The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 2, issue 9 * January 1, 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.

The Many Hats of Cooperating Teachers

On a recent cold, snowy winter morning, I stood in front of my coat closet preparing myself to brace the day and blow snow. Looking into the closet, I reached toward the bucket that held my hats, scarves, and gloves. As I peered into the bucket, I was struck by the variety of hats I had—fancy wool hats to wear with my ‘good” coat, sturdy stocking caps worn when I hunt or ice fish, cute hats for outings with girlfriends and family, and the ever-so Minnesotan bomber hat (expressly selected for this purpose). While I was maneuvering the snowblower and thinking of warmer days to come, I couldn’t help but think about how we as teachers wear a wide variety of hats—on any given day, concurrently, consecutively, constantly. We take on so many roles with our students, and that notion easily transfers to our roles as cooperating teachers for our student teachers.

As we begin a new academic semester and new student teachers enter our classrooms, it is important to remember how our teaching hats extend to our responsibilities to emerging educators. In a synthesis of research on the roles of cooperating teachers, Ambrosetti and Dekkers (2010) found several consistent themes or trends in the roles of cooperating teachers: supporter, role model, facilitator, assessor, collaborator, friend, trainer/teacher, protector, colleague, evaluator, and communicator. The role of a cooperating teacher is a dynamic one that evolves in various contexts and through the several phases of student teaching. In order to understand the roles and responsibilities of the cooperating teacher, Ambrosetti and Dekkers’ themes will be used to shape and guide this semester’s Acorn articles.

A primary goal of student teaching is to “enhance novice teachers’ opportunities to learn within the contexts of teaching” (Lai, 2005, as cited in Ambrosetti & Dekkers, 2010). To understand those contexts, cooperating teachers should begin with their student teachers as they do with their own students—with orientation, clarity of expectations, and creating “opportunities for an inquiring stance that serve(s) long term goals of good teaching” (Rajuan, Beijaard & Verloop, 2007, p. 225). This orientation must begin with open communication around the roles and expectations of both cooperating and student teacher and goal setting for future teaching.

To make this happen, consider the following suggestions:

*Discuss expectations for the student teaching experience for both individuals

--What do you want to get out of the student teaching experience?

--How do you want to get feedback? How do you like to communicate

about successes and improvements?

--How much do you want to be involved and how quickly? How will we let

each other know if we need to speed up or slow down?

--In what areas do you see yourself needing the most support?

*Go over procedures, policies, routines, and schedules already in place that are expected to be followed. Provide copies or access to written documents and/or role modelling of how you as the cooperating teacher expect the classroom to successfully operate (but be open to different ways of doing things as you help your student teacher to grow as a professional).

*Explain what you’re doing in regard to planning, teaching procedures and style, addressing student needs, handling classroom management, etc. Knowing WHY you’re doing what you’re doing is as important as WHAT you’re doing.

*Select an area or two for focus each couple of weeks. Think of using the previous question regarding support (Cox, 2012; Pitler, 2016; Rajuan, Biejaard & Verloop, 2007).

Even though they have been actively engaged in the teaching and learning environment for most of their lives, there are so many things student teachers don’t know about teaching and the many hats teachers wear at any given moment. As you begin your journey with your student teacher, you may need to choose from your conductor cap, hard hat, patrol hat, Stetson, booney hat, or throw them all on and see which one fits at that particular moment.


Ambrosetti, A. & Dekkers, J. (2010, Oct.), The interconnectedness of the roles of mentors and mentees in pre-servife teacher education mentoring relationships. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35:6, 42-55.

Cox, J. (2012). How to mentor a student teacher. TeachHub. Retrieved from

Pitler, H.(2016, September 6). Ten tips for mentoring a student teacher [Blog post]. Retrieved from

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 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

*Connect with the student teacher and university supervisor

*Make arrangements for the student teacher in your classroom by setting up a workspace, gathering materials, providing internet access

*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 Appendix G of the 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

*Participate in planning and staff meetings

*Collaborate on a few lessons prior to gaining individual responsibility

*Team teach

*Be observed by you

*Receive specific, guided feedback on strengths and improvements

Be sure to have a conversation regarding expectations as noted in the article above.

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


An informal observation followed by discussion with specific, guided feedback (nothing submitted to the university; this is for the student's benefit). A sample observation form is available in the student teaching handbook on page 28.

Cultural Competency and Culturally Relevant Teaching

(originally published in Volume 2, issue 1)

Beginning in 2020, Minnesota teachers seeking Tier 3 and 4 licenses will be required to have cultural competency training. Some may see this requirement as just another set of meetings and workshops, but I see this as an exciting and relevant step in professional development, reflection, and equity building in classrooms and schools. Recently, I attended a Cultural Competency Training session hosted by PELSB at Lakes Country Service Cooperative. (If you are interested, more information can be found at

The training walked participants through the gist of the legislation, provided opportunities to connect with other educators from around the state, and offered materials and insights that are relevant to the ways in which we think about culture, equity, and access for our students. In that training, participants were encouraged to develop a goal that would put our learning into action, and mine was to include relevant information or ideas regarding cultural competencies and equity for cooperating teachers. A few tidbits will be shared in each edition of The Acorn this year.

Culturally responsive teaching is not a new idea. Geneva Gay published Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Practice, & Research in 2000 outlining that culturally responsive teaching brings students’ experience, cultural knowledge, and learning/performance styles to their learning in ways to legitimize what students already know. By bringing this knowledge into their teaching and classrooms, culturally responsive teachers create communities that reflect their students and provide means for students to learn, develop, and grow. Culturally responsive teachers recognize and transcend their own biases and preconceptions to mediate learning opportunities and to shift paradigms to equity and access for all.

As the school year begins, I encourage you to consider the Equity Literacy Framework in which Paul Gorski challenges educators to be “a threat to the existence of bias and inequity in our spheres of influence” and to recognize the knowledge and skills that prepare us to “root bias and inequity out of our classrooms, schools, and communities” (p. 10).

As we consider our work this year, let us examine our abilities to:

*recognize even the subtlest biases and inequities in classroom materials, interactions, and policies.

*respond to biases and inequities in the immediate term (in classrooms, meetings, other contexts)

*redress biases and inequities in the long term (in materials, systems, practices)

*create and sustain a bias-free and equitable learning environment (expressing high expectations for access and equity)

[taken from Gorski, P., & Pothini, S. G. (2018). Case studies on diversity and social justice education(2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.]

CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching