7 Things My Student Teacher Taught Me

Working hard to be a good cooperating teacher has taught me so much.  Here are my top 7 things from the 6 weeks I’ve been working at it this semester.

  1. There are things about teaching, I didn’t even realize I did.  Those things are really, really, really tough to teach.  For example, how to establish relationships….when to listen, when to ask questions, when to just stand back and watch, when to tease.  If you can’t figure these things out, especially with students to whom you aren’t naturally attracted, it can be tough.  I never realized that so often I just sit down and talk to someone when I can tell they are about to explode, to name an example…and that is something that I needed to teach my student teacher.  There are only about a million of these techniques.
  2. Student teachers really want to do a good job.  It can be terribly discouraging for them to come in with millions of ideas on how to do something and have those bubbles pop.  Then to help them realize no one is good at anything hard on their first day or first week or first month…pump them up a bit and send them off to try again.  Only to have them get a bit more success and for that feeling of conquering something hard to make ST float home.
  3. I’d forgotten how tiring this can be to someone who hasn’t done it before.  Yes I complain about being tired but I’ve built up my chops.  My poor ST is exhausted.  I find myself wondering where the balance is between relieving some of the burden and giving him a realistic experience.  I can’t help myself at times and I jump in a do a bit of the grading or ordering copies or sending parent emails or filling the glue bottles.
  4. My ST has taught me really how complex and multi-tasking this job really is.  We are calling what needs to be done “Things on Fire” so what has to be done before the end of this day.  Then we have the “Things for Tomorrow” which are the things that have to be done before school starts tomorrow (and he’s struggling with the fact that kids come in early for help and to makeup stuff they missed….and how does he get ready if there are students needing help).  “Things for Next Week” which is when we plan new lessons, assessments and ORDER supplies/copies so they are here on time otherwise there is panic mode at the copier.  Finally “Things for the rest of the Quarter” so looking ahead at the upcoming unit and planning summatives so that we backwards into the formatives and lesson plans.
  5. One of my best ideas I’ll pass along.  I made up a scavenger hunt for my ST.   Each week he has something new to go and find, something to interview someone about or a resource to “capture” and bring back.  Creating it made me stop and think about what things a person really needs to know about a school (where is the bookkeeper and how do you make friends, where are the fire drill paths and what do you take with you), who do you need to meet and sort of learn to interact with and the stuff of a school/district (how to get a security badge, how to interlibrary loan a book from another school, where are all the different buildings in the district).  I award him a prize for each week’s hunt….school t-shirts, a school mug, school stickers, etc etc etc.  It’s a little bit korny and I’d made sure he makes this list so he’ll know what/where and who he needs to find in the next building in case there’s no one to help him.
  6. Emails that outline the TODO for the next day were critical in giving clear directions in those first few weeks of ST.  I had to juggle getting established with my own 150+ students and the ST.  He could look at the emails and know what he was going to do that day without asking me a million questions.
  7. My last good idea that has worked well.  In helping the ST lesson plan, I’ve asked him to not only read the standards and curriculum, but also to go and interview the teachers above and below our grade level on how to articulate those concepts.  Then using all that he makes a “map” of the standards leading into 8th grade and leaving 8th grade….and finds our grade levels common summative assessment.  We go over that together.  Then he plans the formatives that will make sure everyone is successful in the summative.  We go over that together.  I learned that the pacing is either made or lost here….I never realized that when I was doing the planning by myself.  Then he works up the lessons for each formative.  Every step, I’m ruthless in making him show me how it aligns to the summative and getting them ready for the next level AND what he’ll do if they don’t come in with enough knowledge from the previous grades to do our grade level work. He has to earn the right to actually teach.  No aligned, clearly mapped out plans….no teaching.  I care less about the actual lesson plan than having the map b/c Schools of Ed do a pretty good job teaching lesson design. I know it’s tough and I’m a &^@^%$@ but I also know he’ll know how to plan a strong unit and when he is actually in front of the kids he’s been super confident.  He knows where he is coming from and going….that has made him better in the classroom.  Not to worry, I’m there to help every step of the way but I don’t do anything to help except ask questions and point him to where he can find the answer.  Plus I give loads of props when he does all this.

So what do you think?

Related categories:
  • TriciaEbner

    What an incredible experience . . .

    you’re helping this ST have! All of these are great, but the top two I want to steal are the scavenger hunt and the vertical alignment piece. The scavenger hunt is a great way to show the ST the structures and even “culture” of the school. The vertical piece is huge–we don’t create our lessons and units in isolation; we’re part of a much larger sequence. 

    Thanks for sharing these ideas! 

    • marsharatzel

      It’s all good

      Steal away.

      I’m sure I stole my ideas from someone else.

      One of things I’ve been wondering about is how to give effective feedback.  I want to be encouraging but realistic.  I have to it is a tricky balance to strike.  How have you done this when you’ve had a ST?

      • TriciaEbner

        Tough one!

        I also think the way I’ve provided feedback has been personalized to the student teacher and the way he/she seems to respond best to feedback. I agree it’s a tricky balance! Most of the time, I try to ask questions when I see something that I find curious or concerns me a bit. I try to frame them in a way that encourages reflection. When that doesn’t seem to work as well, I’ve had to sometimes say, “I’m concerned about this, and here’s why.” I really try to resist the “telling” unless I really have to. 

        • marsharatzel

          Tricky balance

          I think you’re right on that the feedback has to match the student teacher.  But it is really important to realize that they must meet some minimum competency standard by the end of the experience or I don’t think I can ethically recommend them to their college.  I know I had to really speak more sharply and bluntly than I would normally do.

          It caused my ST to be pretty discouraged. But he needed that.  Once he realized the job he was doing wasn’t cutting it, we could start to rebuild.

          I can’t tell you how encouraging it to see him get better and better everyday.  I was ruthless in showing him how he must awlays keep the learning target at the foremost of his mind AND the student/teacher trust relationship.  What a juggling act.  He is getting better at not letting students sidetrack him AND still being friendly. 

          He also has come to realize that you can’t walk in with the students and go home at 4pm.  That sometimes you have to stay with it until late into the night and/or take work home.  It’s a HUGE transition for a college student.  They think they’ve worked hard in a college semester, but nothing compares to the pressure of giving a test, having to grade it, adding meaningful feedback, get ready for the next week and do all the administrivia things that need to get done.  He had thought he’d help sponsor the Science Olympaids Club.  Ha.  Now he realizes that doing the whole thing will take up all his time.  This morning he was almost undone by the fact he’d ordered batteries for the photogates which he needs for the xperiment, but they didn’t come.  he had to modify and punt his plans for something that would work with this new twist.  He did it.

          A long way from the dude who was anxious to do well but had no idea what that meant.  Now I’m seeing a teacher emerge.

          My plan is to help him get those experiences as he phases out of his fulltime teaching….I know he can manage to help with clubs if he’s not 100% responsible for the classroom.

          Sigh…it’s a journey.  I know I’m exhausted.  Honestly I’m ready to have my classroom back and dreaming of how easy it will be for me to be just in charge of teaching my 150+ 8th graders.

        • marsharatzel

          Tricky balance

          I think you’re right on that the feedback has to match the student teacher.  But it is really important to realize that they must meet some minimum competency standard by the end of the experience or I don’t think I can ethically recommend them to their college.  I know I had to really speak more sharply and bluntly than I would normally do.

          It caused my ST to be pretty discouraged. But he needed that.  Once he realized the job he was doing wasn’t cutting it, we could start to rebuild.

          I can’t tell you how encouraging it to see him get better and better everyday.  I was ruthless in showing him how he must awlays keep the learning target at the foremost of his mind AND the student/teacher trust relationship.  What a juggling act.  He is getting better at not letting students sidetrack him AND still being friendly. 

          He also has come to realize that you can’t walk in with the students and go home at 4pm.  That sometimes you have to stay with it until late into the night and/or take work home.  It’s a HUGE transition for a college student.  They think they’ve worked hard in a college semester, but nothing compares to the pressure of giving a test, having to grade it, adding meaningful feedback, get ready for the next week and do all the administrivia things that need to get done.  He had thought he’d help sponsor the Science Olympaids Club.  Ha.  Now he realizes that doing the whole thing will take up all his time.  This morning he was almost undone by the fact he’d ordered batteries for the photogates which he needs for the xperiment, but they didn’t come.  he had to modify and punt his plans for something that would work with this new twist.  He did it.

