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Taking a Student Teacher

Working with student teachers can be very beneficial for experienced teachers.  At the same time, however, many teachers may be apprehensive to take a student teacher if they are unaware of the process and how best to mentor during the experience. In this section we will look at the benefits of taking a student teacher and some considerations that teachers may want to think about when getting involved.

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Why take a student teacher?

  • It provides an opportunity to learn about what is happening in current university pedagogy classes.
  • Student teachers can re-energize cooperating teachers with their enthusiasm, ideas and questions.
  • Student teachers push mentor teachers to analyze and reflect upon their own teaching style in order to offer critical and reflective feedback.
  • The mentor teacher role can offer change and excitement in one’s career; it provides the opportunity to teach to a different type of student in a different way.
  • Mentoring gives back to the teaching profession.

What are some considerations when taking a student teacher?

  • Extra responsibility: Taking on a student teacher means a lot of extra responsibility for the mentor teacher. The student teacher requires a lot of support when planning lessons and learning to handle classroom management issues; time must also be allotted to discuss student teacher reflections and questions. Sufficient support must be provided as giving the student teacher the best evaluation possible is preferable.
  • Share classroom and resources: When taking on a student teacher, it is important that mentor teachers be prepared to share both their classroom and resources. This is a stressful situation for the student teachers and being territorial will surely cause some tension in the mentor/student teacher relationship.
  • Character differences: A mentor teacher must be prepared when taking on a student teacher to rise above any character differences or clashes that may arise. A different teaching philosophy does not mean the student teacher will be a bad teacher; the mentor teacher must be prepared to support the student teacher in whatever way will best facilitate the student teacher's growth.
  • Classroom considerations: Before accepting a student teacher, a mentor teacher must first assess whether his classroom would be a good environment to promote student teacher growth; will the mentor teacher feel comfortable allowing the student teacher to take over a certain percentage of the classes? Are the students prepared to accept another teacher? For example, student needs must be considered. Students preparing for end of year standardized exams might not benefit from a student teacher.
  • Reflect on one's own teaching practices: Mentor teachers must be prepared to examine their own teaching practices and explain them to the student teachers; they must also be prepared to revise their teaching practices. Even inexperienced teachers have good ideas, and a mentor teacher must not feel competitive with a student teacher. This is an opportunity for collaboration for both parties, the student and mentor teacher.

In your opinion, what do student teachers need in order to have a successful practicum? Watch the video below to see what this teacher says about the above question. (time 4:53)


How can I become a mentor teacher?

Check with your local school system for more information about becoming a mentor teacher.

To mentor a student teacher from the University of Alberta click here.


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Copyright © Olenka Bilash May 2009 ~ Last Modified January 2011