Last week, our school had a teacher institute day, which I used as a time to assemble all of the student teachers in our building and have a “round desk” discussion. This happened with the help of a colleague of mine, and the purpose of the discussion was to get to know each other a little better, listen to some stories of our respective student teaching experiences, and talk a little bit about the support that everyone is receiving. The discussion was a very positive one and many of the student teachers were a little disappointed that we had not done it earlier in the year. It was also a great way to expand our professional network a little bit.
As I mentioned above, one of the things that we talked about was the support that everyone was receiving from their cooperating teacher, supervisor, and even non-human support, such as access to computers, printers, etc. One common theme seemed to be a frustration with lack of non-human support, especially printers. Many of them mentioned that once their print quota is gone for the week, they had to find alternative ways of printing, including going to places such as Kinko’s or printing off at home.
Many of them however, had positive things to say about their relationships with their cooperating teacher, which can make or break one’s student teaching experience. If the cooperating teacher is not there to help mold the student teacher, and draw out the essential skills to becoming a successful and engaging teacher, the affair will be an uphill battle. But it was nice to hear about the various levels of support the student teachers were receiving, including multiple phone conversations, the sharing of resources not only from their cooperating teacher, but also from others in the department. If the student teacher does not have a proper support network, there is a greater potential for failure in the classroom, not only with the student teacher, but unfortunately for the students as well.
One of the other items we discussed was a lack of solid communication between the cooperating teacher and student teacher. Some were unsure of when exactly they would be taking over the class completely on their own, and some had not even reached that point yet in their experience. This leads me to a point that I made in an article I wrote for the Mentoring Leadership and Resource Network, which addressed ways to prepare for one’s student teaching experience. One of the things I mentioned was the importance of trying to contact your cooperating teacher before you start student teaching so as to familiarize yourself with them, and also to try and communicate the expectations of the experience and how to efficiently transition in the classroom from cooperating teacher to student teacher. I think this can help alleviate many of the problems that student teachers have in their short time in the classroom.
So the meeting proved to be a great way for the bunch of us to get together, have a cup of coffee, and just discuss how experiences have gone thus far. It was also helpful to talk about life after student teaching, because the reality is not a pretty picture with the current economic climate. Therefore, having a support network can make the new job search that much easier, and potentially productive. Never forget to keep expanding your network.
Until we meet again…