Throughout my years of teaching, I have been blessed with four amazing student teachers and many other pre-internship education students. I teach in the same town as a large university, so the next passionate generation of educators is always right around the corner. In fact, we have more than a dozen student teachers and pre-internship teachers in my building this semester alone! Although, I’m very proud to say that the teachers in my building are Top. Notch. Educators. If new teachers should be learning how to talk the talk and walk the walk from anyone, I’m very grateful it’s from them.
Serving as a supervising teacher for a student teacher is rewarding, but at the same time, is a big responsibility. Those of us that have been in this profession for awhile likely cannot imagine walking into the profession in 2016. The real responsibilities and hardships of the teaching life are astronomical compared to even five years ago, and these “young lions” need all the support and advice we can give them. Here are some critical ways that you can guide your student teacher toward a path of teaching success:
Prior to the arrival of your student teacher, put together a small binder or packet of essential info. In fact, I always request a “meet and greet” with my student teacher prior to her actual start date for her to meet one on one with me. We simply get to know one another and I give her a tour of our school building. This gives us time to get acquainted, time to get a feel for the classroom and school, and time to look over some materials at home prior to jumping in with students in the classroom. Here are some items that you might consider including in her binder. She will likely refer to these documents often and it will give her a “home” for all her essentials:
If you don’t have a Procedures Checklist on paper, I’ve got you covered! Many experienced teachers have their procedures etched into their brains year after year, but don’t have them written down. Remember that your student teacher will not have many experiences to draw upon and will likely need something more concrete. Click the picture below to download a FREE and EDITABLE Procedure Planner for both you and your student teacher. To read more about teaching procedures effectively, check out my post on the 4 Cardinal Rules for Classroom Procedures.
A list of usernames and passwords will save you a TON of time when your student teacher needs to log in to your gradebook, testing sites, etc. Also, a list of favorite resources will help her prepare for her actual first year more thoroughly when graduation is officially behind her. I always include my two favorite books, The First Six Weeks of School and The Morning Meeting Book from the Responsive Classroom program. You will also want to include your favorite websites for students and teachers.
From the very beginning, it is crucial to remember to treat your student teacher as a teacher rather than as a student. She will not feel that she is a professional, and your students will not perceive her as a professional, unless you treat her that way. That means speaking and interacting with her as you would with a colleague and not a six year old. Give her a workspace in the classroom (not a miniature student desk) that she can store her things and make her own. Ask her opinion on classroom matters and value her response. Do not step in unless absolutely necessary as she attempts to gain control of student behavior and classroom procedures. You will not always be there to step in, and your students need consistency in order to perceive her as a source of authority.
You probably have heard this one before. “Tell me, and I’ll listen. Show me, and I’ll remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.” Teaching is not a “watch me and do this” type of profession. Your student teacher will learn how to be an effective teacher by doing all the things that teachers are required to do on a daily basis. Do NOT write plans yourself, and then copy them for her to follow to the letter. Do NOT insist on testing all students and grading papers by yourself to ensure that it is “done right.” Being an effective mentor means releasing some of your usual control and allowing her to come into her own as a teacher.
Part of the planning process also requires what is called a “Gradual Release of Responsibility.” After sufficient observation, your student teacher should “take over” one piece of instruction at a time. As you write out your plans together (preferably a week in advance), both of you can highlight the subjects that she will take over for each week. Every 1-2 weeks, add one subject to the plate. Toward the end of student teaching, it is also a good idea to have her practice sustaining instruction in longer blocks, either all morning or all afternoon.
Click here for CUSTOMIZABLE Lesson Plans in a variety of styles and formats.
Stop and think about all the things that you had never experienced before as a student teacher or first year teacher. How to go through a massive basal teacher’s edition and pull out lessons and standards. How to differentiate instruction for low and high achievers. How to give one-on-one tests for reading levels. How to analyze fresh data and use it to guide your instruction. How to write “real” (not university-style) lesson plans and schedules. How to truly collaborate with teammates. Here is a list of the things that your student teacher should always be doing with you:
On the flip side, your student teacher should never be treated as a “secretary” either. Her primary daily responsibilities are not to grade all your papers, run copies, and put up bulletin boards while you put your feet up and bask in the joys of teaching all day long. While these tasks are daily realities for teachers, they teach her nothing about the challenges of classroom management and instructional delivery, which, let’s face it, truly separates the decent teachers from the great teachers.
The learning curve for student teachers is huge. They are constantly learning new strategies and methods, examining their instructional strengths and weaknesses, and reflecting on ways to improve their practice. A reflective journal is an excellent resource for student teachers as they grow throughout their teaching journey. My “Diary of a Student Teacher” has all the essentials for student teachers to record lesson reflections, observation notes, professional development, and more.
For many experienced teachers, teaching has evolved into its own art form. It becomes this beautiful dance that we do every day, without stopping often to consider why and how we make certain decisions with regards to instruction and classroom management. I’m willing to bet that you learned 99% of your teaching “secrets to success” within your first five years of teaching. Maybe those secrets are even based on mistakes that you’ve made and wish you would have acted differently. Whatever those secrets may be, share them all with your student teachers. What is your best time saver? How do you get along with a challenging teammate? How do you deal with challenging parents? How have you handled different types of behavior problems over the years? How have you worked with different special education students? How do you prepare for a successful observation by your principal? What mistakes did you make during your first years of teaching? What do you wish you would have done differently? Share. It. All. She will plenty through her own experience, but you never know when your words of wisdom might guide her in the future.
I saved the most important tip for last, because your modeling as a professional will leave more of an impression on your student teacher than any words of advice you happen to give. Your true philosophies of teaching shine through in your daily interactions with students and colleagues. The words you use to talk about your students and parents, she will learn to use the same. However you interact with your teammates, she will follow suit. Your attitude during faculty meetings or inservices will be copied by her. The positivity (or negativity) you exhibit each day will leave a strong and lasting impression. Remember that SHE is the future of the teaching profession, and the teacher that your own children might have one day.
Be mindful. Lead with optimism, innovation, and collaborative spirit.
Let’s make our next generation of teachers the best yet.