84. Student Teachers

I think there’s an important extra job for adults who relate successfully with children – teaching other adults how to relate to children. While some adults spend their lives away from children, most have some contact with them, and many, like me, decide to spend major portions of their lives with children.
I’ve had many student teachers over the years. Usually, student teachers start with some preconceptions and convictions, some of which stay with them, and some of which give way to new conceptions and convictions. Their experiences with children, teachers, and parents teach them. This phenomenon should not differentiate student teachers from teachers, but there’s extra intensity, and often extra insecurity among student teachers.
To some parents, children, and teachers, the presence of a student teacher in a classroom is a bonus. Children can receive closer personal attention. If a child has a problem, there’s a greater chance of getting prompt help with it. Teachers are more likely to notice details if they can just sit back and observe once in a while, or if a student teacher does so.
Having a student teacher is also an opportunity for a teacher to grow. Teaching is not the kind of job you just learn to do, and then do. There can be insights teachers have and forget, and others that are brand new, even after years of teaching. I’ve often said that working with children is a review course in life. Working with student teachers can play the same role.
But there is a down side. There have been years when I did not want a student teacher. Having another person in the room who had questions was too much for me. In peaceful retrospect, I think my reticence to work with a student teacher had a lot to do with what was going on for me. But what is going on for a teacher counts, too. Some teachers never want to work with student teachers, and I don’t think that means they’re bad teachers.
And there are student teachers who are not ready, and may never be ready, to work with children. To some extent, it’s the luck of the draw. If a student teacher is not doing well, and doesn’t seem ready to learn, it’s difficult for everyone involved.
But I’ve been lucky. I think most teachers I know have been lucky. Student teachers we’ve known have come to us with skill, eagerness, and openness, and have enriched our classes. They’ve brought fresh insight to parents, children, and teachers. I miss the children I’ve taught, and wish them well. But I miss the student teachers, too.

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