“Becoming a teacher means having practical, hands-on experience before you graduate” according to the Keene State College website. 

A major part of the experience the website describes is student teaching, which, according to Dr. Erin Zaffini, is the most important experience the college can provide. 

“You learn more from it than anything else, and it is the key to success in the field,” she said.

Student teaching is an especially important part of the music education program, according to Emma Nelson, a senior music education major. “From student teaching, like especially music student teaching, I’ve learned that talent isn’t something that you’re born with. Music skills are something that any person at any age can learn and acquire, and it can teach them to be a full bodied person and student,” she said.

 But for every subject, student teaching is crucial. 

“You just learn so much during student teaching that you need that flexibility where another teacher can say, ‘hey, but maybe try this instead,’ and you’re like ‘oh my gosh, why didn’t I think of that?’” Nelson said. 

“So it really sticks with you ‘cause, when you’re allowed to make those mistakes, you look back and you’re like, ‘this is why I don’t do this now’ in the future. So it’s really helpful to be a learning individual still, ‘cause you’re constantly learning when you’re teaching, but you need that environment where it’s safe to make a mistake,” she said.

Others approaching the completion of their semester of student teaching agree. 

Matthew McGinnis, another senior music education major said, “Previous to student teaching, we’re not there every day—but soon as student teaching comes, you’re it, you’re on all the time and that’s so important to really get that true experience of what it feels like,” he said. 

He added, “I think that we go through these programs and learn so much over four years and it’s really nice to give it a practice shot before it’s all you. Because our cooperating teachers really do throw us out there and we might fall flat on our face, but that’s okay because they’re there to help us get back on our feet, and it’s nice to have that support before it’s just you.”

Providing more than support, the cooperating teachers and professors provide real-life pressure and high expectations. McGinnis said, “I think that I was pushed a lot by my professors and that really prepared me really well so if anyone is ever feeling too pushed or anything like that just know that it’s because your professors just want you to succeed.”

The experience of student teaching is invaluable, Zaffini said, 

“Regardless of whether you go into music education or just education, put all the effort you can into student teaching and strive for growth. Continue to put the hours in, and ask your professors for advice because this is the time to receive feedback.”

Emma Mehegan can be conacted at emehegan@kscequinox.com