The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 2, issue 7 * November 14, 2019

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.

Finding their Keel: Caring Relationships and Classroom Management

In the past few weeks, the topic of classroom management has emerged as an area of focus, concern, and personal/professional growth for our current student teachers. At our student teaching seminar last week, student teachers had a presentation from one of our instructors that asked them to consider their “keel”, the centering force critical in the movement of their teaching sailboats. With this metaphor as a focus for further discussion, we consistently came back to a critical element of the keel: the importance of relationship building. In particular, we examined how relationship building affects classroom management.

The research on the importance of relationship building with students in the classroom is overwhelming. In a recent study on the attributes of a successful field experience, Lovett, Stanley, Lovett, and Hushman (2018) found that cooperating/mentor teachers believe the most important skill that pre-service teachers can learn is classroom management, in caring, respectful relationships and in being clear and consistent, specifically (p. 128). We don’t have to go far to find gurus who reiterate some version of “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Undoubtedly, our own experience supports the research and this notion especially when we consider how caring for an individual can help both parties grow. For pre-service teachers and student teachers, there can be tension in that idea as their keel centers them on caring relationships and other expectations focus them on delivery of content. Further tension arises as student teachers spend more time in the classroom, get to know their students, and experience the wind-pull and wave crashing of reality in student needs, challenges, and behaviors, all while trying to keep a balanced sailboat. How pre-service teachers navigate these tensions and understand how to manage their classrooms, their roles and responsibilities, and how their sense of caring can be enacted is highly influenced by their teacher education programs and extended classroom experiences (Laletas & Reupert, 2016, p. 490).

As mentors to our student teachers, we hold a responsibility to develop our students’ sense of self-efficacy—the ability to see themselves as captains of their own boats. Self-efficacy in classroom management is identified as the degree of a teacher’s beliefs in his or her competency about organizing students around instructional goals, maintaining classroom order, and having students’ participation and attention (Emmer and Hickman, 1991, as cited in Siviri and Balci 2015, p. 39), AND it is the caring pedagogy of empathy, understanding, and responsiveness (Laletas & Ruepert, 2016, p. 487). Helping student teachers create safe classrooms “where students feel safe to take the risks that real learning requires” (Rabin & Smith, 2013, p. 5) is premised on setting expectations, developing relationships, and demonstrating the ethic of care, “care in teaching, aligning notions of care with maximizing student learning and personal growth” (Laletas & Reupert, 2016, p. 497).

To help our student teachers tack their sailboats and set a strong mainsail, we can work with them to understand, act and reflect on five themes related to care in teaching: Enactments of care, caring and behavior management, boundaries around caring, barriers to caring, and learning to care (Laletas & Ruepert, 2016, p. 493). Share what you do, encourage them to talk with your peers, observe and comment on your observations, and ask probing questions to get to what will help them to stabilize their ships and provide a compass for their journeys.

Consider conversations around the following—

Enactments of Care:

*How do you foster relationships with students?

*How do you get to know more about students without being intrusive?

*How do you find out about student backgrounds, interests, etc.?

*What must you consider in terms of social, emotional, and physical interaction?

*What pedagogical choices are made that show care specific to students?

Caring and Behavior Management:

*How do I deal with a difficult situation or student and show care and respect?

*How can I avoid further discouragement in struggling students that may lead to management problems?

*What cues can I be looking for that might reveal opportunities for care?

Boundaries around Caring:

*How can I self-monitor to keep boundaries around what I do to help students?

*How much can or should I “care”?

*What is and isn’t appropriate in this setting, for this age group?

Barriers to Caring:

*What barriers might I face in being able to sufficiently care for my students?

*How can I address those barriers?

*What barriers have you faced? How have you overcome them? What if you can’t overcome them?

Learning to Care:

*What areas do I need to work on?

*Who can I learn from?

*What resources are available for me to learn more?


Laletas, S., & Reupert, A. (2016). Exploring pre-service secondary teachers’ understanding of care. Teachers and Teaching, 22(4), 485-503.

Lovett, M., Stanley, S., Lovett, M., & Hushman, C. (2018, Fall). Attributes of a successful field experience: A Best-worst scaling study. The Field Experience Journal, 22.

Rabin, C. & Smith, G. (2013). Teaching care ethics: Conceptual understandings and stories for learning. Journal of Moral Education. DOI:10.1080/03057240.2013.785942

Sivri, H., & Balcı, E. (2015). Pre-service teachers' classroom management self-efficacy beliefs. International Online Journal of Educational Sciences, 7(4).

What to Do During Weeks 12 & 13

Our student teachers have three different configurations for their student teaching based on licensure requirements. Noted below are the outlines for each of these groups.

Remember that helpful information can be found in our handbooks: cooperating teacher handbook and student teaching handbook

For cooperating teachers with students in 16-week placements:

Weeks 12 & 13—

*Allow the student teacher to teach as much as possible

*Assist student teacher in addressing areas needing improvement with continued informal observations and feedback

*Conduct a formal observation if you wish. One more formal observation should be done before the final student teaching conference.

*Begin drafting a letter of recommendation for your student teacher (to be completed for the final student teaching conference with the student teacher and university supervisor).

Here are the forms:

Student Teaching Observation form

For cooperating teachers with students finishing week 12 of their initial licensure placements:

Thank you for hosting a CSB/SJU student teacher!

In this final week, the student teacher should be wrapping up all assessments and should be transitioning to co-teaching and observation.

In preparation for the final conference, please complete the following:

*Any final observations using the Student Teacher Observation form

*Complete the Student Teacher's Dispositional Evaluation form

*Complete the Student Teacher's Final Evaluation

*Complete an evaluation of the university supervisor

*Write a letter of recommendation for the student teacher. Please share copies with the student teacher and university supervisor. A copy should be emailed to as well.

For cooperating teachers with students starting the first week of a 5-week endorsement placement (student teaching week 13):

*Help the student teacher get to know your students, the teachers, and the school

*Review the Orientation Guidelines/Checklist with cooperating teacher (found in the handbook)

*Allow the student teacher to assist with planning, preparation of lessons and materials, monitoring of individual and group work.

*Determine which classes the student teacher will lead building to teaching one less than the teacher’s full load.

*Allow the student teacher to teach a lesson you have co-planned (30-60 minutes). Observe this lesson and provide feedback to the student teacher. An informal observation form is available in the handbook.

*Complete the following forms:

Cooperating Teacher's Information

This document is used to track our placement of student teachers and to obtain additional contact information on the cooperating teacher.

For cooperating teachers with students in their second 8-week placement (weeks 4 & 5 of this placement):

*Conduct the mid-placement evaluation and discuss with the student teacher

*Discuss lesson planning techniques and whether or not to continue with CSB/SJU full lesson plans

*Conduct a formal observation using the Student Teaching Observations form.

*Encourage the student teacher to observe another classroom or two based on areas needing improvement; upon completion, discuss what was discovered and what could be implemented in current practice


Build to a minimum of 90 minutes of the student teacher leading the class, more if it is appropriate

Co-teach in other subjects


Allow the student teacher to continue with initially selected course and all other sections of that course (building to one class less than a full-time load, if the student teacher is prepared to do so)

Co-teach in other classes

CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching