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Teacher Education Field Experiences

The following sections are included on this page:

We believe that the very best way to learn to be an effective teacher of children is by spending significant time in real classroom contexts. These “field experiences” are a key part of our program at all levels, allowing you to see and hear and even smell what real classrooms are like. The duration and frequency of field experiences vary by program component and level. Most field experiences are coordinated through a particular course, which means that you will be held accountable for your time and expectations in the field as a course requirement; others are program requirements, which mean you are required to complete field experiences in order to move on in the program.

Because children tend to be in school during daytime hours, the Teacher Education Program has required daytime field experience obligations, described below. (For field experience information for teachHouston, please see the program website at http://teachhouston.uh.edu/

State policy prohibits you from being paid during student teaching. For this reason, you cannot be placed for student teaching in a job for which you will be paid.

International Students on an F1 Visa: As a reminder, international students on the F-1 visa must receive curricular practical training (CPT) authorization from International Student and Scholar Services Office (ISSSO) before starting any field experiences. Authorization may be renewed each semester for eligible students. Application forms are available on ISSSO’s website for undergraduate and graduate students. Schedule an appointment with an International Student Counselor for more information by calling (713) 743-5065.


Field Experiences in Pre-Teaching

During your Pre-Teaching semester, you will spend time in the field rotating through various schools in the Houston Metropolitan Area. The goal of these experiences is to give you a broad context for education. By design, you will have the opportunity to observe schools that are both geographically near and far from where you live, as well as visit schools and districts with which you may or may not be familiar.

Pre-Teaching field experiences consist of a full school day visit once a week for the semester. When planning for your Pre-Teaching semester, you should account for the time you will be in courses as well as for one day a week in the field. The specific day you will be required to report to the field is determined by the Teacher Education Office, based on your certification area and the courses offered during the pre-teaching semester. A field experience orientation will be held at the beginning of the semester, and here you will be given your field experience schedule, to the degree that is possible given the scheduling restraints of our school partners. Since you will be attending field experiences once a week, we encourage you to start thinking about driving arrangements, childcare arrangements, and time management.

Early Field Experiences in Pre-Teaching are evaluated in three ways: 1) by recording attendance in the time log provided by the Teacher Education office 2) by adhering to Field Experience dress code, participation policies, and Teacher Education Professional Attributes; and 3) by completing written reflections and course assignments that are aligned to required coursework for each specific semester.

Those with daytime employment that is flexible enough to allow for 1 day a week of leave over the course of a semester may find that they can continue their daytime employment during Pre-Teaching. Those with inflexible daytime work arrangements will find difficulty completing the Pre-Teaching field experience requirements, as well as field requirements in the remainder of the program.


Field Experiences in Developing Teaching

Developing Teaching requires you to spend a significant time in a school working with a cooperating teacher to assist him/her in all tasks related to the responsibilities of a teacher.  This includes tasks such as individual and small group instruction, duty assignments, preparing instructional materials, etc. The Developing Teaching experience at all certification levels is an immersion into classrooms, requiring candidates to be placed in schools at the appropriate certification level for two days a week.

Performance in Developing Teaching field experiences is evaluated in three ways:1) by recording attendance in the time log provided by the Teacher Education office; 2) by adhering to Field Experience dress code, participation policies, and Teacher Education Professional Attributes, as well as corresponding with cooperating teachers and campus administrators regarding professionalism and willingness to complete tasks; and 3) by completing a task list, written reflections, and course assignments that are aligned to required coursework for each specific semester. When planning for your Developing Teaching semester, you should account for the time you will spend in your courses plus two days a week in the field. Candidates who work full time will find it difficult to successfully complete the Developing Teaching field experience.  Work responsibilities will not be accepted as an excuse for not completing required field placement elements.


Field Experiences in Student Teaching 1 and 2

Student Teaching 1 and 2 requires you to be immersed in the profession of teaching at your target grade range. You will be placed in a classroom assigned to a cooperating teacher for two full semesters, and will be engaged in planning, teaching and assessing lessons for small and large groups of students, preparing materials, meeting with other teachers or parents, completing practice teaching requirements assigned by your courses, and otherwise assisting the cooperating teacher in ways that provide experience with the complex work of teaching. In addition, you will spend significant time developing the ability to reflect on what you are learning by documenting your learning in various ways.

Performance in Student Teaching 1 and 2 is evaluated by a University Supervisor in three ways: 1) by monitoring attendance and adherence to Field Experience dress code and participation policies; 2) by evaluating teaching performance in required formal observations using a teaching evaluation form; and 3) by evaluating midterm and final ratings on the Teacher Education Professional Attributes. Performance is further evaluated by the Cooperating Teachers in two ways: 1) by evaluating teaching performance in required formal observations using a teaching evaluation form; and 2) by evaluating midterm and final ratings on the Teacher Education Professional Attributes.

Student Teaching 1 and 2 is a rigorous, full- time, daytime commitment, and you are urged to consider it as full-time employment in order to give this semester the appropriate time allocation. You are strongly encouraged to avoid taking classes outside of those delineated by the program to go along with student teaching, or working at another job during these challenging and rewarding semesters. We find in general that the most successful candidates do not work during student teaching. However, if you choose to work, you may request that this work be approved only if it allows for completion of the required field time. Work responsibilities will not be accepted as an excuse for not completing required field placement elements.

The Internship Program is an alternative format for satisfying student teaching requirements for Post Baccalaureate and Masters/Certification students only. The Internship Program spans a total of two regular (Fall and Spring) semesters. In order to be admitted to the Internship Program, you must secure your own full-time teaching position as a teacher of record at an accredited school.  During each of two semesters, you will enroll in six semester hours of coursework – a student teaching course and an Internship course. Once you have been hired, you will meet with the certification analyst in 160 Farish Hall to apply for a Probationary Certificate that will enable you to legally teach during the Internship year.

Student teachers (and Interns) work most closely with their Cooperating Teachers (Mentor Teachers). Cooperating Teachers (Mentors) provide daily support, instruction, coaching, mentoring, and guidance. They also evaluate Student Teachers (Interns) on midterm and final Teaching Evaluation forms and Professional Attribute forms.

Student Teachers (and Interns) are observed by their assigned University Supervisors for a minimum of three formal observations, of at least 45 minutes in length. Feedback is provided in the form of a written UH Performance Assessment form, and post-conference between the University Supervisor and the Student Teacher (Intern). Student Teachers who are deemed to be struggling for any reason will be scheduled for an appropriate intervention including but not limited to: additional observation visits, additional and structured feedback, structured support, and alternative assignments. University Supervisors also evaluate Student Teachers with midterm and final ratings on the Teacher Education Professional Attributes. Specific requirements and forms for student teaching are included in the Student Teaching Handbook.

How Candidates are Placed with our Partner School Districts

Our ability to place you with an effective cooperating teacher so that you can learn your profession depends on our strong relationships with dozens of local school districts. These districts also place teacher candidates from other institutions, so it is vital that we communicate with the district representatives in a timely and organized manner.

To respect our relationship with our partner districts, who have asked us to communicate with them through consistent district representatives, it is our policy that all placements are arranged by the Teacher Education Office and that students do not contact school districts or individual schools directly to request a placement for themselves. Even if you happen to know a principal, and she has said she wants you to come teach for her, we must work through the district protocols. We are guests in our partner schools, and their normal and effective operation will be impaired if our candidates swamp them with individual requests. 

During your Pre-teaching semester, you will follow a schedule given to you. This schedule will allow you to experience a wide variety of districts and schools in order to broaden your perspective of the teaching profession as well as expose you to new districts in which you may not have past experience.

For your Developing Teaching and Student Teaching 1 and 2 semesters, we will give you the opportunity to provide your district preferences from a list of our district partners. You will complete an online application for your first and second choice partner district. We will submit your preferences to our contacts at each district, but it will be the district, in collaboration with campus principals who will determine specific assignments based on their ability to accommodate teacher candidates. Because the members of the school district secure your placement, we cannot guarantee your school or grade level preference will be granted. When your first or second choices cannot be honored, we will place you in the best possible alternative setting. You will be notified of the details of your placement before the semester begins in order for you to make initial contact with your cooperating teacher prior to your appropriate orientation. In Developing Teaching, your placement will be made after the semester begins.

Student orientations for all levels of the program will be held on the Friday prior to the first day of class each Fall and Spring semester. Orientation Day is required of each Teacher Education Candidate, so personal travel or employment plans should be arranged accordingly.

Our cooperating teachers accommodate teacher candidates on a voluntary basis, so various grade levels or specializations may or may not be available on a particular campus during any given semester. Also, district partnerships occasionally change, even at the last minute; if this happens, you will be notified as soon as possible so that you can make the necessary arrangements. Note that for a variety of reasons, you cannot be placed at a school where any relative of yours is employed or is attending.

The purpose of field experiences in the Teacher Education Program is to provide authentic observational experiences and structured teaching practice in school settings. The goal, first and foremost, is for you to gain experience in performing the professional dispositions required of teachers in Texas. So, for example, if you happen to be placed in an 8th grade English class when you really planned to teach high school, or you are placed in a district in which you wouldn’t have previously considered teaching, know that you can still be successful in accomplishing your goal of learning to be an effective teacher. You might even be surprised to find that you enjoy this new grade level or setting! Remember that flexibility is one of our Professional Attributes, and with a positive attitude toward your learning, you can make the most of any situation.

Your ability to complete the program—and your degree—in a timely manner is important to us. Therefore, candidates who apply to a Teacher Education component late, or who have not completed all required benchmarks, may still be eligible to be placed if they are able to complete all benchmarks by an extended deadline. However, it is likely that they will not be placed in the district of their choice. Our district partners make plans well ahead of time for how many teacher candidates they can accommodate, balancing UH candidates with those from other institutions. After the application deadline, we provide each district with a final placement list so they can make the necessary arrangements. Following that deadline, we then work with a very small number of districts who have agreed to accept late applicants. It behooves you to adhere to all deadlines and requirements so that you have the best chance possible to learn in the school setting of your choice!


Professional Attributes Especially Relevant to Field Experiences

Nowhere do your Professional Attributes become more important than when you are on a school campus. Please review the list of Professional Attributes included within this section (see Benchmark Requirements). In particular, these areas of the Professional Attributes tend to become problematic without special attention.

Punctuality

Your presence at each field placement is a planned event. Your Cooperating Teacher and students will be expecting you. If you are late or absent, you will not only inconvenience your teacher but also interrupt the learning environment of the students.

Please remember you are expected to be ready to begin exactly at the time scheduled, with all materials prepared and in order. Practice driving to the site before the first time you go to ensure you can find the school via alternate routes. Please arrive at least 15 minutes before you need to be there each day to allow time for unexpected traffic delays. If you are ill or otherwise unable to attend due to some other emergency, the professional way to handle your absence is to notify ALL necessary parties (Cooperating Teacher, Graduate Facilitator, University Supervisor, any team teaching peers) by phone, text or email—whichever method is the most likely way of reaching each individual. In addition, if you were scheduled to teach on that day, you must provide any materials needed for that day’s teaching to whomever you are expecting to fill in for you. Being absent as a teacher is difficult—do not leave your cooperating teacher in a lurch if you cannot be there!

Dress Code

Whenever you are on a school campus, remember at all times that you are representing the University of Houston. Not only are you expected to act as a professional while you are on a school campus, but as a teacher, you are also expected to dress like a professional. You should follow the dress code of the school district first; however this synthesis of the dress codes among all of our partner districts will serve as a common baseline. If you do not adhere to the dress code, you will be sent home.

  • No jeans
  • No low-cut tops (i.e. think about when you bend over to a child’s level
  • No lower backs or stomachs should be visible (i.e. tuck in the top or wear a tank top underneath that can be tucked in)
  • No off the shoulder tops
  • No visible tattoos
  • No Lycra pants or leggings
  • No athletic shoes (unless appropriate for a specific teaching activity)
  • No flip-flops, however decorative sandals are allowed (for example, a wedge or heeled sandal)

Ladies’ specifics:

  • Piercings: 1 earring per ear, no nose rings
  • Slacks should at least touch to the ankle-no capris or Bermuda shorts

 Men’s specifics:

  • All shirts must have a collar
  • Facial hair must be neatly trimmed
  • No earrings permitted

Criminal Background Checks

A prime consideration in our partnerships with Houston-area school districts is the safety of their children. Therefore, formal Criminal Background Checks must be completed BEFORE you can be placed in any school-based field experience

Texas Education Code 22.083 requires that you be able to complete and pass a district criminal background check that will be conducted by the appropriate independent school district prior to participation in any field-based coursework. This typically includes supplying a social security number and/or driver’s license. Completed criminal background check forms are forwarded to each district where you may be placed so that those individual districts can process the background checks according to their procedures. Criminal history record information, which includes both conviction and arrest records, is obtained by each independent school district in which you may be completing field experiences. An ISD or other school field-based entity may deny placement of students with a criminal background, and your clearance for fieldwork participation is solely the prerogative of the ISD or participating entity and not the University of Houston.

State law requires that you be able to complete and pass a district criminal background check form conducted by the appropriate school district, prior to you being allowed to participate in a field placement with one of our school partners. Failure to complete and pass this criminal background check process may result in your not being allowed placement in a school. Consequently, because the only way to learn to be a teacher is to spend significant time in classroom settings, inability to complete required field placements means you will not meet the requirements necessary for teacher certification.

Criminal background checks are handled differently for each Teacher Education component. Once you are accepted, you will be provided with the relevant procedures. Students will be instructed on the appropriate procedures and will then be responsible for submitting all required information in the right format at the right time.

Criminal History forms

(For background check information for teachHouston, please see the program website at http://teachhouston.uh.edu/)


Name Badges

In order to participate in any field experiences in a public school, you will need to wear an official name badge identifying you as UH student. The Teacher Education program requires you to use your official red UH ID card as your required nametag. Your UH ID card should be worn whenever you are on a school campus and at every field experience. If you are not displaying your red UH ID card, you may not stay at the field experience, and you will forfeit the points for that session.

You should purchase a clear plastic badge holder and red UH neck lanyard from the UH bookstore so that you can wear this nametag at your school site.