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Student teachers...what's the deal?



This is my third year teaching. However, I can still remember my practicum/student teaching experiences. It seemed that most of the people in my college classes that participated in these field experiences went above and beyond the general responsibilities. Well, in my past three years that I have taught, I have had around five student teachers/practicum students. ALL of them have been terrible. They do not show up, they do NOTHING in my classroom, they sit there and stare at the students during centers instead of helping, and they NEVER offer to do any kind of lesson. What in the world? What is the point of them coming into a classroom? Yesterday, I ask my student teacher to be here at 7:30 (which she is supposed to be anyway) and watch the class briefly while I was gone to a parent conference. Well, she comes rolling in at 7:45 making me fifteen minutes late for the conference. Then, she did not even show up today. I am just furious! I welcome these students into my room and try so hard to be flexible and give them a good experience. I am almost sour to the whole thing. I try to be a good cooperating teacher, but I am tired of babysitting these idiots. I am not trying to be rude, but I am over it! I hate the way that they are wasting my time. What do they think is going to happen when they have a classroom of their own? Coming in fifteen minutes late will never be acceptable. Is it just me, or do many student teachers just not work as hard anymore? Have a lot of universities lowered their standards on who they will certify as a teacher? Urg! Thoughts?


World is changing, I guess!

I don't know. When I student-taught it was back in 1986-1987. I guess I was still "wet behide the ears." I was a sponge looking for and learning about everything. I also still felt like a "student" myself and my supervising teacher was "god-like" and still "scary" as an authority figure to me, and I was looking to do the best job I could to get the "A" on my grades. Besides, I valued "student teaching" and felt if I was going to be a teacher, it probably wouldn't look to good to get "A" in everything - but the actual experience of "student teaching." After spending 4 years in college preparing myself to this, I was scared that if I didn't get a decent grade in the "student teaching" experience or I "sucked" at it- than I'd wonder if this teaching career was my best/worst decision. With student loans burying me (I was paying for every cent of my education), I knew I'd have to make this work. I worked summers and weekends saving money. Well, the decision was a good one so far and I loved teaching for many years!

I came from the farm where having the hard "work ethic" was drilled in me at a very young age. Chores and doing "work" was a day after day thing since I learned to walk.

To be late, irresponsible, to my supervising/cooperative teacher would mean - in my eyes - no letter of recommendation or a horrible letter she'd write. My goal was getting a job after college to make the payments on the loans and I needed "GREAT" letters of recommendations to put in my closed file at the college.

I was shy . . . I probably didn't take the initative of doing things on my own without first getting approval to do them by my supervising teacher. Thinking back, that could have drove her nuts. I was VERY unsure of myself - but I was never late - I was always EARLY attempting to mentally prepare as well as physically prepare myself for the day.

I remember once my supervising teacher played a joke on me when I was finally handed over the classroom for the week. She had been gone- out of the room (so she must have "trusted" me). She and her co-worker had played with the film projector so when I opened it, it fell apart. They figured I'd panic and fall apart for they both were in the hallway waiting and watching. I simply picked up the screws and bolts and put them on the projector stand. I picked up the book that was being discussed and was going to be a shown a part in the movie and I said through the "ohh" "ah's" of students claiming I broke the projector - "Well we have some tech. difficulties. Please remain seated - no need to stand. (This was humor - Back then when the T.V. stations when blank - You always got to read on the sceen - "Tech. Difficulty. Please stand by.") I remember saying - "I'll just read the chapter to you. Listen for the same things that I wanted you to listen for when watching the movie." Yeah, I was not thinking about the chapter/words I was reading to that class. To tell the truth, I don't remember even reading the words or the chapter - for I was thinking like the kids were - "Oh my GOSH - I broke the darn film projector!!!"

I've noticed student teachers who are VERY SURE of themselves. They almost attempt to act like they should have this job over the teachers who have been teaching for years. Sometimes I think - I wish I would have had just an ounce of that sureness that they display during my student teaching experience AND sometimes I think - Are they putting on a show? Can any college student without experience be as good as they think they can be?

I've seen some EXCELLENT student teachers that make me drool when thinking of my own teaching abilities. I've sat in interviews and I'm blown away by the abilties of these PEOPLE of answering difficult questions with such ease that when I think of my own interviews back when - I think I must have sounded awful and I think that I must thank my lucky stars I was even given the opportunity and a position in any school. As I sat and listened to some of these new graduates, I'm thinking, "Gosh, I taught many years and I don't know whether I could have answered that question as well as they just did."

I've also seen some that talk the talk -but they are average in comparison to all the student teachers I've seen. And I've seen two student teachers that remind me of ME and I always get them words of encouragement. And I seen student teachers that just make me shake my head in disbelief. Their OVER BLOWN personal image of themselves cause them to NOT LISTEN, NOT LEARN, NOT ATTEMPT TO IMPROVE the needed teaching skills they lack. Thank goodness none of these ever asked me to write a letter of recommendation for them.


Some of them...

must just think that they know it all at this point and that teaching is going to be easy for them. I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall when the begin in their first classroom. Those kids will eat them alive!


Senior Member
Two gems

In fourteen years I have had two gem of student teachers. One was a high school helper who saw what needed to be done and did it. The kids loved him and he was awesome. I was so happy to write his letter of reference. The other was a young lady who went above and beyond. My other experiences have left me sour also. I had one who was removed from my classroom after other faculty plus myself begged principal to get college to let her go. She was rude, inappropriately dressed, and cursed in class! Ugh, I still have flashbacks about her!

cincy teacher

Full Member
What's up with the student teachers?

Your student teacher sounds a lot like the one that I had last year. She was the pits! It was so bad that I never completely turned my classroom over to her. She showed up at what ever time she wanted, didn't call or e-mail if she would be out, said she wasn't going to write lesson plans until she was getting paid to do it and just didn't know the slightest bit about teaching~talked to the blackboard when teaching lessons. I gave her a very poor evaluation and told the university that I was no longer interested in taking student teachers. With such an emphasis on state tests how can I afford to turn my classroom over to someone who is irresponsible and doesn't want to take the time to plan what is going to be taught.
I wonder if many of them are going into teaching because it seems like an easy thing to do and there is lots of time off instead of doing it because they really love children/teaching.


Junior Member
First Year Teacher

I am a first year teacher and just student taught a year ago. I loved student teaching and I did more then was asked of me. My mentor and I got along great and he even would do mock interviews with me to prepare me for the real thing. I don't want to say that you are having a stroke of bad luck, but it seems to be that way. I find it strange that you are only in your third year, which is more experience then me, but you are not even tenured yet. I thought you had to be a tenured teacher before they would allow you to have any student teachers or practicums? I would refuse to have anyone come into my classroom until I am more settled in and I feel that it will take me at least 4 years before I have my music program started and running the way I want to run it. I think you should just tell your student teacher that if this is the way she is going to act then she should seriously think about a different career path, because she isn't going to "cut it". I would be harsh with her and tell her what reality she is getting herself into. You could take a personal day (you have to have a sub even when you have a student teacher, they are not allowed to be in the classroom alone with the kids for an extended period of time), and put on your lesson plans to have your student teacher do everything. That is what my mentor did to me (on my fourth day!) and it really put me in the spot and let me see exactly what I am capable of when just thrown into it! Your student teacher should have a supervisor from the universities education department, talk about your problems with him/her. I am not sure how your student teachers university works, but I had too formal evaluations and if you do this is your time to be honest and rate her exactly how you think she should be rated. Good luck with everything.


what in the world

We weren't allowed to supervise a student teacher until we had at least 5 years experience. Most had 10 or more. Your student teacher or her college supervisor should have given you some sort of list as to what she would be responsible for in your class. I'd have a conference with her. Give it another week and then if it isn't better have a conference with her supervisor and her together.

As a student teacher I came early, stayed late, came to evening plays... The only thing they didn't have us do was attend faculty meetings. If my supervising teacher was there, I was there too. We observed the first 2 weeks, assisted the next 2 weeks, taught the next 4 weeks and then allowed the teacher to take back her class the next 2 weeks. If she wanted us to continue teaching a subject, do a lesson, or just assist those last 2 weeks, we did. It was the teacher's call. We were observed by our college supervisor at least once.


Senior Member
Maybe the problem is that you have not communicated your expectations to your student teachers. When they sit and stare during centers do you come up to them and nudge them in the right direction?

