The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 3, no. 13--Friday, February 26, 2021

Growing, Nurturing, and Supporting CSB/SJU Student Teachers

The Acorn is a newsletter for the cooperating teachers working with student teachers from the College of St. Benedict/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 in working with student teachers. Additional information helpful to mentorship, pedagogy, and current issues in education is often included.

A Message from the Director of Student Teaching

Shifting the focus to reframe teaching students with special learning needs

In a time that seems to be filled with darkness and despair, it is easy to focus on the deficits and problems of our world, especially in the field of teaching and learning. Much has been expected of teachers and schools to be fixers of these deficits and problems, even long before the current global pandemic and increasingly negative political climate. Those expectations often move the attitude needle toward negativity, and that can easily transfer to how we view our students and our classrooms. To push the needle the other way for our student teachers, I have been encouraging a focus on strengths rather than deficits, on the positive and can dos.


There is a growing body of research on the power of strengths-based teaching practices that is shifting the focus of teaching and learning in our state. Current drafts of standards for teacher preparation programs reflect this; work with student ACES and trauma-informed teaching provides even more direction. The research and practice of strengths-based teaching can also offer insights into how we work with students who are English Language Learners and on 504 plans and IEPs.


In the opening chapter of Teaching to Strengths, Zacarian, Alvarez-Ortiz, and Haynes propose that we look beyond “’ what is lacking’ to find ‘what is already there’ to effect change and sustain progress” (2017). They suggest that we:

  • Identify students' existing strengths.
  • Honor, value, and acknowledge these strengths.
  • Help students become aware of their strengths.
  • Build instructional programming that boosts social ties and networks by drawing from students' strengths.


For students who have learning needs outlined in 504s, IEPs, and through EL, we can change the frame where we look at the supports that are needed to bridge what is to what can be to help an individual “function successfully, participate in society, pursue meaningful goals, and live a self-determined life” (Wehmeyer, 2019, p. 22). Rather than look at student needs as a disability or deficit, we look at the "person-environment fit." We consider how to build on strengths thereby mitigating the gap. It is much like constructing a bridge over open water. We place the supports in the strongest parts of each bank and co-construct connections that bring the sides together rather than look at all of the things that cannot happen because of the environment and raw materials.


In the next few weeks, I encourage you to help student teachers continue to reframe how we look at the students in our classrooms as individuals with strengths and with potential rather than students with deficits and gaps.


It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.

—John Joseph Powell


References:

Wehmeyer, M.L. (2019). Strengths-based approaches to educating all learners with disabilities: Beyond special education. Teachers College Press.

Zacarian, D., Alvarez-Ortiz, L., & Haynes, J. (2017). Teaching to strengths: Supporting students living with trauma, violence, and chronic stress. ASCD.

The Next Two Weeks for Student Teachers

For student teachers who began the week of January 18:

For the week of March 1 (week 7)--

  • Conduct one formal observation
  • Assist student teacher in areas needing improvement through goal setting, informal observations, and feedback

  • Elementary: Allow the student teacher to teach for ½ of the day; co-teach for the remainder (build to ¾ of day for week 8 if the student teacher continues in this placement for 12 or 16 weeks)
  • Secondary: Allow the student teacher to solo teach to the almost full-time status
  • If the student teacher leaves this placement at the conclusion of week 8, discuss transitioning back and plans for the final conference. Review expectations for the final conference including the writing of a letter of reference/recommendation.


For the week of March 8 (week 8)--

  • For placements of 12 or 16 weeks, complete the mid-placement evaluation. Discuss with student teacher and supervisor at the next triad meeting
  • Engage in goal setting based on observational and evaluation data
  • Elementary: Allow the student teacher to teach for ¾ of the full load
  • Secondary: Allow the student teacher to teach to almost full time (1 section less than a full load)
  • If this is the student teacher’s last week, lessen the amount of teaching done and co-teach instead. Participate in the final triad meeting (see links in form list below).



For student teachers who began the week of January 25:

For the week of March 1 (week 6)

  • Discuss lesson planning techniques and whether or not to continue with CSB/SJU full lesson plans
  • Complete the mid-placement evaluation and discuss with the student teacher (for candidates in 12-week placements)
  • Engage in goal setting for the remainder of the term (for candidates in 12-week placements)
  • Co-teach in classes/subjects not lead by the student teacher
  • Discuss plans for adding responsibilities once the edTPA videotaping is complete
  • Elementary: Add teaching time for up to ½ of the day (build to ¾ of day for 8-week placements).
  • Secondary: Have the student teacher continue teaching all sections of the initial course (add additional courses as the student teacher is ready)


For the week of March 8 (week 7)--

  • Conduct one formal observation
  • Assist student teacher in areas needing improvement through goal setting, informal observations, and feedback

  • Elementary: Allow the student teacher to teach for ½ of the day; co-teach for the remainder (build to ¾ of day for week 8 if the student teacher continues in this placement for 12 or 16 weeks)
  • Secondary: Allow the student teacher to solo teach to the almost full-time status
  • If the student teacher leaves this placement at the conclusion of week 8, discuss transitioning back and plans for the final conference. Review expectations for the final conference including the writing of a letter of reference/recommendation.

Quick Links

CSB/SJU Student Teaching Handbook


Student Teaching Observations (by Cooperating Teacher/University Supervisor/Director)

This observation/evaluation form should be used to complete observations throughout the placement. Six formal observations of the student teacher are required within the span of student teaching. We ask that you complete 6 for a 16-week placement, 5 in a 12-week placement, 3 in an 8-week placement, and 2 in a 5-week placement. The entire form does not need to be completed for each observation; however, by the end of the placement, each part should be addressed.


Cooperating Teacher Mid-Placement Review of Student Teacher (for placements of 12 or 16 weeks)


Final forms for the completion of a placement:
Cooperating Teacher's Final Evaluation of Student Teacher

Cooperating Teacher's Dispositional Evaluaiton of Student Teacher

Readings and Resources

In the next month of their experience, student teacher coursework will be focused on engagement strategies and working with students with specialized learning needs (students who are EL, have IEPs or 504s, etc.). Because much of their previous experience has been framed in the context of specific course requirements, student teachers need opportunities to flex their pedagogical muscle in real classroom settings through supportive, experienced mentorship.

CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, EdD.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching


Allison Spenader, PhD.

Chair