Monday, March 28, 2011

Student Teachers: A list

1) All student teachers are not created equally. There are loads of horror stories out there. Luckily, this is not one of them. 

2) I recently had a student teacher. She's just left. :( Suddenly, there's only one librarian brain around this place. Having a student teacher made me realize just how wonderful it would be to have a colleague. I've got listserv friends, Facebook buddies, and librarians down the street, but there's nothing like another one living in my space.

3) I would say I "lucked out," but I knew I was getting a good one. Future school librarians enrolled at Syracuse University's LMS program have to do LOTS and LOTS of field experience. This is a great opportunity to vet student teacher candidates. I can handle working with someone for a few hours regardless of ability, but if the person is going to live in my space and work with "my" teachers and "my" students, then they need to have their act together. Interacting with students during field experience placements is like an extended interview. I think it probably works both ways - students also get a chance to check me out - why waste their time here if they don't think it will be a good fit? After all, not everyone likes a crazy, sometimes loud, and always busy junior high setting.

Above: Penny Sweeney, my super-duper
student teacher who defined and then
exceeded all these bullets.
 4) What makes a good student teacher? In my opinion, the following:
  • Follow-through. If you tell me you're going to write the lesson plan and create a PowerPoint for Monday's classes, you better come in on Monday morning with a lesson plan and a PowerPoint. This isn't practice - you can't hand in late homework assignments in the real world.
  • A positive attitude. I know some days are rough, classes can be tough, and not every faculty member is a peach - but deal with it. Nobody likes a grumpy colleague.
  • Ability to reflect. Do you have the capacity to think about what you did? Can you see what went wrong? Can see what you did well?
  • Responsiveness. If your lesson bombed first period, can you use your second period planning to make it better? Professionals are constantly tweaking things - you should too.
  • Risk-taking. Getting up in front of thirty 15-year-olds is scary stuff. It's okay to be nervous, but you gotta be willing to jump. Standing on the edge and dipping your big toe in isn't going to cut it.
  • Inquisitiveness. Ask me questions. I don't know what you know and don't know. If you don't get it - ask me! If you want to know why I'm doing X, Y or Z - ask me! If you need ideas or you're struggling with something - ask me! I'm not a mind reader and you're here to learn. Make both our lives easier.
  • Honesty. I'm still learning, too. If you don't think I'm fulfilling my obligations as a mentor, let me know! I've never seen a handbook for this position, so if I'm missing something, or not meeting your expectations - I need to hear about it!
5) This was my first experience hosting a student teacher. Next time, I'll do a few things differently. Penny was awesome - so awesome that I had her teaching by the second day. We were double booked, and suddenly I had two librarians -- it was too irresistible to let her just observe. She handled it beautifully, but I think she's probably the exception rather than the rule. Next time I'll let the student teacher decide when to jump, rather than pushing over the edge! I'd also provide more feedback - it was tricky this time, as my student teacher was confident and skilled, but we can always improve on something, and your student teaching placement is certainly the place to do it!

Overall, hosting a student teacher was a great experience, and I'd do it again!

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