How can I best help my student teacher?
January 16, 2011 8:38 PM   Subscribe

I have a student teacher and this is a new experience for me. How can I be the best cooperating teacher possible? (Life science teacher at the high school level in the US.)

He's been with me all year and when he first started, I had him jump into one elective class for a short unit and then we started planning together for my bio classes. He'd then watch me teach one period of bio, then he'd teach the other two periods. Eventually, he started planning mostly independently for bio.. now he is full time student teachingand he should be pretty independent.

When you were a full time student teacher, what helped you the most? What have you done as a cooperating teacher that seems to have worked (obviously, each teacher and student teacher has their own style.)

BTW, I realize I should be able to answer this myself but I went through an alt cert program and my student teaching experience was FAR from typical..and to be honest, all I remember is paralyzing fear that the students would see through me and my inability to sleep.

Thanks in advance!
posted by adorap0621 to Education (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
When I was a student teacher, both of my teachers (intentionally) gave me very little guidance with things like classroom management and lesson planning. When I came to them with "what do I do about student X?" their answers were usually, "well, we could do this or this..." and we talked through the different options.

This was excellent preparation for where I am now - as a first year teacher, often in similar situations - and I don't have someone looking over my shoulder in a similar way.

I'll try to think of more ideas and come back if I come up with anything. I am in music education, so things are slightly different -- but many of these issues are, of course, the same.
posted by rossination at 8:44 PM on January 16, 2011

I have a lot of ways I could answer this, but let me ask a few questions first:

Is the student teacher good? That is, does he/she have natural teaching ability? Or, do you cringe whenever the student teacher takes over? Does he/she have good instincts for classroom management or not?

What's your gut feeling about your student teacher?
posted by jz at 8:58 PM on January 16, 2011

I had an absolutely nightmarish student teacher experience (and ended up choosing not to teach, in part as a result). Amusingly, the specialized program in which I was student teaching had another student teacher across the room who worked with someone else and had a fabulous experience, so I got to observe some good stuff as well.

I had no preparation at all--I walked in and within a week was teaching a whole day's classes. The other teacher was phased in--a week as an assistant only, then teaching one class, then two, etc.

I got--literally--no advice on what to teach, no syllabi, no description of what the class was supposed to accomplish. Two classes had books, two did not. Because I had no time before starting, I was trying to create classes at home at night after a horrible day. I spent the whole semester crippled by the feeling that I was failing my students--which I was; they learned almost nothing.

It would have been helpful if the teacher had first described to me what the students were supposed to get out of the class; second, described the general way they usually taught it; third, made some syllabi and teaching materials available to me, even if I ended up creating my own.

It would have been helpful to get detailed feedback on at least some classes, with open-ended questions, like this: "I notice that you seemed to lose the class's attention at X point--why did you think that happened?" "You spent a lot of time on Y--what led you to that?" "Tell me about what happened when you worked with Joe".

It would also have been helpful to set weekly expectations--ie, "This week I'd like to see you do an in-class writing exercise. On Friday, let's go over your grade book and talk about how you're keeping records."

Having a student teacher is work, alas. And it's important to make sure that your student teacher is functioning because otherwise your students are getting cheated.

Obviously, some student teachers teach really well from the get-go and need much less.

It wasn't the occasional daily floundering that bothered me--that's part of student teaching. It was the complete directionlessness, where I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing at all and was making it up as I went along. That's a tricky position for a senior teacher, and it was not character-building but rather enormously destructive to me. (I actually went into a pretty serious depressive episode after the semester because I felt that I'd failed so badly. In retrospect, with some work-related teaching and training under my belt and some more confidence, I recognize that my supervising teacher failed me.)
posted by Frowner at 9:10 PM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I was a student teacher, what helped was being provided a gigantic flannel to mop my tears with.

