The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 3, no. 12--Friday, February 12, 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

Tension or Growth: Mentorship for Learning

In the process of preparing the future generation of professional educators, the importance of the cooperating teacher’s positivity, curricular and pedagogical knowledge and management are magnified. Cooperating teachers have the benefit of knowing the stages of teacher induction-- idealism and anticipation, survival, disillusionment and disappointment, rejuvenation, and reflection (Moir, 1999)—having gone through these phases themselves, and now they are faced with mediating those stages for an up-and-coming teacher who is “taking over” their classrooms and curriculum. It can be an uncomfortable situation to loosen the reigns in that instability, especially when that instability is coupled with COVID-19. Indeed, the student teaching arrangement creates a natural tension between maintaining curricular and management fidelity and allowing for the student teacher’s development as an educator. A month or so into the student teaching experience, this tension can become challenging for both the cooperating and student teacher; however, with some perspective taking, this time can be a period of enormous growth for both individuals.


Pre-service teachers enter their placements with noble aspirations, idealism, and hope. The new professionals come to their student teaching with the newest research-based pedagogies and a strong desire to apply those pedagogies in an authentic context. Sometimes what student teachers have learned as best practice doesn’t match what is happening in their new settings. A strain may emerge between existing pedagogical and curriculum fidelity and the creative flexibility student teachers often bring to the classroom. Cooperating teachers certainly recognize this as they help student teachers navigate their instructional responsibilities. CEO of Curio Learning and 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, Ashley Lamb-Sinclair (2018) encouraged mentor teachers to loosen constraints in their classrooms to allow young teachers to be “brave enough to take creative risks in order to give [students] the highest quality lessons.” While it is unreasonable for a student teacher to have complete autonomy, cooperating teachers can empower student teachers throughout their experience.


Throughout the student teaching process, cooperating teachers are encouraged to assist student teachers make “classroom decisions that [were] responsive to their students’ and the curriculum’s needs” (Christenbury, 2010). Teachers are responsible for creating learning environments that are responsive to student needs, and the student teaching experience is an extension of that. We have established clear standards our students must meet, but the means to that end can be either dictated or flexible and yield similar outcomes. Education should be differentiated based on “research of WHO is seated in the classroom, moving beyond curriculum to learning needs,” and as such, “new teachers need the opportunity to practice differentiation throughout lesson delivery in order to add tools to their tool boxes” (Hawkey, 1997, p. 330). So, we can apply the same principle of addressing individual learners to our student teachers just as we would to the youngsters in our classrooms—set high standards, provide modeling and mentorship, allow the learner to demonstrate their own learning as they best can, and support them along the way.


Indeed, our student teachers grow and learn throughout the student teaching experience, but so can cooperating teachers. We can embrace the idealism and hope of our next generation of teachers, new pedagogical strategies, and our roles as models and mentors, while promoting creativity, autonomy, and responsiveness to all learners, including our student teachers.


References:

Christenbury, L. (2010). The flexible teacher. Educational Leadership, 68(4), 46-50.

Hawkey, K. (1997). Roles, responsibilities, and relationships in mentoring: A literature review and agenda for research. Journal of teacher education, 48(5), 325-335.

Lamb-Sinclair, A. (2018, April 11). The Need for teacher creativity. Education week teacher. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2018/04/11/the-need-for-teacher-creativity.html

Moir, E. (1999). The stages of a teacher’s first year. PRI. Pp. 1-2. Retrieved from https://www.doe.k12.de.us/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=773&dataid=1435&FileName=StagesTeacher1stYear-8-25-11.pdf

The Next Two Weeks for Student Teachers

After a month in the classroom, student teachers are feeling ready to "show their stuff" and flex their pedagogical muscle. This is the time where the cooperating teachers' coaching hats are to be put on. Having greater knowledge of learners, systems, and curriculum, student teachers may be anxious for more responsibility. In the coaching role, you need to determine the student teacher's readiness for the playing field. While some student teachers are like varsity starters, others need to ease in a bit more, coming off the bench after the plays have been run a few times. The student teaching handbook provides guidelines for the amount of time student teachers should be responsible for student learning, but ultimately, your best judgment as a professional will determine that.

Thinking of cooperating teachers as coaches, we can apply that model to their involvement at this point. As in most coach/player relationships, communication is key. Goals are set, plans and plays are articulated, and feedback is given throughout the event. While student teachers are out there, giving it their all, cooperating teachers should be taking notes to tweak and improve performance. On a regular basis, those notes should be shared, and the student teacher should do just as an athlete would do--have modeling and demonstration, have an opportunity to practice in a safe setting, and bring the skills to the game. The coaching is constant and cyclical.

For student teachers who began the week of January 18:

For the week of February 15 (week 5)--

  • Discuss lesson planning techniques and whether or not to continue with CSB/SJU full lesson plans
  • Encourage the student teacher to observe another classroom or two based on areas needing improvement; upon completion, discuss what was discovered and what could be implemented in current practice
  • Co-teach in classes/subjects the student teacher is not leading
  • Conduct one formal observation (for candidates with 8- and 16-week placements)
  • Elementary: Build to at least ½ of the day of the student teacher leading the class
  • Secondary: Allow the student teacher to solo teach all sections of the initial course.


For the week of February 22 (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 student teachers who began the week of January 25:

For the week of February 15 (week 4)--

  • Informally observe and provide feedback for the student teacher
  • Co-teach in classes/subjects the student teacher is not leading
  • Elementary: Allow the student teacher to fully teach in one subject and lead morning meeting
  • Secondary: Teach a minimum two full sections; allow the student teacher to continue with the original course and all other sections of that course (up to two classes less than a full-time load, if the student teacher is prepared to do so)


For the week of February 8 (week 5)--

  • Discuss lesson planning techniques and whether or not to continue with CSB/SJU full lesson plans
  • Encourage the student teacher to observe another classroom or two based on areas needing improvement; upon completion, discuss what was discovered and what could be implemented in current practice
  • Co-teach in classes/subjects the student teacher is not leading
  • Conduct one formal observation (for candidates with 8- and 16-week placements)
  • Elementary: Build to at least ½ of the day of the student teacher leading the class
  • Secondary: Allow the student teacher to solo teach all sections of the initial course.

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.

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