Having mentored many younger teachers in a long career as a middle school English teacher, I have seen many student teachers assigned to the wrong teachers, as in they are not the right fit. Their assigned teacher may be a really good teacher, but the fit or the conversations between them are not what will help this student teacher. Should student teachers talk to the teacher, the college supervisor, the teacher in the building they have found is a fit for what they see as their style of teaching, or muddle through a miserable experience? Should the teacher, seeing a good candidate but not a match for them, ask for the student to be moved?
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I think you can learn from any situation, good or bad. My mentor teacher was actually a retired teacher working part time at a charter school simply to make ends meet. We had nothing in common and she still used transparencies! But I wasn't going to let that stop me from gleaning any good information from her that I could for my own use. I asked questions upon questions and she started to brighten up and ended up telling me tons of stories about her experiences that I treasure today. Whether there is good chemistry or not chemistry, a person can always take control of a situation and turn it into a good experience.
I student-taught under a teacher who was going to retire at the end of that school year after a long career. (This was long ago - only one placement for the entire experience.) She was having enormous difficulty letting go of this last class and the activities she had used with students for many years, which meant that I was given very little opportunity to try anything new or different. The main thing I learned from my student teaching was lots that I WAS NOT going to do when I became a teacher. The thing my college learned from my experience was to never again place a student teacher in the classroom of someone in their last year of teaching.
I agree that one cannot expect to be moved simply because the cooperating teacher isn't a "good fit." There will be many instances in ones teaching career where students are not a "good fit," yet one cannot have the student removed from class; one must learn to cope. Similarly, if a student teacher is not comfortable with his/her cooperating teacher, the best approach is to cope. He/she may find that if she goes into the situation with an open mind, she might learn from the teacher. Student teachers should expect to be challenged, not affirmation. A difficult assignment can be a valuable lesson for the years ahead.
If a student teacher can get reassigned because she is looking for a "better fit", the lesson she learns is that the world can and will bend to accommodate her. What if the next year that teacher ends up working under a department head or an administrator who is not a "good fit"?
I think the student teacher needs to embrace the challenge and try to learn from it. As #7 points out, there are plenty of students in our classrooms who aren't a good fit for us personally, but there they are, and it's our job as the adult to work to reach them and teach them anyway. Teaching is a tough job, and if you're not willing and able to overcome your own personal preferences in this matter you don't belong in the profession.
I agree that it would not be a good idea for the student teacher to discuss the matter with the teacher/mentor. The best approach might be for the student teacher to discuss the matter with his or her academic advisor at the college or university and rely on that person to use discretion and to give wise advice.
In general, I agree with the posts above that suggest that the student teacher should ideally just hang in there and try to learn whatever can be learned from the interaction, both positive and negative. I particularly like speamerfan's response.
In my experience (I've had six student teachers in 20 years), there is not a lot of time or energy that goes into candidate placement for student teaching assignments. Schools of education at the universities have a pretty large number to place, and in competition with all of the other colleges, so they are looking for a slot, mostly. With luck, they will choose a good match for a school, but I don't think any consideration is given to the right teacher. If at all, the building principal might make a suggestion when it comes to that.
As a teacher, it has been frustrating to me at times to work with a student teacher who isn't a good fit for me, but I try to look at it just as there are students who aren't a good fit for me. They still need to learn, and this is where they have been placed. I try to work with them and train them to the best of my ability, hopefully getting something out of it myself in the process.
Teachers need to be able to adapt to any situation. I have to agree that a request to be replaced would not be good for the student teacher. When I was going to school, a fellow classmate did not see eye-to-eye with her cooperative teacher. She requested a new cooperative teacher. While the reassignment was requested, her grade was lowered.
That being said, a student teacher has enough to struggle with. Finding the right "fit" benefits all involved. I think that more should be done to find the right matches.
Like dmcgillem, I did my practice teaching at two different levels - middle school and high school.
I had much more in common with one teacher than I did with the other, yet I feel I learned just as much in both classrooms (which was not enough).
