Over the past 6 weeks I have had a student teacher in my class. Today is their last day and we have the obligatory ‘farewell party’. To be honest this is the worst part of having a student teacher. I am a grumpy-old-teacher so a class party, quickly turns into the ‘class mess’. That is something that I dont really want to deal with on the last day of term. But it must be done.
I am a fan of having students in my class. I love the energy that they bring and I have a couple of student teachers in my class each year. It staggers me that more staff don’t take up this great opportunity. So why do I like having student teachers in my class?
- It makes me a better teacher. Constantly having people in your class lifts your game. You can’t preach organisation, planning, good questioning, student agency etc. if you not doing it yourself.
- It keeps me up to date with the latest ideas and trends. Having a student teacher means you get an idea of the latest educational trends and tools. New teachers come with a wealthy of new ideas and a willingness to try things. I like that.
- It is good for our department. Having new blood in your department is great. They have fresh ideas and for 6 weeks it is nice to have ‘new voices’ in our planning and admin meetings.
- Remember that someone did this for you. For me this is the biggest reason why I have students. At the end of the day this is a fantastic profession and I believe it is more job to help students become better. Going through my training I had 6 Associate Teachers – some good / some rubbish. But at least they were willing to share their knowledge with me. I only think it is fair that I do the same.
- The Money – just kidding – this is teaching!
- Release time – There is no getting around it. Over the last 4 weeks I have been able to get so many jobs done that I wouldn’t have been able to if I was teaching a full load. Having a student usually enables you to catch up on a couple of other tasks that need to be completed.
Finally just a couple of points that I have found about being an Associate Teacher. It is probably good to point out at the time that I usually take on 3rd Year students.
- Give up your class – Students come in for the experience of teaching. Give them your class, not just part of it. In my opinion there is nothing worse than a teacher who wont let go of their class and their way of doing things. I give my students the opportunity to change things – layout of desks / groups / class structure. I am not ‘God’s gift to Teaching’ and their ways are probably better than mine!
- Don’t save students – A student teacher will learn far more from a bad lesson than a good one. Let them fail and let them have to work through the mess of poor organisation and management. Then catch up after and have a chat. Life and learning are processes and a mistake is only a mistake if you do it twice. I have a rule with my student teachers is that I will only intervene in a lesson is if a child is in danger.
- Not every lesson has to be observed or every moment discussed – Be very clear about when and what you are observing. This makes it easier for students to concentrate on their job as it gives them a little freedom.
- Have high expectations – I have high expectations with the student teachers that come into my class. People will rise to the level you expect of them. Therefore, expect a high level of professionalism and competency. A lot of this comes through good communication. I spend time talking about dress code, arrival time, lesson observations, planning and what I will and wont do. Differing expectations is a quick way to a bad experience.