Preparing for a student teacher!


We welcome a student teacher into our classroom on Monday.  I spent Wednesday afternoon carving out a space for her – a desk and comfortable chair, a box of tissues, some stationary, and a vase for the flowers I will bring on Monday morning (NJ schools are closed Thursday and friday for a teacher’s convention).  I don’t have a “teacher’s desk” for myself, so it took some figuring out and moving around before I could find a spot that would fit an extra table without giving up any reading-project making-conferring space.

I’ve set aside today for gathering materials she will need: professional reading selections, lesson plan materials, all the handbooks I keep filled with charts and notes for reading and writing workshop, lists of this and that.  Apart from the year I mentored Rachel, I have had no experience with student teachers or guiding new teachers, so I am nervous about getting it right, about making sure that Jessica has a rich and meaningful experience learning and teaching in our room.

I was talking about this with my husband, who put it succinctly: “Well, your job is to help her decide what kind of teacher she wants to be.”  That thought has been rattling around in my brain ever since, because deciding what kind of teacher we want to be is at the very heart of our journey as teachers.  I know that Jessica comes to our classroom with ideas and passion of her own.  She’s studied at an amazing university, and excelled at all her classes.  She’s already spent six weeks in the fifth grade classroom of a colleague I admire, so she’s had more experience at this student teaching thing than I have.

And, six weeks is really not enough time, is it? There is so much know- how to share!

Looking at the big pile of “stuff” I’ve assembled, I have a feeling that not much of it really matters.  What does matter is much harder to get across.

You need to spend time building trust – opening your heart and letting kids in.

You need to listen more than talk.

You need to be willing to accept that learning how to teach is an ever evolving process.  In my 12th. year of teaching, I can truthfully say that I am still learning every day. The process is never complete.

I am thinking of passing along this keynote  by  Chris Lehmann in which he offered up some questions to ask ourselves, and some advice:

“What are you willing to unlearn? What do you do in your classroom today that is because it is what you are good at regardless of whether or not it is needed by the children anymore?”

“What are you doing that empowers kids? We need to enable them to do amazing things.”

“Don’t ever forget to have fun. We get to teach. ..We get to hang out with kids all life long.  How much do we win?! This job is supposed to be fun, it is supposed to be joyful!”

On second thought, I might just save my collection of “things you need to have” for another time, and just forward the video.  The sum of all I try to do in my classroom with my students is pretty much all right there in what Chris Lehmann had to say.  Above all, I hope Jessica gets to see and share the joy.


8 thoughts on “Preparing for a student teacher!

  1. A beautiful post, Tara. Your student teacher is very fortunate to have you guiding her way and shining the light on what teaching is really about. I look forward to watching this video. I LOVED the “unlearn” statement he makes – too often teachers stay in their comfort zone of familiarity with their heads down and forget to look up and notice whether or not the kids are actually learning. Wishing you and Jessica well as you embark on this amazing learning journey together!

  2. What a lovely post, Tara and great to see that you are thinking about the interests and passions of your student teacher and how to encourage her, and your own learning. I think your husband has given you brilliant advice.
    I am very grateful for the link to Chris Lehmann’s talk. I feel all excited and inspired once again and wish I was back in the classroom. Everything he says resonated with me. It would be a privilege to learn from such a teacher.
    I think for Jessica, the three questions Chris provided as linking inquiry driven education and care driven education are probably a good place to start:
    What do you think?
    How do you feel?
    What do you need?
    I think discussions about why you do what you do, your philosophy of how we learn, are important as those understandings underpin pedagogical practices. Without a firm understanding of how we learn, it is very difficult to decide how to teach. I’m sure Jessica will have many questions for you also, and discussion of Lehmann’s talk is a great starting point. It is such a lengthy video though with very rich content, it may be better to watch it in parts, together, discussing each section as you go. It would be easy to miss something important and the opportunity of discussing his various points would allow for great learning.
    Providing rich opportunities for student teachers to learn is extremely important. You are not just entrusting to them the education of your own group of children for a few weeks, but countless future groups. Jessica is fortunate to have the opportunity of learning from such a reflective and child-centred teacher. I hope it is a wonderful learning experience for all of you. 🙂

    • Thank you for your thoughtful advice and kind words, Norah. I love your suggestion about sharing the video in smaller chunks – it’s such an all encompassing vision of what education should be, isn’t it. Intimidating even for veterans like me. I’m excited about having Jessica learn with us, and know that I will grow as a teacher through this process, too!

      • I look forward to hearing about your shared learning journey, and how Jessica responds to the video.
        I want to thank you so much for sharing the video with me. I enjoyed it so much, and felt it so valuable that I have also shared it on my blog.

  3. Pingback: Visioning a better school, a better way of educating | Norah Colvin

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