The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 3, issue 1 * August 7, 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.

Certainty in Uncertainty

We enter a school year unlike any other in recent recollection, one marked by uncertainty and uneasy emotions. There is so much we don’t know about the structures of our upcoming school day, our curriculum, our delivery, or OUR STUDENTS. This uncertainty has created some anxiety in me, and I have no doubt that others are feeling the same way. While I am no longer responsible for classrooms of children, I am responsible for preparing, supporting, instructing, and evaluating those who will be working with the children each of you teach and care for on a daily basis. And, I take this responsibility very seriously. I also choose to look forward with hope, anticipation, and the knowledge that we are able to accomplish great things when we approach situations with positivity (and a little bit of hard work).


In these times, I recognize and honor that you have a demanding and enormously challenging job. Your role in the lives of young people is especially important in developing safe, stable learning environments where every individual can learn, grow, share, and feel valued. Having been away from the routines and structure of school, our k-college students are a little rusty in procedures and classroom interactions. We are coming from individual situations, separated from each other and collective learning environments where “I” has come before “we”. Going back to school may be tough, but I am confident that with the encouragement and collaboration with others, we will find success. Therefore, I deem it necessary to recognize and support you as the mentors to the emerging educators who will follow in your footsteps, learn from your teaching and mentorship, and build pedagogical skills under your direction and tutelage.


We are so fortunate to be working together with the foundation provided for us at CSB/SJU. I am thankful to be working in an institution that places community as a core value for students and employees. The commitment to community places importance on how we interact, serve, live, and work with one another. Commitment to community requires that we consider others before ourselves. It asks us to listen deeply “with the ear of [our] heart” (Rule of Benedict) knowing that not all communication comes through our mouths and ears. It encourages us to be respectful of others, to embrace differences, and to be inclusive. Being in community requires that we take responsibility for ourselves, our surroundings, and for those with whom we live and work. As such, we know and can be sure of the fact that we are going to make it through this term together. We will work together, as a community of learners and educators, to make this a successful experience for all of us.


Over the course of the next semester, student teachers from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University will be in your classrooms completing their student teaching, and we make several commitments to you. During this time, our university supervisors will work with student teachers in observation, evaluation, completion of the edTPA, and in coordinating meetings with you. This triad structure allows us to strengthen the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are evident in good and great teachers. I ask that you work and communicate with both your student teacher and the university supervisor to develop a relationship that reinforces collaboration and high expectations. The key to making this work is clear and strong communication! Additionally, I will be available in any way possible to assist student teachers, cooperating teachers, and university supervisors. I will make visits when applicable and appropriate, videoconference, answer calls and emails, and provide whatever may be necessary. While I may not have all of the answers readily available, I make a commitment to find what I can to respond in the best way possible.


While we live in the midst of a global pandemic and issues of racism, discrimination, and inequity that create uncertainty and unrest, I can offer these things that I know and am sure of:

*Your student teacher is prepared and excited to be in your classroom

*We are ready to be flexible and do what we need to do in order to do what is good and right for the students in your classrooms, whether face-to-face or virtual, knowing change is part of the process and part of our situation

*We believe each individual has value and deserves a quality education

*We want to be successful, and we want our students to be successful

*We will make mistakes, but we will accept feedback in order to improve

*We have been given a gift to work with quality teachers in quality learning environments

What to Do the First Few Days

The first few days as a cooperating teacher are important in setting up the student teacher for success. Prior to the student teacher's arrival, it is especially helpful to:

*Review the student teaching handbook. It is also available on the CSB/SJU Education Department website.

*Connect with the student teacher and university supervisor (virtual introductions will be made soon)

*Make arrangements for the student teacher in your classroom by setting up a workspace, gathering materials, providing internet access. If you are in a distance or hybrid learning environment, be sure your student teacher has access to all necessary platforms and apps, knows the appropriate protocols/rules for your school and district, and has a work schedule.

*Inform appropriate individuals of your planned student teacher including support staff, department or team members, and parents/guardians of your students.

(Specific Orientation information can be found in the student teaching handbook)


Once the student teacher arrives, ease the student teacher into their new role as would be done with any scaffolded unit. A gradual progression is often best for our student teachers, regardless of how competent and confident they appear upon arrival (Henry & Weber, 2016, p. 5). Student teachers have had experience observing and teaching mini-lessons or units, but the entry into full responsibility has a steep learning curve. Allow your student teacher to:

*Observe you and other staff members (as appropriate)

*Participate in planning and staff meetings

*Collaborate on a few lessons prior to gaining individual responsibility

*Team teach (face to face and virtually, if necessary)

*Be observed by you

*Receive specific, guided feedback on strengths and improvements


At the end of each day of those first few weeks, 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.

First Week Documentation

In the first week of being a cooperating teacher, please complete:


Cooperating Teacher Information Form (only if you haven't been a CSB/SJU cooperating teacher for more than 2 years)


AND


Informal feedback about the student teacher's performance, involvement, engagement, and dispositions.

Looking ahead

Every two weeks, individuals involved with student teaching will be emailed the latest edition of The Acorn. The format for the newsletter is to provide an introductory article that is grounded in professional literature around student teaching, a "to-do" list of activities for the coming two weeks, links to relevant forms, and additional pertinent information. Please look for this in your email.

Evening seminars will be offered on Zoom. These seminars focus on classroom management, curriculum development, special education, English language learners, culturally responsive teaching, and other professional development. If you are interested in participating or sharing during any of these seminars, please let me know.


Seminar dates are as follows:

August 19 and 27

September 9 and 23

October 7 and 21

November 4, 11, and 24

December 9


Please note that these dates are tentative. We may have to make changes based on classroom availability and COVID-related responses.

CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching