Career Advice: Working with Student Teachers
Suzanne Tingley on having a positive experience with your student teacher.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Q | I want this semester to be a great experience for both me and my student teacher. Suggestions?
A | Turning over your class to a student teacher can be stressful. And having to guide a student teacher adds extra time and effort to an already full day. But sharing your expertise is an important contribution to our profession. Plus, it’s a rare opportunity for you to look critically at the practices and beliefs that you are passing on to the next generation.
The key to a good experience for both of you is honest communication. Start by talking candidly with your student teacher about her goals and your expectations. Give her responsibility for planning and instruction as soon as possible, beginning with individual students and small groups. As she demonstrates competence, you will feel more confident allowing her to take on full-class instruction. Resist the temptation to intervene too quickly, allowing her to learn from her mistakes. When she’s ready to go solo, head to the faculty room, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and think about any new strategies you've picked up from her!
You can also assist by making her aware of expectations regarding attire, language, attendance, or general professionalism. If your student teacher is remiss in any of these areas, it’s better that she hears it from you than from her first principal. Giving your student teacher candid feedback, honest answers to her questions, and specific suggestions for improvement will help both of you have a great experience.
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Suzanne Tingley is a former teacher, principal, superintendent, and education professor. Her Practical Leadership blog can be found at scholastic.com/administrator.