January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Preparing for a Student Teacher

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Megan McKenzie, Corey Lee, Yukako Kawakatsu, and Rick Pomeroy

As the beginning of the school year approaches, teachers begin to think of all of the things they have to do to be ready for the first day of school. Ordering supplies, mapping the curriculum, developing that perfect opening day activity, and arranging the room to reflect this year’s focus on STEM or science and engineering practices all dominate the planning process. But what should you do if you are hosting a student teacher for the first time this year? Recently, I asked three early career teachers what they would do when planning for a student teacher. By their own admissions, their answers are a blend of what they would have wanted when they started student teaching and the things they plan to do for the new teachers they will be working with this year.

MM: I will develop a yearlong calendar to provide my student teacher with an overview of the experiences my students will have this year. I am planning to make sure that he has access to the campus computer systems. He will need a school email address, and a login to the grading and data system. The email will allow him to communicate professionally with parents and the login will facilitate his monitoring of student learning. I want to make sure that I set aside some personal space so my student teacher feels he has a place in the classroom. Finally, because our school uses a project based learning approach to instruction, I will be sure to provide him with some background information about our teaching philosophy.

CL: I think that providing the student teacher a place in the classroom is important. They need to feel like they are a part of the class and the school. I want to do anything I can to ensure that they don’t feel like an itinerant teacher or a substitute. They need personal space for their own stuff as well as a place to keep student work, materials for upcoming classes, and simply a place to work while they are on campus. Next, I want to introduce my student teacher to the culture of the school and the wide range of students who will be in their classes. I think it is important to tell the student teacher about the student population. Yes, they can gather much of the demographic information from public records and the school website but it is hard to know about the various schools that our students come from. The student teacher needs to know how their class will fit in the students’ overall science experience, the content that the students have covered in their prior classes or schools, and the variety of neighborhoods and cultural groups that the students come from. I also want to give them an overview of the extra-curricular activities that their students might be involved in and any school traditions such as class spirit competitions, homecoming activities, or pep rallies that form the foundations of the fall term. In short, I want them to have a good grasp of their students’ out-of-class experiences. I want to encourage them to participate in some of these activities while maintaining their professional image and stance for students. Specifically, what are the expectations for faculty participation in the culture of the school and how should they balance that with their growing instructional obligations. Finally, I want to give them an overview of the curriculum for the year and a detailed but not overwhelming explanation of the first unit of instruction. This will provide context to their early observations in the classroom and give some structure to their developing roles as a new teacher.

YK: I agree with everything that has been mentioned so far. In addition, I want to spend some time thinking about how I will introduce my student teacher to the students, parents, and other teachers in my department. For many student teachers, this will be one of their first experiences talking to “large” groups of people. Achieving confidence when talking about themselves and what they bring to the class and to teaching can go a long way in establishing their persona for the rest of the year.

It is clear that these young professionals have learned from their recent experiences as new teachers. Their ideas about preparing to host a student teacher speak powerfully of the things that their mentor teachers did for them and suggest things that they feel might have helped them on their journeys into teaching. All of these new teachers recognized the importance of understanding the curriculum that they are expected to teach but even more clear are their thoughts about the importance of becoming part of the school culture, of developing relationships with their students, and transitioning from their roles as students to their new roles as professional educators. As a teacher educator, the biggest challenge I face is facilitating student teachers’ growth in these non-curricular areas. Facility with the content is not nearly as big an issue as understanding what it means to be a teacher. For many, this is their first real professional job. It is a time when they should stop asking someone else “how much, how many, or how often” and instead begin to ask themselves “what just happened, why did it happen that way, and how can I change this outcome?”

As you prepare to host a student teacher, whether it is your first or your twentieth, consider ways to introduce these new teachers to the whole profession of teaching, not simply the act of conveying and assessing information.

Megan McKenzie teaches 9th grade biology in a charter school focused on project based learning; Corey Lee teaches AP Chemistry and Biotechnology in Northern California; Yukako Kawakatsu teaches environmental science and chemistry in a high school in Southern California; Rick Pomeroy is a lecturer at UC Davis School of Education and CSTA’s past president. All four are members of CSTA.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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California Science Teachers Association

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.