But if you have no gigantic flannel, I valued my associate teachers most when they assisted with what is (to me) the most difficult part: following up on one's progression. Planning a lesson is relatively easy in comparison to planning a series of lessons wherein you follow on from what the kids are learning with. It was awesome when I started really understanding what I needed to do to get learner understanding from point A to point C, and because students are all so incredibly fucking diverse it was great having someone on standby who both knew their individual strengths and knew how progression had worked with kids like those kids.

It was great being asked:
-- how are you going to scaffold/extend the gifted kids? "I see Kid B is at this point, how do you maximise engagement?"
-- how are you going to help out the kids who don't quite get it? "Kid C seemed to struggle with this concept."
-- how are you going to provide for Specific Learner X? "Kid D never likes summative assessment, but I've seen kids of her type before and this helped," etc etc.

You are in a position of observation. I don't know what your relationship is here -- whether or not you're able to talk to kids as they're working, look into their books or their experiments or whatever -- but being able to comment on the progression of specific learners, rather than just "the whole class seemed to go okay" or "behaviour management was fine" was what turned my Nervous, Terrified teaching into Nervous, Terrified But Actually Informed teaching.

That was just my specific need, but considering it's the first time he's really into full-time teaching, I can't imagine that it would go amiss. What helped me the most? The experience of my associate, because you've seen a hell of a lot of kids doing the same thing/on the same curricula and he hasn't. You can see patterns and possibly personality types and say, "Well, you know, I've seen this before..." or at least enough to infer.

I was always really grateful for the chance to get into the classroom, totally muck up somebody else's lesson planning and get to talk about it. You cannot reflect on his practice with him enough.
posted by monster truck weekend at 9:43 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah.. I was sort of beating around the bush on purpose. Let me know if you want more details. My gut is that he'll burn out and will use his teaching cert to sub.

His classroom management isn't bad at all for a new teacher - and I've let him know that. The only thing we're working on is getting him to seem excited about his classes - he's fairly quiet and is pretty monotone so he's easy for the kids to tune out.

As far as content and planning.. well.. I feel like he was doing ok but now that I'm not involved he is relying FAR too much on lectures and he's not assessing and working with students individually. He finds most of his other activities online and rarely modifies them and sometimes I don't think he even reads through. He doesn't WANT my materials. He's aware of all his problem areas, we tend to spend our prep period discussing solutions/options, but they just never get implemented.

My biggest concern is that this is supposed to be his full time student teaching experience but he's feeling this overwhelmed while covering only half my periods- he's not even watching me during the other periods - he's working in the prep room. I'd normally suggest he watch me but he looks like he's going to break down. He can't meet outside of my normal duty hours so we have to discuss most planning stuff via email - which is inefficient. He's scheduled to take over one more prep in Feb. I don't think he'll handle it well.

We have a good relationship (I think.) He's trying hard (I think.) We've talked about all the above issues EXCEPT that I don't think he'll be able to handle the extra prep... which we will next week.
posted by adorap0621 at 10:01 PM on January 16, 2011

He's aware of all his problem areas, we tend to spend our prep period discussing solutions/options, but they just never get implemented.

Oh, man. Pull him back, get him to do up a lesson based on attacking one of those problem areas (I'd go with assessing, get him to do some formative assessment or something, or focus on a small-group clinic if that's possible as the rest of them).

Why can't he meet you outside your normal duty hours? To be honest, I'd gently encourage him again to observe a lesson of yours, maybe watching YOU do some individual stuff.

You are pretty much doing everything you can do. "How can I help" -- well, you've made yourself available, given him materials. You can attempt again to be like, "okay, you have to correct this, you need to implement XYZ" but as the old adage goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

Has he ever identified anything he wants to do in the classroom (like teach a specific lesson or do a specific thing), or does he look like he's going into teaching unenthused about everything?
posted by monster truck weekend at 10:15 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had an amazing student teaching experience because I had two very different but complementary mentor teachers. Both my mentors were very serious about evaluating what sorts of advice I actually needed, rather than just throwing a bunch of cryptic koans at me. They had differing opinions about what I needed (simulating the actual teaching experience v. an active behind-the-scenes supporting role), but both were very helpful. A lot of that will come down to your own philosophy about the value of student teaching as well as where your student teacher's strengths/weaknesses are.