          A long way from the dude who was anxious to do well but had no idea what that meant.  Now I’m seeing a teacher emerge.

          My plan is to help him get those experiences as he phases out of his fulltime teaching….I know he can manage to help with clubs if he’s not 100% responsible for the classroom.

          Sigh…it’s a journey.  I know I’m exhausted.  Honestly I’m ready to have my classroom back and dreaming of how easy it will be for me to be just in charge of teaching my 150+ 8th graders.

        • marsharatzel

          Tricky balance

          I think you’re right on that the feedback has to match the student teacher.  But it is really important to realize that they must meet some minimum competency standard by the end of the experience or I don’t think I can ethically recommend them to their college.  I know I had to really speak more sharply and bluntly than I would normally do.

          It caused my ST to be pretty discouraged. But he needed that.  Once he realized the job he was doing wasn’t cutting it, we could start to rebuild.

          I can’t tell you how encouraging it to see him get better and better everyday.  I was ruthless in showing him how he must awlays keep the learning target at the foremost of his mind AND the student/teacher trust relationship.  What a juggling act.  He is getting better at not letting students sidetrack him AND still being friendly. 

          He also has come to realize that you can’t walk in with the students and go home at 4pm.  That sometimes you have to stay with it until late into the night and/or take work home.  It’s a HUGE transition for a college student.  They think they’ve worked hard in a college semester, but nothing compares to the pressure of giving a test, having to grade it, adding meaningful feedback, get ready for the next week and do all the administrivia things that need to get done.  He had thought he’d help sponsor the Science Olympaids Club.  Ha.  Now he realizes that doing the whole thing will take up all his time.  This morning he was almost undone by the fact he’d ordered batteries for the photogates which he needs for the xperiment, but they didn’t come.  he had to modify and punt his plans for something that would work with this new twist.  He did it.

          A long way from the dude who was anxious to do well but had no idea what that meant.  Now I’m seeing a teacher emerge.

          My plan is to help him get those experiences as he phases out of his fulltime teaching….I know he can manage to help with clubs if he’s not 100% responsible for the classroom.

          Sigh…it’s a journey.  I know I’m exhausted.  Honestly I’m ready to have my classroom back and dreaming of how easy it will be for me to be just in charge of teaching my 150+ 8th graders.

        • marsharatzel

          Tricky balance

          I think you’re right on that the feedback has to match the student teacher.  But it is really important to realize that they must meet some minimum competency standard by the end of the experience or I don’t think I can ethically recommend them to their college.  I know I had to really speak more sharply and bluntly than I would normally do.

          It caused my ST to be pretty discouraged. But he needed that.  Once he realized the job he was doing wasn’t cutting it, we could start to rebuild.

          I can’t tell you how encouraging it to see him get better and better everyday.  I was ruthless in showing him how he must awlays keep the learning target at the foremost of his mind AND the student/teacher trust relationship.  What a juggling act.  He is getting better at not letting students sidetrack him AND still being friendly. 

          He also has come to realize that you can’t walk in with the students and go home at 4pm.  That sometimes you have to stay with it until late into the night and/or take work home.  It’s a HUGE transition for a college student.  They think they’ve worked hard in a college semester, but nothing compares to the pressure of giving a test, having to grade it, adding meaningful feedback, get ready for the next week and do all the administrivia things that need to get done.  He had thought he’d help sponsor the Science Olympaids Club.  Ha.  Now he realizes that doing the whole thing will take up all his time.  This morning he was almost undone by the fact he’d ordered batteries for the photogates which he needs for the xperiment, but they didn’t come.  he had to modify and punt his plans for something that would work with this new twist.  He did it.

          A long way from the dude who was anxious to do well but had no idea what that meant.  Now I’m seeing a teacher emerge.

          My plan is to help him get those experiences as he phases out of his fulltime teaching….I know he can manage to help with clubs if he’s not 100% responsible for the classroom.

          Sigh…it’s a journey.  I know I’m exhausted.  Honestly I’m ready to have my classroom back and dreaming of how easy it will be for me to be just in charge of teaching my 150+ 8th graders.