality is that many student teachers are very shy about asking questions. Typically, people hold back because they don’t want to look ignorant or bother the supervising teacher. Don’t let that be you—this is your opportunity to ask every question that occurs to you. Asking questions is how you learn—and it’s much easier to ask a question during your internship than it is when you’re in charge of the classroom all by yourself.

2. Try to get placed in your preferred grade level

Chances are, you already have an idea of what kind of job you’d like to get after graduation. If you like working with little kids and like a more active classroom juggling multiple subjects, you’re probably interested in elementary school teaching positions. If you’re a buff in one subject, high school might be a better fit.

Unsure of either option? Don’t worry. There are a number of online resources to help decide what grade level you should teach. You may also want to find a mentor – an older teacher who has been in your situation before and can guide you in the right direction. Be sure to get started on this process early though. The sooner you know, the sooner you’ll be able to start aligning your skills and strengths to fit your subject and grade.

3. Don’t skate by

It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone and avoid trying anything innovative during your internship, but you’re not going to impress or learn just by doing what you’re told. That doesn’t mean you should go rogue, but you should be prepared to share your own ideas with your supervising teacher and see if you can try out new lesson plans to practice building your own style and your own way of doing things.

In addition to using your creativity and initiative, notice what needs to be done before you’re asked. If you have a spare moment, look around you and see what your classroom might need. Your supervising teacher will appreciate this proactive attitude, and it can help you learn to anticipate needs while improving your reputation.

4. Be flexible

Kids are anything but predictable, whether they’re 5 or 15. Go into your student teaching sessions with a plan, but be prepared to be flexible. Taking the attitude of flexibility will help you reach goals with your students without being married to the specific path you’ll use to get there. Students are different, classroom dynamics can be unpredictable, and it’s best to expect the unexpected.

5. Take notes for the future

While it’s important to absorb and observe as much as you can in the moment, you also need to be thinking about the future. Your identity as a teacher is still being shaped, and you should take this opportunity to make notes about different teaching styles and ideas you encounter. Write down everything you can—whether it’s something you want to emulate or avoid. Try to observe as many teachers as possible so you can get a broader view of the different styles out there.

6. Dive into the most challenging situations you can

You might think that playing it safe is the right play during your internship, but don’t forget: you’ll have the most support you’ll ever have in your teaching career during these months. This is the opportunity to jump into challenging situations and ask questions. Students with special needs, for example, aren’t unusual—there are 6.5 million children and youths age 3-21 using special education services in the United States. Other kids might not be utilizing these services, but could benefit from them. Use your student teaching to learn how to cope with difficult behavior and other challenging situations you might come across—don’t wait until you’re on your own with a classroom full of kids.

7. Give feedback and be direct

You should always be professional and defer to your supervising teacher, but you should never keep quiet about what you need, or about any helpful feedback and ideas you have. Good supervising teachers will appreciate a direct approach and will be open to what you have to say. Don’t be a complainer, but speak up when you need something, you want to go over a concept, or anything else that could help you become a better teacher. Remember, that’s what your internship is all about!