Mentoring a student teacher is an incredible investment in the future of teaching. Make sure you both get as much out of the experience as possible.
The student teacher experience can daunting for everyone involved – for teachers, it can be overwhelming to incorporate a second person into plans and leadership; for students, it can be challenging to find a place as a leader for the first time in a classroom setting. To maximize time with your student teacher, consider these seven tips.
1. Talk about expectations.
Every school, every teacher, and every classroom environment is different. Take time at the beginning of the semester to go over your expectations as well as the school’s expectations. From dress code to interaction with students to time outside of the school day, be very clear with your student teacher about what you expect of them. Ask them what expectations they have of you. Having a clear and open dialogue on expectations will smooth out future bumps and ensure you’re both on the same page.
2. Explain your personal teaching philosophy.
Similar to going over expectations, explain your own teaching philosophy. Explain how and why you grade, your thoughts on discipline, how you handle conflict, etc. Not only will this offer you the chance to reflect on your teaching methods, but it will also expose your student teacher to new ideas and methods they could implement in the future.
3. Treat them like a colleague.
Remember your first time student teaching (or even full-time teaching). It is insulting and discouraging to be treated differently based on your age or experience level. Make sure you empower them and treat them with respect. While your student teacher is just starting out, they are a teacher because they teach, so treat them like one.
4. Take notes throughout the day.
Keep a notebook out throughout the day so you can easily jot down thoughts, recommendations, and observations. Take note of the positive and the negative, so you can offer thoughtful feedback to your student teacher. Encourage them to take notes as well. Days can be a blur so do yourself and your student teacher a favor and stay engaged with note-taking throughout the day rather than waiting until end and trying to remember every detail.
5. Allow them to help with difficult situations.
When conflict arises, invite your student teacher to take part. Allow them to see how you handle difficult students and encourage them to take ownership of their role as a teacher. Ask them how they would handle a situation. As an outsider looking in, they might have observations about your students and classroom you never would have noticed.
6. Allow them to make mistakes.
It can be tempting to micromanage your student teacher. After all, you are the one in charge. But resist the urge to constantly correct them and take over. Instead, allow them to make mistakes. In the long run, they will learn more effectively through trial and error and appreciate the chance to try, even if it results in failure. We often learn much more through our mistakes than our successes.
7. Offer feedback.
Offer genuine and thoughtful feedback. Encourage them and highlight their successes, but don’t be afraid to offer constructive criticism as well. As a mentor figure in their life, it is better for criticism to come from you right now than from future supervisors. Remember that you are helping them to become a teacher, which is an incredibly important job. Help them be the best teacher they can be.
Mentoring a student teacher is a huge responsibility, but can be incredibly rewarding. Dedicating your life to enriching the lives of others is a noble task – and a tradition your student teacher will carry on when entering the classroom one day.
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