The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 2, issue 12 * February 5, 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.

Handing over the Keys: The Role of Cooperating Teacher as Facilitator

As a parent, few things were more tense for me than the early days of my son’s journey to be a licensed driver. I can remember sitting in the passenger’s seat watching him grasp the steering wheel in ways that I believed weren’t correct. I can remember how he adjusted the seat (too low for my liking) and the mirrors to be just right. I can remember being hypercritical and hyper-focused on his actions and how they didn’t fit with what I perceived as correct. And, I can remember the meeting the drivers’ education teacher had with parents and guardians when he told us that our job was to help our children on their way to driving under new recommendations, with new laws and expectations, and with different ways to thinking about our roles and responsibilities on the road. In so many ways, this experience is like being a cooperating teacher for a pre-service teacher now jumping into the driver’s seat, so to speak, in the classroom.

Student teachers are placed in classrooms to “learn, develop, and practice teaching knowledge and skills” (Ambrosetti & Dekkers, 2010, p. 42) with mentor teachers who facilitate their rapid transition from learner to doer. As they take the knowledge and skills they gathered in undergraduate coursework and practica and apply it to active classrooms, student teachers need cooperating teachers who act much like the adult passenger for a student driver. Our role as cooperating teachers moves from that of teacher/trainer to that of facilitator where opportunities to perform the tasks given to us as licensed teachers are transferred to the student teacher with attitudes of trust and hope. Like the parent or drivers’ education instructor sitting in the passenger seat, we allow the student teacher to take the wheel and act on what they have learned with minimal interference—interjecting only when situations become unsafe or actions are incorrect. We know that there are choices the new driver might make that don’t align with our thinking, but we could create insecurities, a lack of trust, or even dangerous consequences if we address every issue we see while the driver is in the moment. So it is with student teaching. The student teacher needs to develop their “sense of self” (p. 48) by trying out different instructional or management techniques or including unfamiliar resources or technologies. Student teachers need to be given the opportunity to struggle or slip up without being immediately corrected so that they can reflect and self-correct. When my son put his hands at 4 and 8:00 rather than 10 and 2, I had the urge to correct him in the moment; but I waited for his explanation when we stopped at a light. When he ground the rear tire into the curb trying to parallel park, I was tempted to freak out in the moment, but I took a deep breath instead and let him finish. When he finally got it, he turned to me and shared how poor his performance was in his earlier attempts (mind you, he used much more teen-centric language). When he went to the gas station to fill up and aligned the pump to the wrong side of the car, I chuckled with him as he slapped his palm to his forehead.

As cooperating teachers and mentors, we are active participants in the growth of our student teachers (p. 50). We are also role models and communicators throughout their learning process. As we do with our own students, we allow them the space to try, to make mistakes, to self-correct, and we model this for our student teachers. We apply patience when needed and provide feedback thoughtfully to allow learning to happen. When we think of our student teachers, we should think of them like our students and like student drivers. They are eager to go out on their own and make the processes their own. We can facilitate that by providing supportive space and opportunity. It isn’t without worry or concern that we do this, but we must metaphorically hand over the keys and allow someone else to take the wheel.



*Allow the student teacher to select resources that meet curricular goals

*Encourage the student teacher to take responsibility for their learning and for the content

*Correct academic/knowledge gaps privately and in a timely manner


*Share in developing instructional materials and assessments

*Co-assess student work giving more responsibility for formal assessments to the student teacher


*Co-address student behavior or classroom management issues allowing the student teacher to gradually take the lead

*Discuss alignment of curricular goals with seating arrangements and pedagogical choices


*Provide opportunities for the student teacher to share about themselves with students and colleagues

*Include the student teacher in teacher-related events as appropriate


*Engage in conversations about the student teacher’s instructional, assessment, and management choices

*Help the student teacher to develop self-reflection strategies regarding instruction, assessment and management


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.

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 6 & 7

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

For Weeks 6-7:

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

  • Review the student teacher’s lesson plans -- the formality of lesson plans may be lessened based on a collaborative decision with the university supervisor.

  • Co-teach lessons throughout the day (Consider the Co-Teaching Approaches from issue 2)

  • Informally observe and provide feedback throughout these two weeks.

  • For the formal observation, use this document: Student Teaching Observations (It is not necessary to complete every part of the observation form if not every element was observed).


Build to 110 minutes as lead teacher

Co-teach throughout the remainder of the day up to 80% of the full load.

Conduct one formal observation in a class of your joint choosing such that a minimum of two formal observations are completed by the end of week 7.


Allow the student teacher to continue with the edTPA-related course and all other sections of that course

Build to having the student teacher take on all but one class of a full load

Conduct one formal observation in a class of your joint choosing such that a minimum of two formal observations are completed by the end of week 7.

If your student teacher is transitioning to a different placement in week 8, the following should be done:

Discuss transitioning back to your classroom (missing work, schedule for return, etc.)

Ensure that a final triad meeting has been scheduled with the university supervisor.

Prepare a letter of recommendation/reference for the student teacher for the final meeting

Please continue to 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.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain

In the linked article and podcast, Zaretta Hammond, author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, explains what cullturally responsive teaching (CRT) is and debunks some of the myths and misunderstandings of CRT.

She outlines ideas around the following:

1. CRT isn't the same as multicultural or social justice education;

2. CRT builds brain power;

3. CRT is grounded in neuroscience; and

4. CRT requires us to recognize "collectivism".

I encourage you to read through the article: and to listen to the related podcast:

CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching