The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 3, issue 5* October 9, 2020

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.

Building Blocks to Flourish: Moving toward Joy and Purpose

Pratt and Homan (2000) wrote, “Joy is a decision we have to make—or not. You and I are responsible for whether we experience joy” (pp. 167-68). This wisdom certainly stands the test of time! For the past few years I have made a conscious choice to begin each workday on a positive note. On the days I come to campus, I typically listen to a message or sermon from an inspirational individual. On the days I work from home, I pop open one or more of a few apps on my phone and read an encouraging message. By doing this, I have a thought I can return to, perseverate on, and embed throughout my day. I make a choice to frame my state of mind around a message of positivity and hope, and this has impacted how I think about working with students and student teachers.

Challenges of this time may have shifted our outlook and perspectives in education in ways that may not be to the benefit of our students and classrooms. These challenges may lead us to think of the negative or the deficits in education and teaching rather than looking toward assets and strengths. Without a doubt, this is not unusual. These days in education are DIFFICULT! That being said, I’ve been thinking about how research and practice help us in reframing our thinking and understanding of how we work with youth (and student teachers), and I am led to positive psychology, particularly Martin Seligman and Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi. Seligman and Czikszentmihalyi (2000) define positive psychology as “"... the scientific study of positive human functioning and flourishing on multiple levels that include the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life” (p. 5). Recent research on trauma-informed schools and teaching, on character development, and on social-emotional learning all draw on these same ideas where schools are called on to “expand their focus beyond academic learning to also include the promotion of character and well-being” (Kern, et. al., 2015). If we use Maslow’s hierarchy as a base for discussion, we know that beyond the basic needs, an individual’s success is largely influenced by positive inputs that go far beyond academics and that those inputs can be addressed in educational settings. One way to think about this is Seligman’s PERMA model.

Focusing on human flourishing, Martin Seligman posited that there are five building blocks that provide a foundation for and increase thriving: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Simply stated, definitions of each are noted below:

Positive Emotions: Feeling positive emotions such as joy, interest, gratitude and hope

Engagement: Experiencing “flow”; being absorbed in activities that use one’s skills but also challenge the individual

(Positive) Relationships: Having positive, supportive relationships with valued others

Meaning: Belonging to and serving something one believes is bigger than oneself

Accomplishment: Being able to pursue success, experiencing achievement, finding mastery

Each of these building blocks has a deep connection to the Benedictine values and practices our student teachers have embedded in their collegiate experience, particularly community, service, perseverance, authenticity, hospitality, stewardship, and respect for persons (Klassen, Renner & Reuter, 2001). This groundwork should allow for rich conversations and experiences in how we consider the PERMA model in our classrooms and in student teaching.

To guide our thinking, teacher, researcher, and author Dave Stuart, Jr. (2016), has put together some guiding questions in each of the building block areas:

Regarding Positive Emotions--

· How do I help my students cultivate positive emotions, even in hard or stressful circumstances?

· How do I cultivate positive emotions in myself, even in today's stressful educational environments?

Regarding Engagement—

· How do I help my students get to the place where they are engaged, in the flow sense, not just by my instruction, but by their studies?

· How do I, as a teacher, minimize the time I spend on frustrating, minutiae, forty-part-teacher-eval-rubric-type tasks and maximize the time I spend in flow-producing work like lesson planning, curriculum mapping, and researching the educator's craft?

Regarding Relationships—

· How do I use collaborative activities not just to improve my students' learning of material or skill, but also to improve their ability to be the kinds of people who make supported, healthy relationships?

· How do I, as an educator with more things to do than there are hours in the day, set work hours for myself (and therein accept that I won't complete All The Things) so that I have more time to invest in relationships — with my spouse, or my children, or my siblings, or my friends? How do I improve my working relationships with colleagues?

Regarding Meaning—

· How do I create opportunities for my students to reflect on or explore or learn about big problems and noble causes in the world today? How do I help them find meaning even in their high school years?

· How do I keep my own eyes set on the meaningful work that teaching is, despite any distractions to the contrary?

Regarding Accomplishment/Achievement—

· How do I help my students identify areas in their own lives in which Achievement would improve other PERMA components?

· In what ways can I push myself to achieve? What are the things I've always dreamed of doing, and how can I work today to make them more possible tomorrow?

In considering these questions individually, with colleagues or student teachers, we begin to shift ourselves and others toward the positive and engage in multidimensional work of creating the conditions and mindsets to flourish.


Kern, M. L., Waters, L. E., Adler, A., & White, M. A. (2015). A multidimensional approach to measuring well-being in students: Application of the PERMA framework. The journal of positive psychology, 10(3), 262–271.

Klassen, J., Renner, E., & Reuter, M. (2001, May 1). Catholic, Benedictine values in an educational environment [Scholarly project]. In OSB Dot Org. Retrieved June 3, 2020, from

Pratt, L.C. & Homan, D. (2000). Benedict’s way: An ancient monk’s insights for a balanced life. Chicago: Loyola Press.

Seligman, Martin E. P.; Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (2000). "Positive psychology: An introduction". American Psychologist. 55 (1): 5–14. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.5. ISSN 1935-990X. PMID 11392865. S2CID 14783574.

Stuart, D., Jr,. (2016, January 23). PERMA and the Science of Flourishing. Retrieved October 06, 2020, from

Big picture

Weeks 7 & 8 Documentation and Timelines

Please refer to the previous issues of The Acorn for details on Weeks 1-4. These weeks are determined by the first day there is responsibility for student instruction.

Many questions can be answered within the Student Teaching Handbook

For student teachers with 12 and 16-week placements--

Week 7

● Conduct one formal observation

● Elementary:

*. Allow the student teacher to take on ½ of the day

* Co-teach the remainder of the day

* Decide how the student teacher will assume 75-80% of the teaching load beginning week 8

● Secondary

*Allow the student teacher to solo teach all sections of the course started in Week 2.

Week 8:

● Complete the mid-placement evaluation

● Engage in goal setting for the remainder of the term

● Assist the student teacher in areas needing improvement with continued informal observations and feedback

● Elementary:

*Add teaching time for up to 80% of the day.

● Secondary:

*Have the student teacher teach all but one course (almost full time)

For student teachers with 8-week placements--

Week 7:

● Conduct one formal observation

● Assist the student teacher in areas needing improvement with continued informal observations and feedback

● Discuss transitioning back to your classroom (i.e., student missing work)

● Ensure that a final meeting is scheduled with the supervisor

● Prepare a letter of recommendation/reference to be shared at the final meeting

● Elementary:

*. Allow the student teacher to teach 75-80% of the day

* Co-teach the remainder of the day

* Decide how the student teacher will assume 75-80% of the teaching load beginning week 8

● Secondary

*Allow the student teacher to solo teach as much as the student teacher is comfortable and capable of doing.

Week 8:

●Have the student teacher teach half time and observe or assist half time

● Participate in the final meeting

● Complete all CSB/SJU forms (see below): Evaluation of University Supervisor, Student Teacher's Dispositional Evaluation, Student Teaching Final Evaluation


This link will connect you with the online forms required by our program to assess our student teachers' progress in student teaching. Cooperating teachers should be completing 4 observations of students whose placements are 12 weeks or longer. See the handbook for specific details.

By the end of week 6, all students in 8 or 16-week placements should have had TWO formal observations by the cooperating teacher. Students with 12-week placements should have two formal observations by the end of week 7.

At the end of placements, cooperating teachers should complete three additional forms: an evaluation of the university supervisor, a dispositional rating of the student teacher, and a final evaluation of the student teacher.

Please remember to use N/A (unable to observe) for any areas not evaluated during a particular observation.

Observation Form

Evaluation of University Supervisor

Student Teacher’s Dispositional Evaluation

Student Teaching Final Evaluation

CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching