At this point in my career, I have supervised so many student teachers/interns that I cannot count them all. I was recently told that I am the most “experienced” supervisor in the local university program. And while having a student teacher can be an enormous help to you within the school setting, there are some keys to success that I have determined over the years. These are written in no particular order, but most of these ideas can be applied across ages and disciplines.
Introduce Your Student Teacher to the School
All student teachers have a lot of questions about their placement. Before they begin, I send them a document with good to know information:
- My name, phone number, license #, and best way to reach me
- The school’s address, phone number, and fax number
- School rules and expectations
- A map of the school
- My expectations
- Calendar of days off, meetings, other known events
Introduce Your Student Teacher to the Staff
It sounds obvious, but so many supervisors forget to introduce their intern to the staff as a whole. Before my student begins, I ask them to send me a photo of themselves and three interesting facts. Then on their first day in my school, I send a school-wide email to staff introducing my student teacher including his/her picture, three facts, and where they are studying. Other staff in the building begin greeting him/her from day one!
Introduce Your Student Teacher to the Students
Help your students to embrace the new adult in the room by treating your student teacher as a colleague. On the first day, help students practice their social skills by greeting the student intern by name, shaking hands, and saying something about themselves. Then treat your student teacher as a colleague: give them a name tag, post their picture outside of the door, write their name on the board, and include their name on your clip chart.
Write Down Your Procedures
Do you always begin teaching a certain way? Do you have a routine for lining up? How do you handle behavior? Write it all down. Some of these procedures can be written as a list (steps for lining up), whereas others need more of a flow chart (how to respond to escalating behavior). These are the papers that your students are going to go back to time after time.
Instruct Your Student Teacher to Write Down the “A-Ha” Moments
The process of student teaching is full of magical moments. Sadly, however, most of us no longer know what inspiration came out of that time because we never wrote it down. I strongly encourage my student teachers to keep a record of the light bulbs of inspiration that they come across each day. And because I want to be inspired as well, I have them share this information with me in a Google doc.
Keep a Running List of Questions
Many questions that I have for my student teachers, or they have for me, occur in the middle of instruction or meetings. It is not good timing to interrupt and ask. However, most of us are unable to remember the myriad of questions going through their heads during the school day. I ask my student interns to write down their questions whenever they arise on a Google doc. I check this document when I have time and then either type or orally respond to each question.
Provide an Ongoing Narrative of Why
When you have the time, explain to your student teachers what you are doing and why. Some interns may learn the routines but never understand the reasoning behind it. If you do things in a certain way, explain why that works best for you. For example, I recently explained to my student teacher why I use different tones of voice with different students. I want them to understand the rationale so that they can decide what will work best for them.
Balance Positive Reinforcement and Recommendations
Something that I always forget, if that even though my student teachers are adults, they often are very nervous about their skills. They want to make sure that they are “performing” well. When I observe my student teachers, I make a point of providing at least as many positives as I provide recommendations. This procedure helps boost their self-confidence as well as tells them specifically what procedures they did well.
Give Time for Reflection
When pockets of down time arise, ask your student teacher to reflect on the day. Having them talk out loud about what they saw or did can help them remember both what went well, and what questions they have.
Celebrate their Time in Your Classroom When it Comes to an End
There is nothing better than a party. Celebrate all that your student teacher has accomplished at the end of the term by getting students in on the action by making cards or taking class pictures. A poster or “yearbook” of memories is a nice way to compile the good-byes into one place. I like to bring in treats to celebrate the student teacher’s last day. Make them feel special and important. As the next generation of SLPs, they are special!