Education...is painful, continual and difficult work to be done in kindness, by watching, by warning,... by praise, but above all -- by example
I am always extremely grateful when an established teacher decides to open up his or her classroom to student teachers. After all, they have so many reasons not to. Student teachers are often seen as inexperienced and over-excited "noobs" who have come to mess with your classroom zen. Most of us have next to no teaching experience and we tend to make a lot of mistakes. Even as a high school student, I remember feeling peeved at student teachers for intruding on our time and treating us like their guinea pigs (to avoid this, check out my article "Tips and Tricks for Student Teachers"). Some of those teachers were never meant to teach, but others would have gone on to becoming great teaching professionals with the help of their associate (host) teacher.
Over the years, however, I have met several talented and truly wonderful teachers who are unwilling to take on student teachers. But it is exactly those teachers -- the ones who know how to lead a classroom -- that student teachers need most! We are not charity cases; established teachers can benefit from having a student teacher in many ways.
To start, having a student teacher to mentor can open up opportunities for experienced teacher to reflect on their personal growth as an educator. What makes my style of teaching so distinct? What were common mistakes I made when I first started, and what have I done to address them since then? Experienced teachers have so much knowledge and advice to offer us fledgling teachers that it really would be a shame not to share your expertise with us.
Mentoring is also a great way to practice giving good feedback. Perhaps your student teacher is already stellar, but as a great teacher you know that the biggest room in the world is always the room for improvement, so if see the potential for her to do more, then you should encourage her to push beyond the boundaries of her comfort zone. The world needs better teachers, and we should make it our responsibility to be a part of making that happen. In contrast, if your student teacher is an absolute mess, you will be doing a lot of unborn children a huge favor by preventing this individual from entering the workforce as a teacher. It just may be the case that her passions reside elsewhere, and someone needs to tell her that that's okay too.
Last but not least, mentoring is a great LEARNING OPPORTUNITY! (Yaaayy!) If you have been out in the workforce for some time, it is likely that your student teachers will have many new and innovative ideas to share about education fresh from the world of academia. Take some time to talk to your student teacher and find out what the current trends are in technology, media, and even pop culture. You might be surprised at how much your students will appreciate your Breaking Bad references in the middle of a boring math lesson. What's more, your student teacher will probably have picked up many little tips and tricks that you could incorporate into your own teaching toolbox!
The bottom line is -- don't underestimate what a mentorship experience with a student teacher can bring you. Give those who are willing to learn a chance, and never turn down the opportunity to educate.
Special thanks to the teachers who were willing to mentor me over the years (in chronological order):
I. A. Rahman
*The one who started it all :)
International math educator who writes, occasionally.