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Back-to-School To-Do List #1: Get Ready for my First-Ever Student Teacher

By Dave Stuart Jr.
This is me before writing this -- see the stress? The angst? It's gone now. Thanks for reading.

This is me before writing this — see the stress? The angst? It's gone now. Thanks for reading.

I'm sitting in the Grand Rapids airport right now waiting for a flight to haul me out to California for the week. In Cali (oh, Cali — why can't I be visiting you in February?) I'll be leading four professional development days in a row at three separate schools, all around the non-freaked out approach I've been developing here alongside all you Teaching the Core community members.

When I get back in a week, I'll be turning around to drive down to Illinois for another day of PD, and shortly following that, I'm doing a panel and workshop for the faculty of Davenport University (I'm intrigued about that gig's opportunity to examine the Common Core from the college perspective).

All of these opportunities are thrilling and horrifying for me because I'm being entrusted with the valuable time of fellow teachers, and I want to make the PD days count for all involved as best I can.

But along with the humbling privilege I feel at doing these things comes the startling realization that, when I'm done with this August's speaking and workshops, this year's students will be a week or so away from walking through my classroom door.

[Pulse speeds up. Pupils dilate.]

And so it is that I'll be posting some to-do list items (I was inspired by Catlin Tucker's identical blog post series — thank you, Ken Jandes, for introducing me to Catlin's work!). I'm doing this for three purposes:

  1. Writing them down makes them feel a bit more manageable.
  2. Some of you wise readers will be able to offer me tips or advice on the things I'm going to have to figure out this month (see #2, for example).
  3. Perhaps the lists will be of some use to some of you dear readers.

So without further ado, let's get to the first thing on my mind that I'm totally not ready for: having a student teacher for the first time.

Anybody else getting initiated into the world of having a student teacher this year?

I'm thrilled at the opportunity to invest in Clinton Chapman of Eastern Michigan University, a legend-in-the-making, who will take over my world history courses. I'm also pumped that I get to “share” Clinton with my colleague and work sister, Erica Beaton. But with all that comes some bidniss (yes) to take care of.

1. Put together curriculum materials in a manner that is intelligible to another human

It's one thing to know what you, as a teacher, are going to be teaching; it's another thing to take that knowledge and make it accessible to someone else. I've got some materials that are useful in conceptualizing our school's world history curriculum, but as a social studies PLC we're still in the process of developing the kind of clarity that makes a guaranteed, viable curriculum truly guaranteed and viable.

So, I've got to get that together, and that's going to require setting up some time to chat with the other teacher in our building who teaches the world history course.

2. Figure out how to best support a student teacher

My student teaching was a “get tossed in and see if you can swim” kind of experience — which I feel like I benefitted from, honestly, but which I also don't suspect is the most effective way that I can support my student teacher this year. Do any of you Teaching the Core community members have resources or advice for me? *Pathetically clasped, pleading hands and puppy eyes*

Right now, I'm planning to do the first unit tag-team style with Clinton, and then allow him to run the learning show for the rest of the semester's units while I observe him in action and have regular processing discussions with him.

3. Get more general teaching posts written

This summer, I started a “Four Keys to Impact Series” (Part 1 on defining impact; Part 2 on avoiding burn-out by getting your head right). This is the kind of general teaching stuff that I pretty much love talking about, especially to new teachers, so I want to start getting more of it down in writing. Having Clinton in my room each day should be awesome because he'll remind me what it's like to just be starting out (I'm entering my 8th year of teaching this year — feeling like a vet, baby!).

I guess this isn't exactly an item I need to get done prior to school starting, but it's a priority I want to enter the year with.

That's all for my student-teacher-related to-do list. If anyone has pointers for #2, pleasepleaseplease share in comments.

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10 Responses to Back-to-School To-Do List #1: Get Ready for my First-Ever Student Teacher

  1. John Denham August 9, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    Saw your post on Twitter. I had my first student teacher this past spring and was very fortunate to have a very nice young man. Once he took over a portion of my classes he responded one day “how do you do this every day?” I realized he was talking about the little things that after a time come almost unconsciously. I typed out a list of the following things to help him with organizing his daily preparation.

    Things To Think About Each Day
    • Have you read the material and then some? BE THE EXPERT
    • Do you understand the topic?
    • Can you answer the unexpected questions?
    Personal Teacher Notes
    • Do you know what you want to say?
    • What order do you want things to take place? BE SPECIFIC
    • About how much time for each item?
    • What do you want the students to do today?
    • Are the students turning anything in today?
    Homework 2.0
    • Is there anything that needs handed back?
    • Will you make the students think?
    • Would it be considered higher order?
    • Does their thinking generate further questions?
    • Have you provided opportunities in the lesson for the students to ask questions about what you say or about the material? Questions foster understanding.
    Learning Target
    • Point it out at the beginning of a period—it’s on the board for a reason
    Making connections
    • Connect today with yesterday’s lesson—there is a reason units are structured the way they are
    • Do you have the necessary copies that will be used in the class?
    • What will it be?
    • Reading?
    • Worksheet?
    • Both?
    Student learning
    • How will you know if they have learned?
    Preview connections
    • Provide a preview of tomorrow’s material or topic—make another connection
    Essential Questions
    • Can you include it in the materials presented to help the students think?
    Revisiting the learning target
    • Can the students provide an explanation?
    • Needs to be taken every period
    Ending the Lesson

    • davestuartjr August 9, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

      Woah, John — this is insanely helpful. I would have loved this as a student teacher. I OWE YOU.

      • Mary Lou August 23, 2014 at 10:55 am #

        Thanks! This is awesome!!

  2. Chad Walden August 9, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

    Hi, Dave — Fifteen years ago, I was blessed to be placed in the classroom of Kathy Kurtze, an awesome supervising/mentoring teacher. I’ve had two student teachers, and I’ve found success using key elements of Mrs. Kurtze’s approach, much of which she describes here:


    • davestuartjr August 9, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

      Chad, this is a great post — just read it. Thank you for sharing, man! It is an honor to know the Chad W. this post refers to.

  3. semslibraryladyMary August 9, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    I have no advice on student teachers, but just wanted you to know that if they invite you back to that part of CA in February, think twice–there may be snow in Bishop! We’re a very big state:)

    Good luck, Dave, and maybe someday you’ll make it to the paradise of San Diego for a workshop!

  4. susangbarber August 11, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    I have had a few student teachers and do a lot of teacher training and mentoring. First, ditto to everything above. Great advice. I would like to add to that and say in addition to doing all of the lesson planning and technical aspects of teaching go the extra mile to discuss the not as obvious things such as building appropriate relationships with students, teaching character as well as content, balancing home and work, helping build school culture, establishing a professional network, etc. These are all of the things that make or break teachers and can often be overlooked due to all of the must haves. Good luck! I

  5. Shelby Denhof August 20, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    One of my cooperating teachers has been really good about outlining the semester for me. He gave me a physical copy of his calendar where he marked out how long it’ll take to cover certain topics, when I’ll be jumping in as the teacher, and wrote down the dates and times for conferences/PD meetings/etc. The was a small gesture, but having an outline of the semester is comforting to me because it provides some big-picture perspective. Another thing he did was give me access to our students’ information online so I could get a jump start on learning their names and contacting their parents to introduce myself. I’m sure you’ll be a great mentor and cooperating teacher, Dave!

    • davestuartjr October 29, 2014 at 9:13 pm #

      Ms. Denhof, you are once again too nice to me 🙂

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