Student Teachers – Why I like having them in my class?

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The Money – just kidding – this is teaching!
  6. 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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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