Gina TX

Senior Member
That had crossed my mind too. I did my ST at 38 years old. My CT was in her mid 20s. I had nothing to do with my being young. It had to do with the fact that it was my first time in the classroom. I wasn't sure what to do, whether I should just step in or if she would rather I wait for her to tell me what she wants. Teachers have different styles and while some would want you to jump right in, others would prefer you do what they tell you. That was something I had to ask her and we worked it out fine. Turns out she wanted to direct what I did until it was time for me to take over. That was fine, the hard part for me was not knowing what to do, not wanting to "step on her toes" to do anything she didn't want me to do. I remember wondering, "what does she want me to do." I have been seeing this lately and I will say again, please don't group all STs in this way. I was there every day before my CT, took tons of work home, and did whatever she wanted me to do. I was allowed to learn from my own mistakes also. As a teacher now, I have seen an ST across the hall who is a very nice person, mature, eager, but you can tell she is shy and is having a hard time. The CT asked me about it because it had been a very long time since she had a ST and knew I had recently done it. My advice to her was tell her what you expect, and after she's ready let her do what she needs to do. Don't be afraid to let her have free reign of the class. Under supervision of course. Things are going much better for her now. I think, from my experience, the biggest thing with CT/ST is lack of communication.


Junior Member
Communication Notebook

Last year I read somewhere on this board an idea about having a communication notebook with your student teacher. Its just a spiral notebook that you can write ideas, comments, questions and concerns in during the day and she can take home and read at night and write any questions, concerns and comments at night for your response. It makes difficult things a little easier to say. Additionally, when she has that first classroom and she has a problem and can't remember how you said to handle it, she'll have it in her notebook to look up an answer. Of course the key is, just like our regular students, to temper the negative with positive. I suggested this to a teacher last year who was having the exact same trouble you are and it made a big difference.


Senior Member
I student-taught in 2003........

......and the other students in my class were mostly EXTREMELY motivated. However, I did go to a college that is known for having a particularly rigorous music-education program. It was stated in our student-teaching handbook that if you missed more than two days of student-teaching for ANY reason, you could fail at the discretion of the department head.

In my district, you have to have taught for three years before you can have a student teacher. A director from the university came to work with my choir students last year (my first year of teaching) and wanted to send a student teacher out to work with me this year. To be honest, I feel like there are still things that I'm figuring out about running my choral program! I wouldn't be prepared to mentor a student teacher as well. I think it's poor judgment on the part of hte university to place so many student teachers with a new teacher.

Current ST

Could be the University

As a current ST I have to wonder if it may be a placement issue of the institution your ST attends. When I first began student teaching my university drilled in the fact that "we" student teachers should really treat student teaching as our first "teaching job" and that we should want to represent the university in a postive light. In the beginning I took that advice to heart, because I was very committed to doing the best job that I could and I wanted to learn the most that I could. To my surprise, the expectations from my CT were very low. I very much wanted to take what she was doing to the next level by adding to it, enriching it and I was told that "I was taking ST too seriously, and that I needed to relax and just enjoy being with the children." from both my CT and university supervisor. I taught when my CT was absent even when there was a sub, I came to school an hour before school began and stayed an hour after school ended, and I even saw students and worked with them during my lunch and planning periods, but was told by my university and CT to relax, which to me contradicted the statements that were made to me at my orientation and caused me a ton of frustration because I have that "A" type personality that needs to do things well. My point is that from my own experience I do not believe they "colleges/universities" do enough to screen or match ST/CT's, because if they did you and I may not have had the problems that we have with the system as we know it.

Bonnie gr. 2

Full Member

In my expereince with student teachers from two colleges, there is no matching. Our principal recieves information on available student teachers and asks who is interested. We can look at the information and offer to take the student teacher if we wish. No one tries to match cooperating teachers with student teachers based on any criteria. We usually do have to be tenured to have a student teacher. Our art teacher is an experienced teacher but this is her third year with us and she had a student teacher this fall.

K/1 Teacher

Full Member
state your expectations

When I have student teachers in my classroom, I start the semester with them by clearly stating my expectations for their work in the classroom. These include:
1. Arrive 15 minutes before the start of the school day
2. Plan to stay at least 15 minutes after the children leave
3. Start obersving for the first 1-2 weeks, then in the 2-3 week start doing read alouds, and other small lessons. By week 4, start doing full lessons, and towards the end of the placement, do a lead week.

