How to Be a Good Cooperating Teacher
Student teaching is such a critical part of a future teacher's education. Their experience can truly make or break their ideas of what an effective classroom looks like.
I have experienced every level of student teaching. I was extremely fortunate to be placed with an excellent cooperating teacher. She was organized, caring and an excellent teacher! After graduation I was hired on as a second grade teacher by the cooperating school's principal. As a classroom teacher I hosted a few interns and a student teacher. We had a good experience and often team taught. My student teacher went on to serve as the reading expert for her school and an exemplary teacher. However, I feel as though if I knew then what I know now, I would have been more in tune with her needs as a student teacher. After the arrival of my first child, I decided to stay home. Since I wanted to keep myself involved in education, I certainly didn't turn down the offer to work part-time mentoring new teachers. This position led me to become a student teacher supervisor where I worked with student teachers for four years.
During those four years as a student teaching supervisor, I became aware of these students wants, need and worries during their final semester. If you are hosting a student teacher in your classroom this semester, hopefully some of these tips will assist you in offering the best possible learning experience for that student.
Give your student teacher their own desk!
I heard this numerous times from the student teachers. The student teachers that were not offered their own desk did not feel as welcome in the classroom. Having their own desk gives the student teacher somewhere to plan their lessons and keep their belongings. A desk in the classroom gives the student teacher a sense of ownership, just as each of the children do.
Communication, Communication, Communication
Whenever there was an issue between a cooperating teacher (CT) and a student teacher (ST), lack of communication was often to blame. Building the lines of communication early can help ensure a successful semester for everyone involved. I suggest providing your student teacher with an orientation to the school and to your classroom. Assist him/her in becoming familiar with the school's curriculum, policies and procedures. In one of the classrooms where I observed a strong CT/ST relationship, the CT provided the ST with a classroom handbook that she developed. This handbook contained a class schedule, detailed expectations of the student teacher including the due dates for lesson plans.
- What time do you want your student teacher to arrive and leave? The University that I supervised for required the students to arrive and leave when the classroom teachers were expected to.
- When and how do you want the ST to turn in lesson plans? Are you going to review the lesson plans and return them with suggestions before the ST teaches the lesson?
- What is your classroom management plan? Do you want your student teacher to follow your behavior plan or will you allow them to experiment with their own strategy?
Save your constructive criticism for times when the students aren't present.
If you are treating the student teacher as another student in the classroom, they will not view him/her as an authority figure in the classroom. I recommend jotting down notes throughout the day and discussing your feedback when the students are gone.
Feedback, Feedback, Feedback
Although you may think that you are sparing your student teacher's feelings by not offering much constructive criticism, most of the students seek your feedback!
Suggestions for providing feedback and encouraging reflecting thinking:
- Ask the student teacher went well during the lesson/day? Encourage them to explain why they think it went well (Always start with the positive).
- What would you change about the lesson/day? With this question, student teachers will have specific instances to reflect upon. Encourage them to explain why they feel the lesson didn't go as expected or why a specific student is misbehaving.
- After you have allowed the student teacher a chance to reflect, provide them with some suggestions. "Here are some strategies I would try when I teach the lesson...."
The more feedback you offer, the better! The student teacher shouldn't be left wondering in what areas they are succeeding in and what areas need improvement.
Teachers are such an important part of our everyday lives. The students of today are our future and we want them to have the best teachers! Help our future by giving your cooperating teacher a unforgettable experience!