Dolph Petris| October 2019

Keeping it Real with Student Teachers

Before Reality Hit

Remember how wonderful the perceived world of education was when you first started as a classroom teacher?  The sky was a vibrant blue, birds were singing, and everyone had smiles on their faces. Then reality hit. The rigors of a typical school day took full effect and although the honeymoon was still ‘on’, clouds could be seen over the horizon.

School is once again in full swing and you may already be working with a Student Teacher.  Should you as the Master Teacher do your best to shield your student teacher from the realities of school life? Or do you allow your student teacher to see the totality of all that is in the world of teaching?

Oh, don’t forget, taking on a student-teacher provides us the opportunity to model just how simple arts integration is with your classroom lessons.  This is the perfect time to teach effective implementation, especially since the student teacher will probably have some valuable input on how the arts can be incorporated into the lesson.

It’s Not That Difficult

For us creative types, we often take for granted an inherent ability to think outside the box or to think abstractly.  Creative individuals typically do not have difficulty with Art/STEAM integration for anything we teach. Sure sometimes there are hurdles to overcome, but hurdles do not stop us.  We stop ourselves, so we need to show our student teachers how to overcome these periodic roadblocks.

The Real World

Our student teachers will benefit most if we are real with them and are honest with the real-world teaching experience.  It is great to start off with a well planned day which also includes well-planned lessons. However, we all know that pretty much each and every day, we are challenged with ongoing interruptions either inside the classroom or from the school office, that muddle up our perfectly planned day.

This is an ideal opportunity to point out, and address with your student teacher the daily challenges to expect.  They need to see the reality of the teaching day. Or how starting a lesson also means finishing the lesson, regardless of interruptions.  They need to understand that the lesson will need to be assessed in some way, whether summatively or formatively. Lastly, they need to see how student work is translated into a learning experience that will provide a signal to the teacher on how to proceed in instruction. Student teachers have said that their experience in schools has had the greatest impact on learning to teach.

Access Student-Teacher Strengths

Although your new student teacher does not yet have ‘real world’ experience of teaching in the classroom, they may have valuable personal and practical knowledge to bring to the table.  Just like teachers learn that we should speak with, and not merely talk to our students, we must present and cultivate a clear and open dialog with our student teachers.  This dialog should model and encourage an openness of new idea exchange.

It might be a good idea to invite your new student teacher to a casual outing before they ever enter the classroom.  Whether the outing is chatting together in a coffee shop or enjoying an afternoon lunch at your favorite cafe, the friendly gesture, and casual discussion will provide unforeseen dividends for both parties.  You’ll find that this could also help to reduce or eliminate first day anxiety or stress for their first day.

Collaboration Begins Now

There is no better time than now to actively collaborate with your student teacher.  Remember, they are there because they want to be. They are eager to help, and it is our responsibility to help them along in achieving their goals.

Your collaboration efforts will not only be a fruitful engagement for both, but it will also model how collaboration is handled.  As teachers, we all know the give and take of our daily routine. Our role is to provide a framework and solid foundation in order to achieve overall effectiveness and efficiency wherever possible.

Purposeful Delegation

We sometimes find that our delegation of classroom tasks to student teachers are rooted in convenience.  I too have been guilty of that. However, the experience for you and your student teacher will prove to be a rewarding one when assigned tasks are guided by individual strengths.

If your student teacher is adept in the fine art of oratory presentation, then allow that wonderful quality to shine by co-delivering a lesson or example.  There are so many ways to tap into the benefits of having a student-teacher that the inviting teacher does not necessarily find him/herself as the provider, but also a recipient of beneficial and useful information.

Be the Change

You’ve heard this before. Be the change.  But if you’ve ever wanted to act upon it, the time is now.  Be the change! Engage your colleagues, engage your new student teacher, and engage your school parent population.  Your student teacher is looking for guidance, they are looking for engagement, and they are looking for inspiration.  You can do this! Be the change! You can be the inspiration to help the future of education and upcoming teachers on its course for educational success by incorporating that real-world teaching.  So start now!

About the Author

Dolph holds a Bachelors of Science, Product Design from Art Center College of Design and a Masters degree in Education. He has spent most of his teaching career as a 6th grade teacher in the elementary school setting with a focus on Gifted and Talented Education and is currently teaching a 5/6 combo in Fullerton, California. He and his wife have several four-legged kids: Bonnie and Clyde, Golden Retriever litter-mates, a street-rescued stray that looks like ‘Benji’ named Noel, Athena the cat, and two American Quarter horses.