One of my mentors was absolutely brilliant, creative, and no-nonsense. I was thankful every single day to see her insane variety in activities and lessons, and I think overall she taught me the most in terms of what great lessons look like. At the same time, it was really intimidating to try to fill those shoes once I took over, and her approach with helping me was to basically offer no advice unless I asked for help. When I was on a roll that approach was great, but it made it harder for me to ask for help when I was floundering. This was, I think, in large part to our completely different personalities. I think the somewhat-distant and completely uncompromising approach has been great to me in the long-run: watching her teach, innovate, and also juggle all the administrative responsibilities (they were making new district standards at the time and she let me come to a couple district meetings) showed me what the profession really looked like, and how to excel at it.

My other mentor was also a great teacher whose approach helped me much more in the short-term. We clicked immediately in style, and she was always there for me. I think she sensed that my biggest problem was that I had almost no confidence in myself, and so she gave me a lot of behind-the-scenes emotional support. She helped guide me through early lesson plans and eased off through the semester. She was always careful to not tell me what to do when I had a problem, but asked the questions so I'd figure it out myself. I cried on her shoulder a lot, and she did a lot of hand-holding while I found my approach. She actively asked how I was doing, what problems was I having, etc., so it was much easier to initiate those "help me!" conversations. I'm not sure I would have made it through the immediate experience without her.

Both my teachers were very strict about making sure students knew who was in charge -- they never answered questions from students or parents about what I was doing, but referred them all to me. They almost never intervened during class, except when I asked. They were around a lot my first few months (which I wanted for feedback), but always looked like they were busy with something else so to students it didn't look like they were in the back judging me. I really appreciated that complete authority in front of students, and a lot of my peers struggled with their mentors not actually giving up classroom control.
posted by lilac girl at 10:28 PM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

After reading your response: That sounds a lot like what I was trying to do when I started student teaching! Is he afraid that he needs to be coming up with his own lesson every day and not relying on your materials at all? I felt like I was supposed to come into student teaching knowing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and that using my teachers' lesson plans was cheating myself out of the experience because I wasn't taking the time to come up with my own stuff. But I didn't know enough to come up with my own stuff, so I spent a lot of nights browsing the internet for plans because I thought I was supposed to come up with my own but I didn't know how.

What fixed that were a lot of sessions where my mentor and I sat down and planned everything out blow-by-blow, not just the big idea of what we'd do. The first month the dialogue was basically my mentor suggesting a lot of options and then I'd cobble something together, but they gradually pulled back until those planning sessions were basically me just talking through problems.

If you don't think it's a problem of "he doesn't know how to ask for my help," then it's time for a talk. I knew a few people who thought student teaching was "yahoo I get to do whatever I want" time or an excuse to not work very hard their last semester of graduation, and you're well within your rights to nip that in the bud. Does he have a university supervisor you can contact for help with that conversation?
posted by lilac girl at 10:47 PM on January 16, 2011

Thank you all for your quick and thoughtful responses! I will say that I think I'm doing what y'all have said have worked for you (so far.) I'm sure I'm not doing it all the time and sometimes I'm not doing it very well but I'm certainly going in the right direction. On the other hand, I really need to keep in mind what I tell him: if the kids aren't getting it the first way you wanted them to get it, you have to try something different. I'm trying hard to find my something different.

I started working with him before the year. I did decide the progression but I was open to discussing objectives. Generally, we'll discuss objectives for the units and key vocab to include together and then he starts breaking them down for the lesson. He has complete control in my room. At this point, I have a desk outside of my room where I can still see and hear him but the kids know to go to him and he calls home.

@Frowner, I do exactly what you say - provide materials, explain things that have worked, I put the files in his hand, sticky note worksheets, but he's told me he really wants to work on developing his own stuff and that's why he doesn't use it... and then he takes it from the web and doesn't modify it or ends up lecturing. Our discussions always start with "how do you think that went?" and then all other questions are also open ended and hopefully get him to reflect. He KNOWS what he's doing that should be improved. BTW, I really like your idea of working on one specific type of activity a week - I know he recently got a book on formative assessment so I think I'll go with that.

@monster truck weekend, I definitely have the pulse on the class. I look at their work and question the kids and use that in discussions. I have been trying to look at data with him about individual kids - I think I'll put that at the forefront. He realizes he needs to differentiate more. I tend to run my classes with very few grades; Alfie Kohn would love me. My objectives are for the "high C" students. Assignments are revised until the students meet the objectives so that I have VERY few failures (and strong standardized test scores) and my more advanced kids get to move on to other assignments that really are enriching and valuable instead of just more of the same. His interest is in developing creative lessons. Yesterday he sent me a lesson he revised for next week - nearly all lecture. When I pointed that out he asked what I would do. I seriously spent two hours basically journaling my though process through designing the lesson. It was insane.. I included all my weird paths and how I'd develop them and then ditch them. It was a complete lesson plan via journaling... and it would have been so much more useful to do in person, together.

I asked this question to my coworkers and it's so interesting.. some said they really valued scaffolding and others liked just jumping in with lots of freedom. I've tried both options for my student teacher. The first 2 weeks of the year I gave him one prep that had only one period a day and told him the objectives I wanted him to meet for the short intro unit and let him incorporate others. I gave him all my old stuff and let him run with it to see what he'd do. I think it very effectively showed him that he can't lecture all period and got him a feel for timing and pacing.

The rest of the day - other than that class - he'd observe me.. then he'd teach the afternoon version of a lesson I wrote that he already observed, eventually we planned more together, getting him more and more independent. I worked him into where he's at pretty slowly. I feel like he's moved backwards, though.

Oh.. he can't meet with me because of his family obligations. I get to school about 45 minutes to an hour before him and stay generally 15 minutes to an hour after. I'm open to meeting him on the weekends but we have to plan ahead - it's a 25 minute drive and I'm in a one car family so I'd like a little notice before meeting him out there. Family has been a big issue for him - on our inservice/curriculum/early release days he's wanted to stay at home with the kids and I had to pretty much tell him he had to be in with me.. heck, I lead most of the training for the district. He pushed back a bit and we had to check with his program..

To make a long post even longer, I know I need to talk to his program. I have pretty serious concerns about his ability to teach full time and they will certainly have advice for me, as well.
posted by adorap0621 at 10:51 PM on January 16, 2011

It sounds like this guy needs some fearless feedback, and a little bit of a slap on the wrist. He's not managing his responsibilities effectively if he's rejecting your foundational resources in favor of ones that clearly don't work.

I think the best thing for you to do is reign him in and insist that for at least a week he should use your materials and base his daily plan off of those instead of defaulting to resources that are clearly leading him astray. He doesn't sound like he's thinking anything through -- he cannot be Johnny One Note all the time, and he can't be as disengaged as he has been, whether it's with the students via ineffective methodology, or with you by not taking the time out of his life to truly shadow and download with you like he's supposed to.

Maybe you could put to it to him like, "Let's start from scratch. I need to see that you can effectively utilize resources given to you, even if that seems counter-intuitive because someday you'll get to choose your own resources. But I can tell that you're struggling, and when the teacher struggles, the kids struggle, and we're all in this together. I want to see you succeed. For the next few weeks I need you to take at least one day where you come in and meet me both before and after school to plan the day together. If you truly want to be a teacher, you need to consider the fact that compromises must be made, and what better time to do them now when you're just student teaching?"
posted by patronuscharms at 12:07 AM on January 17, 2011

And not to bag on this guy or anything, but I've been the student of a lot of student teachers in my life time, and whenever our teachers solicited feedback from all of us regarding how the student teachers in our lives were doing, most of us gave pretty damn good responses. The dude sounds passive aggressive, dismissive and petulant. It's possible that some of your students have noticed that. Why not ask them too, just to see what they have to say?
posted by patronuscharms at 12:11 AM on January 17, 2011

My trick with student teachers has always been to focus discussion on the kids rather than on the student teacher. I have my list of things that I think a student teacher needs to work on, and I find evidence from it in my observation of what the kids are doing.

For example, a student teacher is relying only on lectures, so I say, "Hey, who in the class did you notice stayed with you through the whole thing? Yeah, I noticed Jen and William tuned out, too. Why do you think they did?" And so on. Let them theorize until they hit on either an idea of what to improve or the "but how do I DO that?" moment, and then you can jump in with advice if it's warranted.

The point of the approach is to build the student teacher's emotional repertoire from where most of them (in my experience) tend to start out ("I'm a good teacher / I'm not a good teacher") to an orientation of close observation on the kids, and using what happens as evidence for change and improvement. I've always felt like the three most important things I can impart to a student teacher are 1) the sense of always using evidence from the kids and their work to improve one's own teaching, 2) a broadened repertoire through the direct modeling of teaching strategies, and 3) the little tips and tricks that help grease the wheels during the rise and fall of a school day. But of those, 1) has always seemed the most important, and I've tended to be more successful when I get the conversation away from "How did I do?" to "What did we notice about the kids this time?"

(And the one time I had a terrible student teacher who didn't want to work hard, who blamed kids for her own failures, and who refused to consider that the responsibility for learning was firstly on her before it was on them ... I didn't get much help from her program and had to fall back on writing a recommendation that raised huge red flags for any potential employer.)
posted by Chanther at 12:16 AM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I come at this discussion having been both a student teacher under both brilliant and mediocre supervisors, as well as having mentored 4 student teachers, including one I had to fail. (Bear in mind I teach in the Australian system).

Is there a staff member who manages all the student teachers placed at your school? They wouldbe able to contact the university or college who manages their accreditation. The student teacher of mine who failed had two visits from his direct practium supervisor from the university, who sat in his classes with me. You would have to identify 2 or 3 areas that are of immediate, pressing concern, and use those areas to focus on, and give him specific goals and suggestions for how to improve. For instance, when my student teacher had problems with keeping the orientating phase of a lesson short (and therefore losing student attention each time), I realised he had no idea how to do a lesson plan. We identified that as one of the key areas to improve on, and gave him samples of plans from my own lessons - admittedly written up after my lessons - for him to reflect on. Having him see me reflect on what worked and what didn't within my own lessons worked for him developing that particular skill, but didn't ultimately work on him developing overall, as he had too many other areas of concern.

Are there any of your classes that you teach to two groups of students? I teach two classes of Year 9 SOSE (social studies) and that is a unique opportunity for a student teacher to have - the ability to have a do-over on lessons. (Which means, if they aren't picking up on their mistakes from the previous lesson, or not improving on faults you've identified, they're not learning) Another thing to do is to get him to re-teach or re-run an activity if you don't have the joy of two sets of classes.

It seems that he may be unclear as to what your expectations are, work-wise - including class prep and contact time with you. Where are you two spending lunch times? My student teachers would always be in my staff room with me at lunch, and that gave us perfect opportunities to ensure either they were ready for the upcoming lesson, or discuss the good or bad phases of the previous lesson. You need to emphasise that contact times for discussions - at least during school hours, or for a small amount after school - is important, and ultimately part of his eventual job as a teacher. Why isn't he treating this like a proper job. (I am unclear of the actual procedures around lunch times and where staff actually work in US classrooms; I work in schools where staff from related faculties - eg History and Humanities - will base themselves and have lunch in their own staffroom.)

If he does something well in a lesson, even if it's only for 15 mins of a 70 min lesson, praise him. Even better if he's already identified what went well, through lots of open-ended questioning. Those small tidbits of praise worked well when I was a timid student teacher, who latched onto every success and built very quickly on it.

My student teachers also saw prac teaching as a time for the student teacher to try as much as possible, for me to learn exactly what style of teaching suited me. That means they gave me pretty much full creative reign to design activities and worksheets and entire units. If I'm not seeing that level of hard work and enthusiasm from any of my student teachers, I get concerned - this is the best time of your career to show your passion for the job, because I eventually have control over how well you do in your final practicum ranking. Maybe he doesn't see prac teaching as an extended job interview?

but he's told me he really wants to work on developing his own stuff and that's why he doesn't use it... and then he takes it from the web and doesn't modify it or ends up lecturing

One suggestion could be for you to help him modify one of his own resources. If he prints a chunk of info from a website, come up with a bunch of suggestions for turning it into a worksheet - say, a cloze activity, or developing top-level structure questions to aid with comprehension, or before, during and after activities. If you help him constructively develop his own resources rather than outright dismiss them (which I would most likely do, at least initially), you may see him develop in leaps and bounds in that respect.

PS: Life science? Is that Health, Home Economics, what? We don't have life science in Queensland.
PPS: Can you explain this process to me? Assignments are revised until the students meet the objectives so that I have VERY few failures. I don't understand the purpose of doing this? Labouring on the same task until everyone passes? Are questions rewritten, tasks made easier? (I would actually love you to memail me some examples of original and revised assessment, if you have time, I find this quite interesting as it's not something we often do in my school system).

Thanks for reading, hope you find something useful in here!
posted by chronic sublime at 4:02 AM on January 17, 2011

I work as a university supervisor and assessor for Post Grad education study. Research shows that unless student teachers reaaaaaalllly take up student-centred learning in a big way in their novice years, they will default to lecturing, teacher-centred, notes/handouts centred pedagogy for the rest of their careers. Thus boring the hell out of, and stunting, another generation of students. There's a lot I could say about the situation you are in but here's a question I always ask my students - 'what did the students learn from your lesson?' How did they demonstrate this?

As you have noticed, novice teachers are like adolescents as they are so focused on what they are doing, not what the students are doing. Objectives for each lesson need to be clear, and students need to demonstrate their attainment of these objectives in a meaningful way. When I question student teachers I find that they say things like 'we covered that' when they mean, 'I lectured to them about that.' Thinking from the students' point of view is one of the first things a good teacher demonstrates, a 'with-it-ness' that translates where they are at the beginning of the lesson, to what they can do at the end.

In your situation, I would insist that your student watches more lessons and that you take up team teaching approaches, breaking up lessons into parts that you can try different activities in different parts of the lesson. If he wants to 'be creative' this is great news, but the creativity is in getting students to discover their learning, not to be lectured. That's not creativity - it looks from here like plagiarism and that is very unprofessional. Student teachers should be keeping some kind of journal when they are observing lessons, taking note of a range of teachers' methods and assessing their effectiveness. This is an essential part of the learning. Ask him to watch your lessons, all the time, ask for feedback on how you approached a particular learning objective. How might he do it? How might you both team teach the next lesson? etc.

And from a professional standpoint, thank you for opening your classroom, your resources and your timetable to mentoring a novice. It's essential for universities to have such people, even the best novices need more time and energy than you are paid to sacrifice.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:36 AM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wow everyone - GREAT points! @lilac girl, that's exactly what he told me he's feeling. Both myself and his supervisory instructor at the school have pointed out that at most schools that aren't so small, he'd likely be collaborating with the other teachers that teach his subject so he really should be making use of me now.

Here is our schedule to clear up a freq questions: We're at a small, rural school so each teacher tends to have 4 (or last year 5!) classes to prep for. I teach all the life sciences vs. the physical sciences. That includes 2 "regular" biology classes, 1 "general" bio (for low level readers - several students are actually mentally retarded in that class), 1 environmental science class, and 2 anatomy and physiology classes. He is currently teaching the bio classes. He has NO background in A&P. Our lunch periods are 20 minutes and half the staff eats during each period. Last year I rarely ate with my coworkers but this year most of my classes are in the afternoon and I need the energy and time away from students. My student teacher and I eat together in part so he can talk to other teachers about whatever issue might be plaguing him that day. I have GREAT coworkers - positive people with constructive responses. Also, it's a small school so it's really easy for us to say "Hey, how have you helped Susie get a tough idea?" and bounce ideas off each other. Seriously... LOVE my school.

After a good night's sleep, I think I'm going to combine a whole lot of this feedback (and I'll update this in a week or two let y'all know how it's going):

*Immediately try to take away some of his stress so he can see the big picture and the joyful part of teaching by pretty much demanding that he plan with me during our prep period. I'm going to be deliberate and pull out my stuff, all the stuff that came with our text books, a book that goes with the professional development at our school, and a couple of the websites I might check for interesting links but otherwise keep our internetting during this phase to a minimum.

*I'll make sure he follows a general plan for each info dump (whether reading or lecturing): background knowledge, make the students aware of the purpose for the reading, have students DO something while reading/listening so they can process (so not just notes - notes with a minute or two of free-write or discussion every 10 minutes), something after the info dump to re-organize information and make it their own and something that is easy for us to see RIGHT THEN where the misconceptions are. I'll have him focus on developing and interpreting these formative assessments.

*I'll have him work on tiering based on that assignment as well. Students that "get it" will move on to applying the information in some manner (prepping for a lab, applying it to a current news story, etc.) that I can develop and the rest we'll try something different - maybe we can find animations to walk through, maybe we have something to model with, maybe I have a great picture somewhere that illustrates it.. whatever. I can provide those reteach options to him. He had an experience the other day where he assessed the kids, divided them up based on the results for reteaching but just essentially lectured at each small group again - no assessment afterwards. To one student who didn't need to go to any small group, he gave a worksheet. She saw right through it - there would be no grade, it was just "more" work not "more but engaging work."

*He needs to be watching me.. and others. He and I have different personality types and you don't have to be me to be a good teacher. He should watch others if just one period a day to see how they assess. He should be watching me, though.. especially for the class he's supposed to take over. I can't have him start teaching with me for this class because I'm pursuing National Board Certification this year and this is a unit I'm doing one of my entries on but he should watch.

*I need to tell him that I'm concerned about his ability to handle teaching full time right now but that if we prioritize our time for planning that might help. I'll be honest, doing this will mean more grading at home, but that he really needs this for learning experience. I'll ask if he wants to set up a regular time on Sat or Sun for us to meet.

*When his supervisory teacher comes, we will have this discussion with her as well. I don't want to downplay how big a deal this is - he's been with me ALL year. He's teaching a half load and out of the room the other half and he's still THIS overwhelmed. He can't meet outside of duty hours and I had to tell him he had to be with me on duty days even when kids aren't in school because that's when teachers plan.

Thank you everyone for your feedback. It was so valuable to me.
posted by adorap0621 at 10:45 AM on January 17, 2011

Oh.. @chronic sublime - have you ever given a worksheet or something where the kids did all the easy recall q's but not the harder ones? I think of my objectives as pyramids.. sort off.. that mix of recall and some basic application questions might be a worksheet that could get a kid a C on that objective - if they did it correctly and if they explained their thoughts the right way. Now if I designed the work correctly, I should be able to see (based on their responses) where they may be lacking understanding so I can re-teach in some way so they can re-approach the questions and be successful. It's not that they are revising over and over again.. it's that until I can tell they have that understanding, I don't want them to go on.

Generally, my C objectives correspond to simply meeting the state/national standards. Folks that get it, I can provide an assignment that adds depth to original objective and that's the next layer of the pyramid. A assignments generally involve reinterpreting the "deeper" objective and applying it to a different subject area. I often look at Gardner's multiple intelligences here - is my gifted student artsy? Can I have her use a camera and walk around the school to find examples of the principle she just learned in action? I'll print out the pic and she'll write a caption that sums it up.. or maybe if a student is interested in technology but not motivated to go for the A, I'll find a site for them to learn some basic coding and they have to use HTML to write up a study guide for other students. This isn't a great example.. but the idea is that I have a no excuses policy. I only give students work I think is valuable and I expect them to try every question.

An example: We were studying genetics and if I remember, our state standards just mention different "patterns of heredity" but the practice tests from the state involve maybe monohybrid, dihybrid, and sex-linked crosses. So I set up a series of challenge stations that started with the most basic information - can the kids set up monohybrid crosses and interpret them? if so, they get signed off and move on to more a word problem that makes the set up harder. If not, I get the chance to work with the students one on one or in small groups and we go back over the essential vocab and practice. I have multiple practice problems at hand so when they feel ready, they get another one. I give plenty of time for this so that I can work with students that need it until they get through the sex-linked questions (which meets the state standards.) Students that don't need help, keep moving on - multiple alleles, interpreting pedigrees. They need help on some of the questions but these advanced kids are more likely to get what they need from looking at a book or animation that maybe I have up elsewhere in the room so I'm freed up to help with the folks who need more guided practice.

I'll keep an eye out for better examples of this in my day to day teaching but I hope this sort of explains. I don't like Wormelli's writing style but I like the summary of his view.. now my view.. in this presentation.

Thank you again to all you wonderful professionals!!
posted by adorap0621 at 10:50 AM on January 17, 2011

An update for anyone who may possibly care...

I straight up told my student teacher to be observing me or some other teachers when he's not instructing. I gave a heads up to the university about my concerns about how overwhelmed he feels but no specifics about my concerns (though I did say on the next observation by them, I'd like them to pay careful attention to how he's formatively assessing the kids because it's something I'm trying to get him to work on.)

When the university supervisor next came out, we chatted with each other and I found out that due to "political" reasons my ST never had a science pedagogy/nature of inquiry/strategies for science/(whatever your school called it) class. Additionally, I was asked why I wouldn't meet with him out of school. I bit my tongue and just suggested that we work out some times for that during the three-way portion of the meeting... where the ST was quick to admit I was always available and he was the limiting factor.

He was told by the university to pick one day a week we could stay after school for hours to plan and reflect. I think THIS will make the biggest difference. He needs to have someone shoot back questions to his plans to keep him thinking about "good" teaching. For example, for each info dump/lecture/reading how will he activate prior knowledge, have the students re-organize the info, how to formatively assess, what could he use as a reteaching strategy, and what will he have the kids that "get it" move on to? I've already seen improvements and I think he feels better. Plus it's good for him to realize it's NORMAL for teachers to collaborate and constantly revise/bounce ideas off each other and it's nothing personal.

Also, he recently had a sick family member and couldn't stay at school. He gave me sub plans and stayed home the next two day to care for his kid while I prepped the kids for finals. I really didn't think anything of it (it's a sick kid.. whatcha gonna do?) but my coworkers with kids were surprised he wasn't at school on both of the review days. This lead to a discussion about how these teachers balance work when kids are sick and I asked them to maybe steer some lunch conversations into balancing family/teaching (especially what it'll be like during the first year) when the ST returns.

Anyway.. thanks all for your advice.. I'm taking it to heart.
posted by adorap0621 at 4:14 PM on February 5, 2011

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