I've been told by my student teachers that the way that I set things up with them and the kids, they feel very welcome in the classroom, and able to jump in at anytime. I always refer to them as teachers in front of the kids, and specify to ask me or the student teacher if the kids have questions. They are seen as an equal. They are involved in conferences with parents, faculty meetings, planning, etc. The more you can involve your s.t. in the planning of what goes on in your classroom, hopefully they will feel more a part of your classroom and will be eager to be there every day and want to do the best they can.

If they do not improve, and you've looked at how you're handling the situation, talk to the supervisor from the university, have a joint conference about what needs to change.

Good luck!


Student on IEP

I don't take on student teachers mainly because it's just too much work. The position that I am presently in is a large inner city middle school and due to budget cuts I find myself with barely enough time to eat lunch at my desk while working through lunch. Another teacher in the building has a student teacher this semester. Last week I observed this young lady running up the main hallway, crying, and she ran into the staff restroom. Our school is pretty rough and the children often say "ugly" things and make mean remarks. A few days after I witnessed her crying gig, I asked the teacher what was wrong. She informed me that this has happened often since the semester began. The gal is "flunking" her student teaching....but get this....she is on an IEP! I have inclusion students in my classes and I fully know and understand the IEP process, but I never imagined that an IEP could follow a student to college and that teachers have to make accomodations for these students. What will become of her when she graduates? Life doesn't recognize an IEP nor accomode one. Why would her advisor and the university take her money and let her go through an entire education degree under these conditions? I would love some responses or insights on this one if anyone out there understands this situation.


Senior Member
I'm a student teacher...

and I'd like to defend some of us. My University has very strict standards for us. I'm in my final week of full-teaching. I have to do 6 weeks where I have total responsibility for teaching, planning, making copies, etc. The rest of the semester I'm supposed to co-teach. Which in practice means I take small groups that the CT feels needs extra help. (I'm in Texas and the TAKS tests are looming.)
I show up everyday, usually before the CT and set up for the morning work. Even during weeks that aren't "mine". I'm also usually still at the school after she's gone home. The other STs from my Uni. do the same. We're also observed frequently by our University faculty. They monitor our praise/correction ratios (must be above 4:1) and also the engagement of the students while we're doing a lesson (must be above 95%).

So I hope you don't give up on the idea of having STs altogether. I hope it gets better.

Cyclone Fan

where is supervisor?

I too am left wondering about the University's role in this. Your ST's university or college should have a supervisor assigned to her that is to serve as a liason and mediate in these types of situations. I have been teaching for 13 years and in my district for 5 and just last year decided I was ready to have my first ST, only after I attended a training workshop from a college network in the area specifically for teachers preparing for a ST. It was extremely helpful and helped me see from the CT perspective what I could do to most help my ST. I have had 2 STs since then and both their colleges had explicit expectations as far as what amount of responsibility they were to each have as the weeks progressed and again, there is always a supervisor from the university assigned to the ST whose job it is to check in with me regularly and facilitate as needed, not to mention observed the ST regularly. If I were you I'd stop taking STs for awhile and reevaluate, look into some learning for yourself on how to maximize a ST experience for all of you involved, and then maybe try again in a few years.

At our initial meeting I presented my ST with a rough outline of her schedule, including special dates and what percent of the teaching she'd be doing (assuming things went well, and these were guided by the expectations of her university). We kept a communication log going the whole time, I observed and provided specific feedback each time she taught, including "things to think about" (in truth these would be things that didn't go so well). We went over briefly each day how things were going, etc. and met once a week for a full planning period to plan out the next week. I was constantly communicating with her about what her goals were short and long term, and we'd try to focus on one goal at a time. Then I could observe a lesson zeroing in on that particular area.

The STs really do need that week or two where they are totally on their own with the CT out of the room as much as possible---within reason of course, and obviously not at the expense of the kids, but handled well and with foresight, planning, and communication, even weak teachers should be actively involved and hold responsibilities. Oh, and any ST I've had would be let go by the university if she had any attendance issues whatsoever!!