Student teaching provides inimitable learning experience experience

In order for a person to become a teacher and be able to teach students, they must obtain their credential, pass tests, and spend 600 hours as a student teacher.


In order for a person to become a teacher and be able to teach students, they must obtain their credential, pass tests, and spend 600 hours as a student teacher. This unpaid work is what lets aspiring teachers find their own teaching style.

The experience of teaching a room of students is something that can be tough, but that must be experienced in order for a student teacher to become a full-fledged teacher. “That’s just part of the training,” Timothy Finnigan said. Finnigan is a current substitute at Berkeley High School who was a student teacher last academic year and found the experience of being able to teach for about a semester to be highly beneficial for him. 

“There’s all of these pedagogical techniques (which you learn about teaching),” Finnigan said, “(but) you can go to formal school, you can learn pedagogical theory, but until you step foot in a classroom in the field, and deliver instructions, and have to come up with content … none of that stuff comes through when you’re just clicking through modules online and watching tutorial videos … The most valuable experience of grad school was 100 percent just diving into the classroom.”

According to Finnigan, the discussion of how much control the student teacher has over a classroom comes from a  “negotiation between (the student teacher) and the teacher about how much of their class they’re willing to give up to an absolute novice.” Student teachers, for example, may completely teach for half of a semester or they may teach half of the class on any given day — they are often given a lot of flexibility to find out what method of teaching works best for them and for their students.  

“There’s a lot of more freedom. And I feel like I can do a lot more than the regular teacher would be able to do,” Janelle Jajeh, who is on her second semester as a student teacher, but her first semester as a student teacher at BHS, said. 

Being able to experience the classroom is also helpful for teachers to acclimate themselves to their new career, especially as not all student teachers started their career by teaching. 

Jim Morehead, a student teacher for Universal 9th Grade physics and AP Physics C, originally used physics in a professional setting, working at a company that developed lasers. He worked there for over 20 years before he decided to become a teacher. Before teaching at BHS, he taught physics to UC Berkeley students for four years, though this is his first year teaching high schoolers. 

“It’s different. Certainly. It’s a big shift,” Morehead said, comparing this job to his previous careers.  Yet, despite the change, Morehead decided enter teaching. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Morehead said, “(and) shocked in a good way. The students are nice and respectful, and we have a good time.”

Originally Jajeh planned to teach elementary school, but changed her mind halfway through the year, focusing instead on high school. 

“I was scared at first because I feel like I’m not far outside of high school myself, so I was a little intimidated to be with older kids … but once I got to work, I really enjoyed it here. The kids are all very respectful,” Jajeh said. “Because (the students are) older, they’re more independent, and so we can do a lot more learning and discussing. It’s just been really fun.”

Working in the classroom not only allows student teachers to become better teachers, but also lets them adjust to a new environment, finding out their personal teaching style.