The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 2, issue 11 * January 22, 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.

Wearing the Supporter Hat: A Third Role for Cooperating and Mentor Teachers

Thinking of our student teachers and the topic of this issue of The Acorn, I am reminded of the process of learning to drive and how it is related to mentoring student teachers. I can remember being a passenger in cars driven by a wide variety of people in my life. Each modeled what should (and shouldn’t) be done. As I became old enough to begin driving, I read the manuals, took the courses, and spent my behind-the-wheel hours practicing the necessary precautions and “moves” of being a good, legal driver. I took in all the communication that was given to me, and I was ready to jump behind the wheel. This is the point we are currently at with our student teachers.

In the previous issue of The Acorn, we looked at the “hats” of role modeling and communicating, building on five orientations of teaching (Rajuah, Biejaard, & Verloop, 2007). With a heavy focus on setting up systems of communication, it is hoped that the groundwork has been laid in establishing the expectations for conversations about teaching, learning, management, responsibilities, and the many facets of teaching that aren’t necessarily captured (often because students don't have the opportunities to make the real-life connections) within the pre-service teaching classroom setting. Foundationally, the student teachers have what they need to begin their work and take the wheel, so to speak. The challenges come as additional responsibility and freedom are given to the student teachers and knowing what they will need next to be successful in becoming fully licensed teachers.

Circling back to my driving analogy, the next part of the student teaching experience is like the next part of my driving story. Before I could get my driver’s license, my father insisted that I learn how to handle the unexpected as a driver. He insisted that I learn how to address potential roadside situations and understand vehicle maintenance. I was so overwhelmed with this because I hadn’t ever changed the oil, checked and filled the fluids, or changed a tire. Understandably, I had no idea what to expect because each of these processes was unfamiliar, but Dad was there to support me and work through the orientations of learning. My dad modeled what to do and walked me through the processes with his car, serving as a great role model and communicator as he worked. Then, I was given the task to do these things with another family vehicle where he then shifted to the next “hat”: supporter. Ambrosetti and Dekkers (2010) shared that in a supporter role, the mentor assists in professional development, gives honest and critical feedback, provides advice during task performance, and assists the learner in being reflective and developing efficacy. As a new driver and home mechanic, I was given a goal that needed a lot of feedback and support in accomplishing. As we do with our students, we need to consider how our support and feedback impacts our student teachers’ performance and how that feedback progresses the individual toward a goal--especially in those critical moments where feedback is most connected to the learning opportunity.

Back to the driving story. In my first attempt to change a tire, the feedback I received was almost immediate. As I placed the jack under the car and attempted to raise the frame to change the tire, the jack dangerously slipped. I knew my goal and the steps I needed to take, but I misunderstood a small part of the process. Because my error was in a “faulty interpretation, not a total lack of understanding” (Hattie and Temperley, 2007, p. 82), Dad was able to provide me with powerful, effective feedback and advice that I have been able to carry with me. He was also able to provide me with the emotional support necessary when I was frazzled and feeling defeated. Consider how supportive and effective feedback impacts student teachers. The student teacher is on a “learning journey” (Ambrosetti & Dekkers, 2010, p. 50) to understand and develop competencies in the various orientations of being a teacher: academic, practical, technical, personal, and critical. As cooperating teachers and mentors, we have an opportunity to provide not only the feedback that will improve our student teachers’ competencies, we have the ability to support our student teachers as they learn by experience and navigate all of the flat tires, overheated engines, and dirty oil filters that come their way, and to do so when they are in those critical moments.



*Share content-specific resources

*Help the student teacher gain subject-matter knowledge in areas of unfamiliarity

*Assist in creation and review of assessments

*Discuss content-level decisions


*Listen to the student teacher's ideas for planning, instruction and assessment

*Co-address student-related needs, concerns and issues

*Co-reflect on the day/week


*Co-reflect on issues and questions regarding classroom management and co-plan ways to address concerns

*Help the student teacher with learning a variety of classroom management techniques specific to classroom needs and situations

*Provide resources or opportunities for growth in classroom management including setting up observations of other teachers


*Understand that the student teaching situation places student teachers in a precarious situation of wanting voice, control and agency and feeling a lack of voice, control and agency

*Find time to LISTEN, to TALK, to be in conversation about HOW the student teacher is doing as a human being, not just as a pre-service teacher


*Convey messages of support, that student teaching is also a learning process

*Present feedback in within a model of growth and improvement rather than failure

As it is with our students, student teachers need to feel supported in order to grow. We can do that when we have the foundational structures of role modeling and communication and build on what we know about teaching and learning--we need a goal to reach, strategies to achieve the goal, and feedback and support along the learning journey.


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.

Hall, K., Draper, R., Smith, L., & Bullough, Jr., R. (2008). More than a place to teach: Exploring the perceptions of the roles and responsibilities of mentor teachers. Mentoring & Tutoring, 16:3, 328-345.

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.

Big picture

What to Do in Weeks 4 & 5

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

For Weeks 4-5:

  • 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 from issue 2)

  • Informally observe and provide feedback throughout these two weeks.

  • Conduct AT LEAST ONE formal observation in this two-week period, using this document: Student Teaching Observations (It is not necessary to complete every part of the observation form if not every element was observed).


Allow the student teacher to fully teach in the edTPA subject

Co-teach in other subjects

Build to 90 minutes as lead teacher

Conduct one formal observation in the edTPA subject class


Allow the student teacher to continue with the edTPA-related course and all other sections of that course (up to two classes less than a full-time load, if the student teacher is prepared to do so)

Co-teach in other classes

Conduct one formal observation in the edTPA class

Culturally Responsive Learning Spaces

Reprinted from Vol. 2, issue 3.

Each of our schools has its own culture, and the individuals who learn and work there bring their own cultural identities to the shared space. It is through the lenses and filters of our culture that we take in information and communicate ourselves. To operate effectively and equitably in the shared space of school, we must recognize and respect the cultural references that impact and shape who we are and how we learn.

Culturally responsive teaching asks us to present learning opportunities within the context of culture. Maria Wilson-Portuondo stated, "The increasing diversity in our schools, the ongoing demographic changes across the nation, and the movement towards globalization dictate that we develop a more in-depth understanding of culture if we want to bring about true understanding among diverse populations." That kind of understanding happens when we engage in conversations and build relationships.

The Education Alliance at Brown University has offered suggestions on how we can build our cultural awareness and create learning spaces that are culturally responsive. The ideas below include suggestions found on the Education Alliance webpage:

Research students’ experiences with learning and teaching styles

  • Visit the communities of the students to find out how they interact and learn in that environment
  • Ask students about their learning style preferences
  • Interview parents about how and what students learn from them
  • Engage in conversations about children’s backgrounds and cultures with those who are close to the children

Create an environment that encourages and embraces culture

  • Employ patterns of management that are familiar to students
  • Allow students ample opportunities to share their cultural knowledge
  • Question and challenge students on their beliefs and actions, being respectful to their cultural practices
  • Create a respectful space where students are free to share their beliefs and backgrounds
  • Teach students how to appropriately question, challenge, and support their beliefs and actions

CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching