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February 21, 2018

Tips for Mentoring Your Student Teacher

This week’s blog post writer, Barb Istas, is currently a Learners Edge Curriculum and Instruction Specialist. Prior to joining Learners Edge, Barb was a language arts teacher for 25 years in a large suburban Minnesota school district where shesupervised and mentored several student teachers throughout her career. Today, she still mentors young teachers (some of them former students!) who inspire her with energy and passion for the teaching profession. Barb believes student teachers are a prized population we must all respect and nurture, because teaching and learning are intertwined and never-ending! Below she shares her insights on how to plan and prep for your student teacher.

August is around the corner. Your daydreams and nightmares will soon include swirls of back-to-school priorities and scenarios. There are hundreds of plans and preparations required for the next round of students who are coming your way; a myriad of options to select which will directly impact your student’s achievement and teaching success. Somewhere in the middle of these choices might be another teacher-learner you need to consider – a student teacher you have agreed to supervise!

You may be a well-seasoned supervisor, or a first-time cooperating teacher; but what’s paramount to remember is that the student teacher who is coming to your classroom will have only one chance to experience success that will lead to the first teaching job.

This is not a post about the do’s and don’ts of student teaching supervision. It’s about how to encourage with flair! I checked in with some brand new teachers who just aced their student teaching experiences, and here are some points to ponder based on their new and fresh success! (Shared in first-person, so this list translates right from their hearts to yours!)

  • Thanks for contacting and meeting me – even before teacher’s workshop. I was so nervous and anxious to begin this journey, and meeting you helped calm me down and fire me up!
  • Please send me a class-list (with name pronunciations) as soon as you have yours, so I can start working on learning names of individual students.
  • Thanks for creating a space for me in the classroom where I can keep my papers, books, and tools of the trade. It’s will be so welcoming to see my name tag right next to yours and realize that I’m part of a very important team.
  • I appreciate the prompt and personal tour of the school with individual introductions to so many staff members. I want to build positive professional relationships that will carry me through this important experience, and I surely need to know my way around!
  • Please treat me like I am a colleague in front of the students so they will respect me like they do you! I plan to earn and deserve respect, but will need your support when I begin.
  • I’m happy you introduced me in your first family newsletter. I recognize my role as a student teacher must be communicated and facilitated by you first and foremost. Any exposure to parents will be great training for me.
  • Give me advice on professional dress from your insider view; I need to fit-in with staff and also look professional and polished! Teach me your tips on “comfort” clothes & shoes, too. My back and feet will be killing me in no time. If there’s a school spirit t-shirt I should buy, please let me know.
  • What’s for lunch? I could use some advice on how to inhale my nutrition during a 20-minute duty-free lunch. Share your thoughts about school breakfasts and lunches, because I know they have definitely changed since I was a student.
  • I am so lucky to use your teacher’s curriculum guides – since I will be writing elaborate lesson plans, these will help me meet my requirements. If you have any other special program guides like Responsive Classroom, Reading/Math Corps, ENVoY, etc., I would love an opportunity to review these early on – even before students arrive. This will help me orient to the structures, and systems for the specific teaching and learning in our classroom.
  • Please share your tricks of the trade with me – especially the time-savers that I will need to know now and in my very near future!
  • Classroom management is my greatest fear and focus. I have learned a lot in my studies and observations, but my experience is about to go “reality,” and I need your help from the first day we meet. Teach me as much as possible about any schoolwide/classroom behavior systems. Please consider me your partner and model your best practices with think alouds so I can watch, listen, and learn from your experience!
  • I will be keeping files and saving copies of everything. Thank you for making me a copy of any and all lesson plans, worksheets, meeting notes, schedules, etc.
  • I need to practice teaching individuals, small flexible groups, and whole classrooms of students. I know this practice takes time and I appreciate all the opportunities you will provide during my student teaching term.
  • When you observe me, I will be nervous because I want to impress you with my potential. Please take time to debrief with me after any teaching session – even if it’s for a few minutes.
  • Your encouragement is critical to my success – both praise and ideas for improvement. I value any efforts you take to pay attention to my words and actions enough to provide feedback that I can build upon with each passing day. Thank you for coming early/staying late enough to build a personal and professional relationship. Your guidance is a gift to me and I value every minute of your time you share.
  • Thank you for inviting me to staff meetings, PLCs, parent-teacher conferences, and district professional development sessions. Any opportunity to observe/participate will be eye-opening and beneficial in my future job search.
  • Technology is so important and I will need a chance to practice using the Smartboard, document camera, iPad apps, etc. before I use them with students. A quick lesson and some time to practice is all I need to plug in with classroom/school technology.
  • I am collecting teacher tools and building up my professional library, so anything you are finished with, please offer up to me! Consider me a handy Goodwill deposit for any of your teacher item cast-offs! J
  • I know that I need to jump in and start swimming in the cool pool of teaching and learning! If you see me treading water or going under, please throw me a lifesaver! I can swim or float, and I am ready to dive in!

What did your mentor teacher do that you thought was encouraging? Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Share with us in the comment section below.

We would love to encourage your student teacher to request the “New Teacher Book,” to welcome this new group of inspiring teachers into the world of education! The New Teacher Book will provide your student teacher with a bunch of new tools to help them navigate all the twists and turns of their first year as a teacher.


Learners Edge is passionately committed to providing you with continuing education coursework, materials, and tools that will help you succeed in your classroom and in your career.

Offering more than 100 print-based or online courses for teachers, you can earn the graduate credit you need for salary advancement and meet your professional development needs. Contact us today to get started!

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