Tips for Mentoring a Student Teacher

Make your expectations clear. Right from the start of the placement, clarify together expectations on dress, what subjects the student teacher will take over and when; if they should develop their own materials or follow the mentor’s lesson plans; what format lesson plans should take and if they should adopt the mentor’s management style or try to implement their own.

Be positive! Your student teacher is no different from the students in class. Just a little praise is usually enough encouragement to help them through the rest of the day’s challenges.

Relate to the intern.  The mentor’s attitude toward the student teacher has a major effect. Introduce the intern as a teacher and not a “helper”. It is difficult for student teachers to earn respect when seen in that light. Try to correct in private whenever possible.

Help interns learn from their mistakes.  Students will make mistakes but they also want to learn from them. Being observed and evaluated scares most students to death. As long as they can get some guidance in what went wrong, mistakes lead to great improvements in lessons. Be positive and reassure them about that from the beginning.

Be supportive. Let them know that help is available. The teaching profession needs to stick together and help its novices in all areas. Student teachers may feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness – let them know that they don’t have to go it alone.

Don’t be afraid to let them see mistakes. Teachers routinely make adjustments during and after a lesson. Let the student teacher know about it. Reflection is an integral part of the teaching process. This will help them to examine their own teaching and show them that even experienced teachers are learning and growing every day.

Help them with classroom management. Students have practiced teaching in very safe environments so far – either to college classmates or to students with an experienced teacher still in the room. No one was fighting, talking, launching paper airplanes, passing notes or sleeping. They have learned a lot about teaching except how to control a group of students. Without control even the best lesson has no chance. Make time early in the semester to share your management wisdom.

Help them learn about “the other part of teaching” too. Mentors may feel like they are protecting their student teacher by excusing them from staff meetings and IEPs but they need to be included. Encourage them to get involved with after school activities also. The “other part” of teaching is a large part of being a professional educator, and student teachers need to be prepared for that.