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How to Mentor a Student Teacher

Janelle Cox

 

Learning how to mentor a student teacher is a huge responsibility. Many teachers are reluctant to take on such a task because they are unsure on how to best prepare the student teacher. While an advising teacher may give the mentoring teacher a few guidelines, it certainly isn’t enough to best prepare teachers.

We have all been through student teaching, and know that the experience is very intense. There have been too many instances where student teachers leave their experience with little to no preparation for what lies ahead upon getting a teaching job.

If you’re going to take on the responsibility of advising a student teacher, then you better make sure that you are prepared to be a great inspiration and mentor to them. This obligation can be a wonderful opportunity not only for the potential teacher, but you as well. You can offer these student teachers your expertise and tips for success. You can finish the experience knowing that you had a hand in the growth and success of the teachers of tomorrow.

Take the leap and volunteer to become a mentor teacher. Keep in mind what you would have expected when you were a student teacher. Use this inspiration as motivation during your mentoring experience.

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Here are 10 tips on how to mentor a student teacher for success.

1. Address their needs

An important role in a mentor teacher is to find out the student teacher’s wants and needs, and to address them in a timely manner. Listen to their requests and honor those requests. It’s important for new teachers to feel valued. When you meet their needs, there is a better chance that they will feel successful, and that they will excel in their student teaching experience.

2. Treat them as a colleague

To your students, the student teacher will be just like any other teacher. Even though you know that they aren’t a certified teacher just yet, next year they may be! Be sure to treat them with respect, just like you would with any of your colleagues. Don’t call them your “helper” or “aid.” When they make a mistake or you see something that you need to comment on, do it in private not in front of everyone.

3. Include them in everything

Involve them in every aspect of your school. If you get to school early and stay late, encourage them to do so too. Include them in every meeting, conference, and activity that you have. If you have lunch or hall duty, encourage them to tag along. If you tutor a student after school, encourage them to come too. Try not to restrict the student teacher to just a few lessons here and there, give them the full experience so they can learn and grow. 

4. Explain everything that you do

Think of your preservice teacher as your shadow for the few weeks or months that they are there.  As you move throughout the day explain everything and anything that you are doing. The more tips and advice that you can give them, the better. Encourage them to keep a notebook and fill it up with all of your wisdom.

5. Don’t be shy, critique their teaching

Student teachers need advice and to be critiqued. Don’t be scared to critique their teaching. If all you gave them was positive feedback then how will they ever learn? This is a learning experience and they need constructive criticism.  If you see something that can be improved upon, tell them.

6. Encourage them to watch you

People learn best through observing others. Encourage your student teacher to observe everything that you do to help them gain some insight. How you handle disciplining your students, how you grade papers, talk to your colleagues, create bulletin boards, everything! This way they can take notes and ask you any questions that they may have.

7. Allow them to deal with student issues too

It’s very easy to step in a takeover when you see one of your students misbehaving, but if you did that how would the student teacher ever learn how to handle a situation? Instead of swooping in, coach them through the situation, only if they need it. Near the end of the experience give the teacher full rein of your classroom and watch as they get the feel of a classroom on their own.

8. Ease them into teaching

Take baby steps and ease them into teaching. Each week give them more and more responsibility until they can take over the whole classroom near the end of the experience. Don’t be afraid to leave them alone too. They need to feel what it’s like to have their own classroom.  

9. Give feedback and ask questions

Offer feedback, good and bad. Ask questions and allow them to ask you questions. Think back to when you were a student teacher and think of everything that you wanted or needed to know.

10. Be encouraging

Put them at ease by being encouraging every step of the way. You are their role model, their mentor, the one that they will rely on for tips and advice.

Remember to jot down notes throughout the experience. These notes will help you write their letter of recommendation. It’s also a good idea to send them away with a departing gift. Have the students make a nice picture, buy them a teacher resource book, or take a class picture. Mentoring a student teacher can be a wonderful learning experience for you. It can give you a whole new look into how you teach, which can be very rewarding.

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 hear your responses.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the elementary education expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or visit her website at Empoweringk6educators