The most important element of the student teacher situation seems to me to have everything to do with the amount of work the mentor teacher intends to put into teaching the student-teacher. The way the mentor teacher approaches the relationship will be the determining factor in the success of the student-teacher's experience, in my opinion.
When I completed my student teaching assignment, I had to do two different levels - one middle school and one high school. The high school assignment was a perfect fit. The teacher and I were like-minded individuals who saw things the saw throughout the assignment. The middle school assignment wasn't such a perfect fit, and that is putting a very nice spin on it. Our teaching styles clashed, our philosophies clashed - we were polar opposites in nearly every way. However, I was challenged in that middle school assignment in a way that I wan't in the high school placement. I had to defend my philosophies and methods of choice, and in doing so, some were more firmly cemented while I reevaluated others. I was exposed to ideologies that I may not have been otherwise. I had to learn to work closely with someone with whom I had fundamental disagreements. All of these things are skills that I need for teaching. There is value in an assignment like the one I experienced in middle school. I wouldn't have changed a thing as I look back on it, and I don't think that others should, either.
I think that it would be the kiss of death for a student teacher to ask to be moved. You would come off looking like some kind of fragile person who couldn't deal with a bit of adversity. Similarly, I do not think that I would ask to have a student teacher moved to another teacher. It would really imply that the student was in some way lacking and might blight his/her chances at a career. I think that the only real choice is for both sides to just deal with it.
Since the student-teaching is considered coursework for credit, much like an internship, this sort of "adjustment" seems like a bad idea for a few reasons. First, one does not usually drop a course because a professor is a "bad fit," particularly when the course is a requirement for graduation. Second, the academic school year in both university and the school at which one student teaches do not usually allow for these sorts of changes to be made without the student teacher losing an entire semester. Third, even student teaching with a mentor who is not the best fit is a legitimate learning experience, even if it is an experience in learning what not to do. From the mentor's perspective, a bad fit is still an opportunity to teach. We all have situations in which a boss is not a good fit, colleagues are not the people we would want them to be, and students are less than desirable in some way. In this way, student teaching is a microcosm of the world we all live in, one that does not necessarily give us what we would like. It is up to us to make the best of whatever situation we have been given.
I don't think there is one right answer to this question. I believe every situation should be handled as needed and on an individual basis. I had two student teaching experiences. One nearly reduced me to nothing, the other built me up and made me come alive again. The first teacher was excellent teaching her grade, but did not know how to allow another person into her space. Even her administrators knew she had unrealistic expectations and supported me. I didn't realize how despressed I was becoming till my university supervisors pulled me aside and were deeply concerned with what was happening. They all believed in me and had seen me teach in other classrooms and considered me one of the best teacher candidates they had seen. I didn't want to give up. I felt that I would be a failure if I did. But when I finally got to the point that I felt I would be the worst teacher ever, had no business ever teaching and would have to get a liberal arts degree, my universitiy professors called me back to campus and told me it was just a bump in the road and not a good fit. To not view it as a failure or it would take me down. They told me that if they didn't believe in me they wouldn't be gathered around me to help me make the next steps. Their belief in me helped me reconnect with what I knew about myself. I took a new assignment and the new cooperating teacher made me feel completely welcome in her room. She helped heal my heart and I came alive again. My university supervisor told me I was a new person and that my transformation was incredible. She saw me at my lowest and then stood by me to see me excell. I went from a cooperating teacher that complained about my bangs being in my eyes and wanted me to get them cut because they were driving her nuts, (her words), to a teacher that said, "I expect I will learn just as much from you as you will from me."
Through all of this though, I do not regret that first experience. I learned some phenomenal things from her and I am certain I am a better teacher because of it. I chose to hang on to all the positives and take them with me. When the university teacing committee met with me to hear what had happened I never spoke a single negative word of that teacher. I had learned so many things that were helping to shape who I was. How could I be anything but thankful?
The student teaching experience should be about exposure to as many different styles and teaching methods as possible. How can one know what ones "fit is" until they have experienced a wide variety of possiblities? Check it all out and take what works for you from every experience that you encounter and continue to develop as an educator. That process should be ongoing throughout your career.
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