Tension in Student Teaching

Student teaching provides teacher candidates with tremendous opportunities to learn and develop as a prospective teacher.  Working closely with a master teacher, aka coordinating teacher (CT), yields glimpses of the good, the bad, and the ugly of teaching, with the mixture of those hopefully 99%-0.9%-0.1%, but that ratio is usually in the eye of the beholder, as well as affected by a slew of other factors.  Nonetheless, student teachers witness, and actively participate in, teaching and student learning, providing plenty of moments to reflect upon what was great and what could be improved.

Working closely with another adult, one that you barely know, and who has up to your arrival maintained exclusive control of the classroom, creates many wonderful moments, and some a bit more stressful.  If the CT worked with student teachers before, they typically are more comfortable working with a student teacher than one who does so for the first time.  Nonetheless, most CTs still experience a sense of a loss of control when they need to transition from sole control of the classroom to a co-teaching team.  For co-teaching to be successful, for CT, teacher candidate, and most importantly, the students, classroom control must be evenly shared, and both teachers viewed as equal authorities in the class.

However, letting go of sole classroom control, decision-making, pedagogy, etcetera is never easy, especially when you care so deeply for your students, and have developed a way of ensuring they are treated in the way you believe they deserve.

While the difficulty in letting go, and sharing authority and responsibility by a CT is understandable, as a student teacher, moments of dissension create a tension that is palpable, and unnerving, especially if they are noticeable to students, and have the potential to undermine your authority, credibility, etc.

As an example, with less than fifteen minutes to go before 2nd period today, my CT asked if I would grade group tests for four groups, sixteen tests overall; each test had eighteen problems, eight multiple choice and ten free response.  It took every second of that time to complete grading them, especially since I took the time to provide partial credit if student sense-making was visible, via written work showing proper entry and attack of each problem.  Doing so is a non-trivial task, especially under time pressure.

After providing the graded group tests back to my CT, she gave them to the students, before handing out an individual test on the same material.  In handing them out, she was apparently surprised by one group’s score, a 26 out of 34, and flipped through their tests to see why.  She came across one problem where I did not give any partial credit to that group, and commented out loud, “Oh, I wouldn’t have taken away full points here,” which took me by surprise for the following reasons: 1) I did not have much time to grade them in the first place, did my best to grade them fairly and often liberally gave partial credit; 2) there was no time to collaborate with her on the grading before returning them to the students; and 3) it was not discussed with me in private, but in front of the students.

I did not say anything to my CT, however, her comment took the wind out of my sails for a bit.  Fortunately, it was a test day for students so I could reflect on the situation, which led to much of the text in the first few paragraphs above.  I do plan to bring the situation up with my CT on Monday so we can discuss my concern re: credibility and any she may have as well.

There is hardly a dull moment in teaching, student teaching or not.  But it’s all good.  Lot’s of opportunity for growth!


About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Secondary math teacher teaching math intervention, algebra 1, honors precalculus, and AP Calculus AB. I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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