|2012-11-24||Steve Gardiner||Student Teachers Offer Fresh Perspectives|
During my 35 years of teaching high school English and journalism, I have had the privilege of serving as a mentor teacher for eight student teachers. Watching someone enter teaching is an interesting and valuable experience.
Inviting a student teacher into the classroom is a disruption. The normal flow of the workday is changed. I have to give away some of my favorite books and lessons. I have to watch and listen as the student teacher leads some of my favorite discussions. I have to move out of my teacher desk, share my computer, and watch the relationships I would have had with students become the domain of another teacher. It's not always convenient or easy, but the benefits of having another teacher in the room are clearly a two-way street.
As soon as a student teacher enters the room, the isolation we often feel as the lone adult in the room disappears. Having a student teacher doesn't mean meeting at the end of the day to discuss how things have gone. It is instead an invitation for an ongoing conversation about the profession, a conversation that is interrupted briefly throughout the day as the student teacher works with students, but resumes between classes, during the lunch hour, through prep hour, and after school. It is a conversation that is added to daily throughout the weeks and months of the student teacher's tenure.
The eight student teachers who have spent time in my classroom have given me a view of the evolution of pre-service teaching. My first two student teachers were before the days of classroom computers and Internet. My recent student teachers have helped me add SmartBoard utilities, Power Point slides, Prezi presentations, YouTube videos, and other digital media to my classroom tools.
Teacher preparation in the late 1970s was good, but I am amazed when I see the elaborate lessons plans filled with learning standards and rubrics that student teachers bring with them today. The profession has changed and having students teachers in my room every few years has helped me keep up on how these new teachers are being prepared and what they are bringing into the building when they join a teaching staff.
Student teachers ask some tough questions. Why did you deal with that student's problem in that way? Why did you teach that lesson? Why do you use this test? Those are questions that make me think about my own work. They make me evaluate my practice in ways I might not have done without the student teacher in the room. Earlier I wrote about the reflection that is required by the National Board Certification process (see National Board Certification, Part 1, 3-28-11) and having a student teacher often leads to a similar sense of self-evaluation and reflection.
Having a student teacher can be a disruption. There are two people in a space normally reserved for one, but the questioning and professional conversation and reflection that take place are a big benefit for both involved. I hope the exchanges I have had with student teachers in my classroom have helped them as they begin their own teaching careers. I know I have gained from having their fresh perspectives in my room.