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Student teaching in my department has largely boiled down to one person – me. The reasons are numerous and valid: student teachers walking off of the job, student teachers not preparing lesson plans because “they don’t need them”, student teachers coming into work not in compliance with basics, and student teachers who clearly were pushed into education without having the necessary background to be even moderately successful, and all of these scenarios led to more work. Many of my colleagues were burned and have chosen to avoid student teachers. And let’s face it, you ARE giving up a massive amount of time and effort to help another teacher while balancing your growing career. Here are 5 ways to set your student teacher up for success AND make your cooperating teacher time a much more pleasant one.
#1: Meet well ahead of time and “teacher date” – please don’t take this on a personal level but opening your classroom and your students up to a complete stranger is similar (but not identical) to being a single parent and dating. You want to make sure this person is an ideal or shareable option before you introduce your little/big ones to them as a new part of their school life.
#2: Make your “non-negotiables” clear from the start – what are the rules and classroom expectations for your students that are non-negotiable even when you may not be present in the room with your student teacher. For instance, my cellphone and bathroom policies as well as my late work policy (you can read about that here) are non-negotatiables. If my student teacher would like to set up a reward system or create a new group work policy, then we chat, discuss, and hammer it out.
#3: Include them in professional development – my new student teacher did not have to attend the first three days of PD at school, but I asked him to do so for his benefit and mine. This allows them to see how the inner working of school policy making and regulation are set up at the school. Also, they are acknowledged as a working professional within the school. Encourage them to attend after-school PD that could be beneficial even though it isn’t mandatory.
#4: Set aside daily, weekly, and monthly planning times – I am a planner/calendar/scheduling app FREAK. I live by my Erin Condren LifePlanner (here is a discount code for you to use!), LOVE my Google Calendar app which links ALL of my calendars together in a color coded ball of awesome, and only use my flair pens for my Sugar Paper desk calendar. For my student teachers, I am always asking about plans and planning on a daily basis, we meet at the end of the week to come up with an upcoming week game plan, and then we have a beginning of the month meeting. This meeting is reserved for any and all upcoming dates, school functions, special events, days off, etc… Make these meetings brief and have a system in place.
#5: Work with student teachers as you would a colleague – this means sharing your online file drive, sending educational links and articles from reliable education blogs, and adding them to your educational/teacher social media. The last is extremely important as many new student teachers are transitioning from an awkward “maybe I shouldn’t have posted that” phase to “I want to show schools that I can use social media for educational good”. Modeling what a responsible teacher does as a social media guru will be one more feather for both their cap and yours.
Are these the ONLY tips and tricks that will benefit both of you? No way! That’s where YOU come in, what would you add to my list? Have any juicy student teacher stories that we all can learn from? Let me know in the comments below!