Happy New Year! I know many teachers are beginning this new semester with student teachers from local universities. The experience of having a student teacher can be exciting, daunting, and stressful all at the same time. You never know what it is going to be like when handing your classroom over to another person. I recently shared some thoughts with a friend of mine who is getting a student teacher for the first time, and I wanted to share those thoughts with you as well.
When starting out I tried to think about the best way to get my student teacher the most “teaching time”, while also making it a successful experience. I created a calendar that we tried to follow so that my student teacher knew what grades were coming up for her to teach. This is all based on my 3-day rotation and 4 grade levels, but it could fit any schedule with a little tweaking. We started off by having just some observation days. This way they could participate in my lessons but also takes notes and see all the procedures for the room.
For each grade that I “introduced” we would split the teaching time in half, I would teach a 15 minute lesson and the student teacher would then teach a 15-20 minute lesson. Then on the 2nd or 3rd day of the rotation, after they had seen me do my portion a few times, I would have them try and teach my portion of the lesson as well. This gave them a chance to plan only half, but then also try out teaching the whole block of time. We would do this for 2 rotations, then that grade level/class would be theirs fully the next time. At that point we would also start “introducing” the next grade level. Here is a look at what the schedule turned out to look like:
Remembering back to my student teaching experience and first couple years of teaching, I remember living out of curriculum books. I would follow the lesson plans to the letter, trying to get through and not crash and burn. Thinking about this inspired the way I approached helping my student teachers.
When my student teachers first came, I gave them my copies of my Purposeful Pathways books (Curriculum materials by BethAnn Hepburn and Roger Sams). These are the curriculum materials I like best, but you can use whatever you use in your classroom. I told them to take them home and look through some of the lessons I had marked for each grade level. I had put in post-it notes on lessons for each grade level that worked with what they were learning or going to be learning. This was helpful because it gave them a chance to see how to scaffold their first lessons, but in their own way. When they had picked out which ones they wanted to do we talked about how much time to spend on each part of the lessons and laid out a plan. I told them they could use the books as much as they wanted, but also encouraged them to think about other resources they might have, or I might have that they would want to pull from. I only marked a few ideas in the Purposeful Pathways books so eventually they had to figure out what to teach on their own but it was a great learning tool.
I would also say that the best thing I learned was that I had to be ok with whatever was happening in my classroom. There were days that made me cringe inside because that’s not how I would have done it and so on. But , we all have to learn from somewhere. I would also suggest getting out of your room at some point while they are teaching. I usually just sat outside my door, that way I could hear if stuff was getting out of hand or if there was an emergency, but it also allowed my student teacher to have “full” management of the classroom.
It is a fun but stressful experience! Good luck!