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Monday, January 7, 2019

What Your Student Teacher Wishes You Knew

What makes a mentor teacher a GREAT mentor teacher to a pre-service teacher?  How do you make a student teacher's time in your class worthwhile?  This post shares the things your student teacher wishes you knew.

 What Your Student Teacher Wishes You Knew

First, there are some things the mentor teacher (MT) needs to ALWAYS keep in mind:

Student teachers are often afraid of making more work for their MT!  
Just be honest with your student teacher, they are as nervous as you are.

Keep in mind that they are a student and will make mistakes. 
Help show them that it’s not the end of the world.

Remember that you do have a lot to give. 
You have been in the trenches.  Don’t underestimate how valuable both your past successes AND failures are to your student teacher’s learning. 

Know who the point of contact is for the college your student teacher is attending. 
I didn’t ask who this was at first for my student teacher, even though I was expected (unbeknownst tonme) to communicate with this person on a regular basis.  If your ST is attending an online college, this person may not have been made abundantly clear to them. Investigate this from the start and things will go more easily. 

YOU are still in charge of your classroom and responsible for student learning. 
Be strong and do what is best for your class.  Most colleges won’t insist that you do anything that you don’t feel is right, but if your student teacher has an assignment that impedes your classroom learning, have a talk with the representative at the college.

Treat your ST as a colleague and partner teacher.  Focus on how you two will develop a professional relationship. 
If you feel comfortable, try being hands-off more often to allow the ST to figure out their style and try things they want to put into practice. 

Figure out a schedule for when your ST will observe and teach

The student teacher (ST) needs to build relationships with the students the same way any classroom teacher does.
It's always best to allow the ST to observe for a full day or two, and longer, if possible.  Just allowing the ST to get to know the students first and seeing how you run the classroom is a huge help!  Knowing the students allows the ST to understand what they like and dislike and how they prefer to work.  Another option is to have the ST observe senior teachers around the building.   

On observation days, help your ST grade some assignments, do attendance, and hand back papers. This helps them understand your grading system and how you assess students. It also helps the ST learn the kids' names and get to know them better. 

Sit down with your ST before they start teaching and come up with a gradual-release schedule of responsibilities. 
The  responsibilities should include how the ST will gradually turn the classroom back over to you before they leave.  If you teach multiple subjects, choose one to let your ST focus on at first.  If you teach one subject, choose particular aspects of that subject to release to the ST.  For example, let them plan the opening activity that might include reviewing previously taught material or an anticipatory question that gets the students thinking about what the lesson of the day will teach.

After you decide the gradual-release schedule, focus on the lesson planning.

Provide your ST with the general lesson plan template and things they can immediately implement that you use to plan with. 
Ask your ST if their college already has a lesson plan template because many do.  If you can allow them to use that template instead of the one you use, that will help your ST.  If the college hasn't provided your ST with a template, give them the one you use.

Try co-teaching or partner teaching at first.
Write the plans together and divide your lessons into segments, splitting the lesson delivery. For example, she opens and closes and you present new material.  This is a great opportunity to provide more support for kids.

Use the beginning as an opportunity to do more small groups.  Some options to do this:
  • Encourage the ST to modify your lessons and materials for lower students. 
  • Have the ST pull small groups for remediation or enrichment. 
  • Give the middle-achievement students to the ST for small groups. The low- and high-achieving students are the most challenging to grow, but the middle group often needs guidance and monitoring to keep on track.

If you're worried about the inclusion kids just keep that class or group. 
There is no rule that stays you must give them every class or group. 

Give continuous follow up and real classroom take-aways. 

Make the time to sit down and talk with with your student teacher. 
This should be daily, ideally several smaller sessions, at first. This gives the ST time to pose questions and the MT to address any concerns as they arise. After the first couple of weeks, ask your ST how often they would like to meet, but still ask often how they’re doing even if you’re not meeting as often. Sometimes an ST just needs the MT to check in on them and they will open up about their needs. 

Use rubrics for your observations of your ST. 
It will help guide you on how you need to help them and they will know your expectations.

Give direct feedback. 
Don't make "suggestions"  if it's something that they actually need to be doing.

Teach your ST about evaluations. 
They need to know what a classroom evaluation by an administrator or School Board official will look and feel like.  Having another experienced teacher come in to do an evaluation is a great way to do this.

Make sure your ST knows how to do a parent-teacher conference.
They also need to know what to do on Back-to-School Night.  Your ST also needs to be communicating via emails/phone calls with parents for students successes and concerns. 

Be helpful instead of just taking an hour of time to talk. 
Talk while helping staple homework packets, etc.  Yes, you want the ST to learn how to juggle all of the responsibilities of the job, but remember that they are overwhelmed MOST of the time. Never underestimate how much help it is to do small things like administrative duties for them every once in awhile.

What else do you think Student Teachers want or need the seasoned teacher to know?  I know there's so much more that needs to be included than what I have here!

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