The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 2, issue 10 * January 8, 2020

(All issues of The Acorn are available on the CSB/SJU Education Department website under Student Teaching. Access them through this link.

Growing, Nurturing, Developing, and Supporting

"The Acorn" is a newsletter for the cooperating teachers working with student teachers from the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University. This publication is intended to help our cooperating teachers understand their roles and responsibilities as well as provide them with current research and best practice on working with student teachers.

Two Key Hats for the Cooperating Teacher: Role Model and Communicator

Of the hats teachers wear, the two that seem to be at the forefront at the beginning of a student teaching experience and relationship are those of role model and communicator.

Cooperating teachers make several major contributions to the development of student teachers and high on this list of these is serving as a model for our pre-service teachers. Among the many facets of being a role model are the demonstration of classroom practices, “use of time and resources, instructional strategies, provisions for a safe and healthy learning environment, engagement of students, and use of assessments” (Henry & Weber, 2016b, p. 3). While this is not an exhaustive list of the ways cooperating teachers prove to be role models, it does exhibit the ongoing responsibility of showing how professional educators think, speak, and act within the context of school. According to Rajuan, Beijaard, & Verloop (2007), cooperating teachers roles tend toward five orientations: academic, practical, technical, personal, and critical (p. 225).

As role models, cooperating teachers will tend more toward practical and technical applications while working with student teachers. In the technical orientation and as role models, cooperating teachers should be aware of their work “related to general principles and specific instructions for efficient classroom management” (p. 230) and improving the pedagogical skills of the student teacher (p. 234). Here, teachers can be modeling and sharing the decision-making processes that set the stage for learning, such as classroom arrangement, lesson planning, establishment and follow through with routines, and use of space and materials. In the practical orientation, cooperating teachers should be aware of helping student teachers understand the day-to-day roles and responsibilities teachers have and in attaching meaning to the choices they make pedagogically and professionally. Teachers can be modeling the practices and attitudes that are shown to be effective in their classrooms and grounded in proven theories.

Additionally, cooperating teachers are often the primary voice pre-service teachers listen to and respond to within their student teaching experiences. The ‘hat’ of communicator is directly related to the practical orientation noted previously. As effective communicators, cooperating teachers must be specific in their communication, demonstrate consistency in behaviors and verbal expressions, and share and elicit expectations for, by, and about their preservice teachers and students (Henry & Weber, 2016b, p. 3). This role is, perhaps, the most important of the roles cooperating teachers take on with student teachers, and it is likely one of the most difficult as it encompasses each of the orientations Rajuan, Biejaard, and Verloop (2007) discuss. Because communication is so important to the success of a student teaching experience (Henry & Weber, 2016a, p. 38), cooperating teachers should take deliberate steps to build avenues for communication across the orientation roles in an ongoing manner throughout the student teacher’s experience.


*Discuss academic/subject matter content to ensure the student teacher knows and has comfort the material.

*Clarify key content points so that student teachers will meet standards and expectations established at a variety of levels.

*Discuss pedagogical application options in teaching content, being flexible to a variety of approaches.


*Share feedback on instructional strategies and processes that are not evaluative in nature.

*Reflect together on pedagogical choices and in review of the day/week or lesson/unit.

*Listen to the student teacher’s ideas to assist in planning and implementation.


*Share expectations for management and routines.

*Discuss how management issues will be addressed.

*Develop and discuss means for addressing situations that arise that need discussion (so that the natural flow of the class is not disrupted by redirection or corrections by the cooperating teacher).


*Provide verbal or written support.

*Advocate for the student teacher when necessary.

*Work together to build connections with students, parents/guardians, and members of the school and educational community.


*Offer feedback to improve pedagogies, aptitudes, attitudes, and skills.

*Collaboratively and constructively review lessons/units/choices.

*Develop and discuss a system for sharing feedback such that it does not disrupt the natural flow of the day and that it becomes a regular part of the working relationship (a feedback journal and/or regularly scheduled meeting time each day or week are starting points).

Mentoring student teachers is a “valuable process that impacts both mentors and mentees” (Ambrosetti & Dekkers, 2010, p. 52). It is essential that cooperating teachers understand that their many hats will be put to use. Through the role modeling and effective communication demonstrated by cooperating teachers, student teachers are not only preparing to be good teachers themselves, they are learning to be role models and effective communicators themselves.


Ambrosetti, A. & Dekkers, J. (2010, Oct.), The interconnectedness of the roles of mentors and mentees in pre-service teacher education mentoring relationships. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35:6, 42-55.

Henry, M.A. & Weber, A. (2016). Coaching a student teacher. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Henry, M.A. & Weber, A. (2016). Preparing for a student teacher. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Rajuan, M., Beijaard, D., & Verloop, N. (2007). The role of the cooperating teacher: Bridging the gap between the expectations of cooperating teachers and student teachers. Mentoring & Tutoring, 15:3, 223-242.

What to Do in Weeks 2 & 3

Remember that helpful information can be found in the Student Teaching Handbook.

Please fill out the cooperating teacher information page if not done so already.

For Weeks 2-3:

  • Work with the student teacher in planning, preparation of lessons and materials, monitoring student work.

  • Review the student teacher’s lesson plans (CSB/SJU approved lesson plans should be used for the first two-three weeks of teaching).

  • Co-teach lessons throughout the day (Consider the Co-Teaching Approaches noted below)

  • Informally observe and provide feedback

  • Assist the student teacher in distributing and collecting edTPA permission forms

  • Elementary:

    • Allow the student teacher to solo teach 30-40 minutes per day ONLY in the subject chosen for edTPA and lead morning meetings/classroom routines. Add on time for week 3, and begin with other areas, if appropriate

    • Conduct informal observations of the lessons taught and provide feedback.

  • Secondary:

    • Allow the student teacher to begin teaching in the edTPA-related course (at least one section); add on an additional section as appropriate

    • Conduct informal observations of the lessons taught and provide feedback

At the end of each day of those first few weeks, visit with the student teacher about how they are doing, what plans you have, how they can contribute, and deliver any feedback you have about the day. It is best to be transparent, upfront, and clear! Student teachers appreciate honestly knowing how they are doing. It helps calm their nerves and assists in building communication.

Big picture

Resources for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Equity

In 1994, Gloria Ladson-Billings published The Dreamkeepers, a text in which she explored the work of eight teachers working with African-American children and the efforts the teachers made in creating supportive learning environments using culturally responsive pedagogies. Later, she revisited those teachers and expanded on her work showing that "culturally relevant teaching is not a matter of race, gender, or teaching style. What matters most is a teacher's efforts to work with the unique strengths a child brings to the classroom" (back cover of 2nd edition, 2009). Ladson-Billings' work centers on our responsibility to create and maintain a "synergistic relationship between home/community culture and school culture (Ladson-Billings, 1995, p. 467) in and out of our classrooms. Her work not only provides us with a responsibility, but it also provides us a purpose that increases in importance every day.

Resources and research on culturally responsive pedagogies are plentiful and often overwhelming as we look toward how to implement attitudes, policies, procedures, and strategies that will "empower students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically" (Great Lakes Equity Center). Purposed to provide equitable, responsive education for all, the Great Lakes Equity Center has created and houses a number of resources for administrators and educators on topics of equity, inclusion, and culturally relevant and responsive teaching.

I would encourage you to visit their resource center at


Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal,32(3), 465-491. Retrieved January 4, 2020, from

CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching