The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 2, issue 4 * October 2, 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.

The Ethics of Care in Dialogue with Student Teachers

Care…care. This word has been coming into my earshot and conversation quite frequently in the past few months, and as a result, I have been thinking a lot about the idea of care as it relates to and has shaped my role as an educator. Definitionally, care relates to education in many ways. As a noun, Merriam-Webster defines care in six different ways: suffering of mind, a cause for anxiety, watchful attention, regarding coming from desire or esteem, charge or supervision, and something or someone that is an object of attention, anxiety, or solicitude (2019). In its verb form, care is defined in several ways as well: to feel trouble or anxiety, interest or concern; to give care, to have a liking, fondness, inclination or taste for; to be concerned about, to wish (Merriam-Webster, 2019). As I look at the collection of definitions, it becomes clear that all of these are fundamentally about connection—individual to object or individual to another individual. This also speaks to concepts of value and intention. So, it seems appropriate that my reading and thinking about student teaching has been driven toward the ethics of care and care practices in student teaching.

Consider the collaborative communication discussion in the last issue of The Acorn as it relates to care. We began with an understanding that communication and working together involves recognition of needs, choices, and voices. Cooperating and student teachers were encouraged to recognize the variety of ideas and voices in the setting, to recognize how our own experiences, needs, and beliefs shape our choices, and to respect others’ voices and experiences in order to engage in conversations about teaching and learning. These encouragements are embedded in what is known as the ethics of care. American ethicist Carol Gilligan posited that the ethics of care is “grounded in voice and relationships, in the importance of everyone having a voice, being listened to carefully…and heard with respect. An ethics of care directs our attention to the need for responsiveness in relationships (paying attention, listening, responding)” (Gilligan, 2011). Responsiveness in relationships is really what keeps us engaged in education. Right?! At this point in the student teaching experience, cooperating and student teachers have worked to build a responsive relationship and have likely engaged in many conversations about the “technical knowledge” (Schön, as cited in Trout, 2012, p. 63) discussing lesson plans, expectations, and ‘what to teach’. Often, despite the developing relationship, the dialogue stops here, and unfortunately, when we focus only on procedure and technique, the efficacy is procedure and technique. In order to grow, we must engage in deeper conversations that push the relationship. These deeper conversations rely on the positive definitions of care—esteem, interest, concern, attention—and move collaborative communication into ethical caring of reflection and empowerment.

The ethics of care is built on a strong foundation of dialogue and reciprocal respect, and in the student teaching environment, that model expands as student teachers are able to reflect on their practice and become empowered to make independent choices in the classroom. According to Trout (2012), “Caring requires reflective practice because it orients one’s attention to the interplay between understanding and responding to the needs of another” (pp. 65-6). The dialogue between cooperating and student teacher that engages in reflection of practice creates space for growth and new learning as it calls on the choices and actions of the student teacher. That type of dialogue comes from an understanding of the student teacher’s own needs and ideas rather than a perceived deficit. Notice, if you will, how the shape of that is different from conversations on technical knowledge. A reflective dialogue supposes value in each individual and allows for an idea to emerge as opposed to asserting a predetermined problem with a possible prescriptive solution. In reflective dialogue in the ethics of care, the student teacher is given “a[n equal] place at the table” (Trout, 2012, p. 71) and is empowered to take ownership of future choices, actions, and outcomes.

Translate that into the ongoing work of the student teacher. As the student teacher progresses through the experience, they are learning what it means to be a teacher while still being a student. They receive modeling from their cooperating teachers while providing modeling for their students. They engage in conversations about improvement that is either temporal or lasting with their cooperating teachers and carry on conversations with their students that reflect those held with their cooperating teachers. You see, they are stuck in this place of needing to be shown and given care while showing and giving care. So what can we do as cooperating teachers to help our student teachers?

We can:

*Take regular time with our student teachers—in conversation, listening, thinking through ideas and plans

*Listen without our own agendas paying attention to the student teacher’s needs, frustrations, hopes, etc.

*Generate ideas together, placing equal value on what is shared by each individual

*Empower the student teacher to make choices and support them in action

*Provide opportunities for reflection, especially without judgment

*Lead with care, support, and respect

We should be reminded of the power of caring relationships as a means to move the conversation to reflection and action and to build a space for respect and empowerment. Nel Noddings (1992) reminds us, “the very bedrock of successful education…and contemporary schooling can be revitalized” in the caring relationships developed in the ethics of care.


Care. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2019, from

Gilligan, C. (2011, June 21). Retrieved from

Noddings, N. (1992). The challenge to care in schools: An alternative approach to education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Trout, M. (2012). Care theory: Cohesive powers for reflective practice. In A. Cuenca (Ed.), Supervising student teachers: Issues, perspectives and future directions (pp. 63-76). Sense Publishers, The Netherlands.

What to Do During Weeks 6 & 7

Remember that helpful information can be found in our handbooks: cooperating teacher handbook and 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--4 Misconceptions

Culturally Responsive Teaching is not a new concept; it has been an active part of what we as educators do on a daily basis to build capacity of our students in an environment of respect and high expectations. However, as a greater focus is placed on this pedagogy, many misconceptions have emerged. To unpack the misconceptions, teacher/blogger/podcaster Jennifer Gonzalez interviewed Zaretta Hammond about her text, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, and the common misconceptions about what culturally responsive teaching is. To initially dispell myths, Hammond defines culturally responsive teaching as the ways we "build the capacity of diverse students to have intellectual confidence and build their brain power" (Hammond, 2017).

The misconceptions Gonzalez and Hammond review are:

1. Culturally responsive teaching is the same as multicultural or social justice education. (See chart for more information)

2. Culturally responsive teaching must start with addressing implicit bias. (This must be addressed, but it can stall the process if it is the starting point as many aren't ready to look into this first)

3. Culturally responsive teaching is about building relationships and self-esteem. (Hammond suggests that relationships are an important part of education, but these are not the only part. She calls relationships the "on-ramp" to higher-order thinking and learning that students need to do.)

4. Culturally responsive teaching is about choosing the right strategies. (Culturally responsive teaching is embedded, rather than plugged in.)

I encourage you to listen to the podcast on iTunes or through this link:

If you follow The Cult of Pedagogy, you're familiar with Jennifer Gonzalez. Gonzalez produces a blog and podcast that she introduces as follows: "Teaching strategies, classroom management, education reform, educational technology--if it has something to do with education, we're talking about it." In her podcast and blog, Gonzalez digs into the craft, the heart of teaching, and takes deep dives into subjects of currency and relevance. Her work is helpful, engaging, and timely for teachers at all stages of their careers.

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CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching