Mentoring A Student Teacher: A Series #2


     Time is racing by as ST and I work together!  The first week was chock-full for both us.  My first post listed some of the things we did to help orient her to the school, the classroom, routines and procedures.  This continuation of the first week lists other important activities that we covered, some planned, some not planned:

     The First Week, Continued:

Building Positive Parent Relationships: The reality is that all interactions with parents will not be positive. This is where being proactive is vital.  ST and I discussed ways to build a genuine, positive relationship with parents so that, if all interactions are not positive, they can at least be reasonable. Have I always hit a home-run with this? Of course, not. But, I've learned so much over the years and I hope that can pave the way for ST and her future students and parents. 
     Some suggestions I made for proactively building positive school-home relationships:
  • Be approachable to students and parents.
  • Proactively share positive notes, calls, and emails. Don't let the first time a parents hears from you be negative.
  • Document everything. You'll be glad you did. When in doubt, copy administration.
Responding to Parent Emails: Whether positive or not, how we respond to parent emails is critical.  Here are my suggestions:
  • Reply immediately, even if you will have to get back with them again later with the information or answer.
  • Thank them for reaching out to you. It's a positive step to let people feel they are a partner and not a bother.
  • Assure them that the issue is important to you and you will work to resolve it as soon as possible.
Planning, Planning, Planning: You know the old adage, "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail".  It's true! There are so many facets to planning: Year-long sequencing and pacing, unit planning, individual lesson planning, planning for special needs, data-driven planning, what you hope to do, what you really end up doing...it can be overwhelming!
     Knowing going in that the task is gargantuan helps, I think; that is, if you feel overwhelmed, understand that it's not just you...it's part of teaching. It takes time to feel comfortable juggling all of the components  Feeling overwhelmed all of the time is not productive, however. Chiseling away at the process is the best way I know to explain it. Start with the big picture (year-long sequencing and pacing), then work your way down through the layers. We'll have more on this later.

Changing On The Fly: During ST's very first week, we experienced a grade-level special event pizza party, an early release day, (neither of which she knew about yet) and a 2-hour weather delay.  It was a perfect time to address how teachers have to change their plans with little or no notice!
     At times like this, you have to extract the most vital part of your day's lessons and focus on that. In a perfect world. In the real world, sometimes you don't even have time for that. In cases when special circumstances wreck havoc with your schedule, you might need to access a special game or activity to make good use of less-than-ideal chunks of time. I feel another post on this idea coming on.

Routines and Procedures: With ST beginning her student teaching just after the holidays, it was a perfect time to teach her...and reteach our students...our basic classroom routines and procedures.  I am a huge advocate of Whole-Brain Teaching and I utilize many of their ideas.  The students and I taught ST our classroom rules and we actively went through many procedures (lining up, morning procedures) so she could see where we're going.

Pulling Data to Drive Instruction:  There are a myriad of opinions for and against, reasons, and ways to pull data to drive instruction. I strongly believe that a teacher's own knowledge of her students is an important component of planning, but data is just as critical. My first experience showing ST how to pull data for future math lessons is a perfect example. We created and scored a decimal skills pre-assessment. Well, it was really a mid-line assessment because we've been reviewing 4th grade skills, but I still needed to know where we were.   All the while I'm telling ST, "This is going to be a snore, they pretty much have these skills mastered."  WRONG!  I was amazed, and not in a good way, to see the many areas that we need to reteach and practice. However, the data showed us exactly where we needed to begin.
     The point is that as ST begins to plan her first lessons, she needs to know what is really needed.  The ideal lessons we're taught to create in college are the "gold standard" we're always trying to meet, but our classroom data is one of our best tools for real-life teaching.
     Wow, we're still in the first week! I look forward to sharing our further adventures. Have a great week!
 
Pat McFadyen
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