Some education majors may not know where to start when thinking about professionalism during clinicals and student teaching because of the overwhelming misconceptions about it. However, there are a few easy practices to help each student improve and get a head start on their professional brand.

Be professional

Even though students are not placed in business offices where business casual is required, the environment should still be considered professional. Every day the teacher candidate is in a school for college credit resembles an interview, and the teacher candidate should treat it as such.

According to Redbird elementary education major and current student-teacher Brooklyn Vogel, “Acting professional and maintaining a professional appearance is absolutely essential while student teaching. Your role as a student teacher is to stand out from the students. However, while you should be professional at your student teaching site, remember that you do not need to be a robot during your experience. Have fun, get to know your students, faculty, and administration. Above all, be yourself.”

Arrive early and stay late if needed, especially during student teaching. It is important to be prepared when stepping into the school every day because it is not uncommon for school administrators to know administrators outside of the district they work and may talk about teacher candidates they have in their schools. Also, if the teacher candidate is not student teaching in their preferred location, the faculty within their school may have connections in other places, so this is an opportunity to build their network.

Build your network

Building a professional network is a very important part of clinicals and student teaching that is often forgotten. Teacher candidates will need to be productive about using their time wisely to have professional conversations with principals, department chairs, and faculty within the schools. Taking the time to cultivate these relationships may pay off later on when the job search begins. Also, take initiative. When student teaching, invite the principal or department chairs into the classroom to observe your teaching, so they see your work in the classroom and can speak to your abilities.

Make a good first impression

First impressions are also pivotal in networking and putting your best foot forward. When entering a school for the first time, there will be new people to meet and network with around every corner.

Amanda Parrott, coordinator of student teaching and student concerns for the School of Teaching and Learning states, “Many teacher candidates enter a school district with hopes of being employed in the district upon graduation. The district first gets a look at each teacher candidate when they first enter the building – from the way they handle interactions with faculty, staff, and students to the way they approach the job with attire and content knowledge. All of these aspects are observed each time a teacher candidate enters the building for observations or student teaching. Therefore, remember to put your best foot forward each visit so a lasting positive impression is felt after you complete your experience.”

When meeting school administrators and teachers for the first time maintaining eye contact while giving them a firm handshake, will show professionalism. Also maintaining a smile and positive attitude can help provoke a conversation. Likewise, one thing to think about is keeping these conversations and relationships professional and leave private life at home. Lastly, ask for business cards to keep in contact after clinicals or student teaching is over.

Stay connected

In addition to contact information on business cards, stay connected with professionals through a LinkedIn account. Most education majors do not see the value of making an account. However, it may prove useful as some school districts post job openings on LinkedIn. Also, send a thank you to the teacher and/or principal where your clinical and/or student teaching experience took place. This helps keep the teacher candidate relevant and in the minds of the individual in their network.

There are many Career Center programs and events held each semester to help education majors develop professionally while also building a network. Some include InstaCareer (with an education focus) and education career fairs. Teacher candidates can also schedule an appointment with Renee Carrigan, the career advisor for the education cluster, to discuss networking and building your brand.

Rachel Kumlien is a Career Center career ambassador and a sophomore studying elementary education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.