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 pre-service (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.
Some alternative licensure programs offer several weeks of pre-service practice with an experienced teacher during summer school, and some will allow you to do a semester of student teaching while enrolled.
Residency programs, or one-year programs for candidates that meet the content requirements of licensure but may still need pedagogy requirements, usually offer a full year of pre-service teaching experience, where you may have some practice in the summer and then a "clinical year" embedded in a school.
Heads Up: Several alternative licensure programs have "internship" 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 has recommended you to receive your license. Some programs will have pre-service experience before this internship year—just make sure you understand the details of the program components before you sign up. For more information about our partner programs, click on a program in the Program Explorer and read the profile.
As a rule of thumb, 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.