Now don't panic everyone, I am NOT going to rave on about teachers having time to put their feet up, leave the building and chillax on a mini-holiday while a student does all of the work for them, in fact, quite the opposite! If you are quality associate teacher, then you will know how much work it entails to host a student teacher in your classroom. It is NOT the cruise that some people may try to tell it as, it is NOT an easy time, but it is a wonderful experience every time, regardless of whether there are small or large challenges!
So, how do we, as experienced teachers, or they, as student teachers, get the most out of the teaching practicum that we share?
1. Be ready to learn - we as associates are going to learn plenty as we model and teach, and the student teacher needs to be totally ready to learn also. You may have had lots of learning that occurred on previous practicums but you will always learn more and there will be NEW learning too. If both sides approach the experience with open minds, ready to learn, then there will be plenty of room to grow.
2. Be prepared - know your student, know their brief and the overview of the expectations for their teaching and learning while they are with you, and student teachers must research the information on the school they are going to work in - what decile is it, how many students and teachers, any special aspects about the school, the name of the principal and the strengths of the school. Be prepared to learn on day 1 - have your folder set up and ready to go and be enthusiastic about starting!
3. Be professional - always remember that the teacher is the expert and the student teacher will look to you for what is acceptable. If you walk around with a coffee in your hand or roll back to class late after a break, then the student teacher will think that this is the norm at your school. If you approach your parents respectfully and have strong relationships with them, then the student teacher will make an effort to follow that model too. You are able to leave a deep impression on a very impressionable person, so always behave in a completely professional manner, one which reflects who you are as a teacher.
4. Put the learning first - the learning of the students and the student teacher is paramount. The inclusion of the students (either of these!) in the planning, teaching, learning and reflection is the most important thing. The student teacher needs to be a part of the whole process just as the classroom students need to be so make the classroom inclusive and encouraging.
5. Be positive - even if the experience gets hard - either for the associate teacher or the student teacher - a positive spin on things will keep you afloat when nothing else will! Stay positive and look for the aspects of the practicum that are going well, then focus together on one change that could be made to improve what is happening. There is no point in beating yourself or a student teacher up when there is a less-than-successful lesson or experience. Look at what went wrong, critically reflect on it then put it behind you and move on. We need to learn from our mistakes, but there is no point in continuously revisiting them once they have been reflected on. We learn from those mistakes when we use them to positively affect our future teaching.
The time we spend sharing our classes with student teachers is an incredible part of the foundation that builds them as future teachers. It is our responsibility to make sure that they get as much out of the experience as possible and their responsibility is to ensure that they glean as much new learning from the experience as possible. It is a tricky balance at times and it can be an extremely difficult time together, as well as an extremely rewarding time of learning together. But is always worth it, as we build the future of teaching and learning together.