Should I take a student teacher?

I was asked if I would take a student teacher. This would be my first one. What should I consider in making the decision?
—Mark, Queens, New York
Your administrator must feel confident in your expertise to ask you to take on this responsibility. Working with the next generation of teachers is part of being a professional and is worth considering. You also posed this question on the NSTA email list and I’ve incorporated some of those responses here.
Helping someone else learn the ins and outs of teaching and learning can be an effective and rewarding professional development activity for you. You have the chance to collaborate with the preservice teacher on a daily basis and to interact with her/her program supervisor. You have the opportunity to share your own learning experiences as a teacher.

  • As much as student teachers got ideas from me, I got ideas from them! It helped me be reflective on what I normally do in the classroom by watching the student teacher work. [Wendell]
  • The intern in your classroom counts on you for guidance and feedback and needs you to analyze what he or she did whenever the unsuccessful experience occurs. It’s a lot of work and not always a pleasant one when you need to deconstruct his/her mistakes. [Elisa]

However, teachers who deal with standardized tests (and  may have their own performance partially evaluated based on those results)may be reluctant to turn over classes to someone who may not cover the tested topics in a timely manner. The preservice teacher may have a different personality and philosophy than you, and it could be difficult for your students to adapt.

  • It was difficult at times to “let go” of my classes, and watch some of the discipline I had established erode a bit. [Shaun]
  • You’ll be putting in more time prepping before school and processing what happened after school with your student teacher. Then there’s the possibility of getting a student teacher who’s not very good, for one reason or another, or your personalities clash. If this becomes the case, the situation can be a hassle for you. Your curricular timeline will probably have to be modified to accommodate for the student teacher’s lack of experience. [Wendell]

Do some fact-finding before you make a decision, and ask questions such as–

Ask about the content and experiences of the methods course(s) the preservice teacher has taken and if these courses included safety guidelines. Will the preservice teacher take all your classes or just a few (and when)? What will be your role in evaluating the preservice teacher and what are the criteria? Ask ahead of time for the “manual” to get a feel for the program’s expectations and requirements. Is there an escape clause if it’s clear that the preservice teacher is not going to be successful?

  • Can you interview potential student teachers before final approval of the assignment is made, to make sure personalities and educational philosophies are a good fit? [Shaun]
  • Ask the student teacher’s program to be very clear on your role. Some schools want the “master teacher” to be absent from the room, while some want her/him to be present at all times. In addition, check with your school/district to see what regulations they have. [Lee]
  • Will the student teacher design his or her own units and lessons, use materials and formats from their program, or implement your district adopted activities and formats? [Linda]

The program may offer you a modest stipend and the experience can enhance your own resume. If the preservice teacher eventually takes on your entire schedule, you may have time to work on curriculum design or other projects. Some final thoughts from the email lists:

  • I think the most important thing you can do for student teachers would be to require them to analyze the effectiveness of their own instruction, reflecting upon the lessons (perhaps via video), and have them articulate the reasons for the instructional choices they made. [Jennifer]
  • Teachers should only accept the mentor role if they are confident, able to remain professional, are flexible, and are capable of interacting positively with people of diverse backgrounds. [Elizabeth]


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