September 26, 2016

How To Work Effectively With a Student Teacher

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I have been a cooperative teacher for three student teachers in my eleven years of teaching. I have had two AMAZING student teachers & one that I would like to forget quite honestly. When I entered into being a cooperative teacher, to be honest, I didn't have a clue but over the years, I have learned some techniques and strategies for making the student teaching experience a good one for the student teacher, the cooperating teacher, & of course, the students. Check out some of my suggestions below.


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1. Make a list of your expectations for the student teacher before you ever meet them. 

Outline your general requirements just like you would with a classroom assignment. Give them a copy of this written out so they will have what they need from the beginning to be successful in meeting your expectations. Below are just a few suggestions: 

What time do you expect them to arrive each day? 

What time are they allowed to leave? 

When should they turn in their lesson plans to you? 

How long should it take for them to grade different assignments & enter them into the computer? 

What types of lessons do you like your students to do? 

How often do you incorporate technology & expect them to do so? 

Some of these will be obvious ones that are already your school's policy. However, you will find that some of them are just general preference in regards to policies & procedures in your classroom. Be sure you let them know your preference. If you are someone that arrives early to school each day & leaves as soon as your contract hours are over, you need to be upfront with them about arriving to school early. If you aren't, you are going to get irritated when they arrive at the last possible time and want to stay at school late into the afternoon working with you. 

2. Don't be afraid to correct your student teacher but be tactful & remember they are beginners. 

I will admit that this probably was the hardest for me because all of my student teacher have been male & around my age actually. They were all three adult returning students. However, I realized quickly that they were still beginners in teaching, which is why they are called STUDENT teachers. There are things we just learn from experience that can't truly be learned in education classes. I always try to be tactful when correcting. I usually would ask them at the end of the lesson what they thought about it & what they would do differently. This is a good time to help them brainstorm ways that they could improve the lesson or their management. Then I would usually ask, "Would you like to know how I would have done that?" They would always say, "YES," which made it feel more like a conversation than me lecturing them on how to do something. 




3. Sometimes it is okay to let your student teacher make mistakes! 

A great example is an incident I had with my last student teacher. He had already taken control of the class & the students asked if they had to write the heading of their paper the same way as when I am in charge of the class. He said, "No, I don't care how you write your heading!" I knew it was a mistake but it was one I thought he could learn from. The next day, he walked in & the first thing he said was, "Oh my gosh, NOW I know why you have them head their paper the way you do. I was trying to grade those papers & it took me 5 minutes to find their names. From now on, they will be using that heading." This was a small situation but I think it taught him quite a lot. Before this, he gave me the impression that he thought some of my organizational techniques were kind of "too much." However, after this, he really started asking & being more interested in my organizational ideas and why I structured things the way I did. 

4. Have them observe a variety of teachers in your school, not just you. 

I realized early on that it would be important for my student teachers to observe others primarily because of the gender differences. I know that men & women tend to run their classrooms differently & handle management issues differently. However, I also made a point to give my student teachers time to observe other teachers that I knew we really effective at different things like working with Special Education students, teaching younger students (since I was only teach 12th grade back then), classroom management, technology, etc. I also try to find someone in my department who teaches exactly the opposite from me and encourage them to observe this person. The key is to remember that they are their own person & they don't need to model everything they do after you. There are tons of different ways to do things & they can and should learn from a variety of people. 

5. Don't undermine them in from of the students! 

I consider this one to be a very important tip. Once I felt my student teacher was comfortable & had taken over teaching all the classes, I let him be in charge. When students would ask me questions about the lesson or whether they could go to the bathroom, I would merely point to him and say, "Ask Mr. ____." 

I also made a point not to correct him in front of the students if he made a mistake. If it was a mistake in the lesson, then I would mention it to him if/when I got a chance during the class privately and allow HIM to address the situation. I think it is very important for the students to see the student teacher AS THE TEACHER during the time period they are in charge. This helps the student teacher get those experiences that they ultimately need. 

6. Leave the room but be available. 

It is important to occasionally leave the classroom and let your student teacher be the only adult in the room. Obviously this needs to be done gradually and only if you feel your student teacher is capable of handling the class. I normally would start out just by going to the restroom during the "best class" then I would start running errands that might take me a little longer to accomplish than a quick restroom break. Eventually by the end of the semester, I might leave for most of a class period to have the student teacher increase their confidence. I typically would do this in the middle of the day so that I would be available during the first few classes to give observations, suggestions, etc. and also be avilable at the end of the day for those more hyper classes that tend to happen as the day goes on. 




Always make sure your student teacher has your phone number & can easily text you (secretly without the students realizing it) if they need you to return to the classroom. 

7. If they are a good student teacher, talk them up to the administration & invite them to come watch them teach. 

I consistently talked to the administration about the two students teachers that were AMAZING in my classroom. I let them know that these teachers really had a gift for teaching & I would eagerly work alongside them as a teaching colleague. Both of these teachers ended up getting hired by my school system. One ended up at my school & the other ended up at my feeder middle school. They are both outstanding teachers that I am proud to have been a part of the start of their career. 




8. Share your resources! 

Your student teacher is starting from scratch. I have given both good & bad student teachers access to ALL my resources. Whether they decide to use them is up to them but they can't say they don't have anywhere to start from! Also, be sure you share your physical resources as well. I set up a desk & gave my student teachers school supplies so they didn't keep having to ask me for some. Luckily I had two computers so they were able to work on their own & have their own work space. This helps them and the students to feel like they are the a teacher in the room. Plus, this keeps them from crowding you in your desk space. 

9. Share your successes & mistakes!

Yes, you are an amazing teacher now BUT we all had to start somewhere. Share your mistakes with your student teachers when you get the chance. They may feel very insecure about themselves if all they know is your successes. It will help them to understand that we all make mistakes & grow as educators if they hear about your early blunders. 

10. Provide them with a recommendation letter & contacts.

Do your best to write your student teacher an amazing recommendation letter! This letter is so important when principals are considering hiring them. If you need a little help coming up with what to write, I have two recommendation letters (that were written for my AMAZING student teachers) in my Recommendation Letter product. 

Check it out: 


Also, you know people at other schools. Contact these people & let them know that if they are looking for an AWESOME teacher next year for this subject, you have someone perfect for them! Even if your contacts don't pan out, you have done your best to help this teacher start their career. 


Having a student teacher can be an fantastic opportunity! I have so enjoyed hosting student teachers in my classroom over the years. I think they have taught me as much as I have taught them. 

Have you ever had a student teacher? Any other suggestions you would recommend for having a successful experience? Be sure to comment below. 

Also, stop by next week (same time, same place) for my post about "What To Do If You Get A Bad Student Teacher."  

2 comments:

  1. I had a student teacher this year for the first time. I wish I had had this when she was working in my room.

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    1. Thanks for commenting. I hope your experience with a student teacher was a good one! I haven't had one in a few years and I really miss having one. Anything you can think of that I left out? I would love to hear any other ideas!

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