Student Teaching, Some Contributions From Experience

Synopsis prepared by Lee Risley


A. Some Comments About Student Teacher Preparation in the University Classroom
B. Advice for the Student Teacher
C. The Responsibilities of the Student Teacher
D. Observing Other Teachers; Debriefing Your Own Experience With Your Fellow STers.
E. Key Comments From Survivors About How They Did It and You Can, Too
Also, be sure to check out the theme Advice to New (First Year?) Teachers. Lots of good reading there for the beginning teacher.

A. Some Comments About Student Teacher Preparation in the University Classroom

95/03 From->
Subject: Re: Suggestions about FL methods courses, Student Teaching, etc.

As for suggestions to improve the ST-ing experience - it would be a
REALLY good idea if the professor of the methods course were required at
some regular interval to actually teach a secondary class. I found that
most of my education professors were so far removed from the
"battlefront" that they were only able to speak in theory and abstract
concepts. And, as we all know, theory and concepts don't work too well
in front of 25 smirking teenagers! If the idea isn't feasible, how about
getting some teachers who are already in the trenches into the methods
classes for some Q and A sessions? In addition, some practical info
would be helpful - like how to set up a gradebook, how to "grade" when
it's subjective, how to talk to parents who have a complaint, how to
treat teenagers (7th graders are really not at all like 12th graders,
for instance), how to deal with being observed and evaluated, how to
create a meaningful test, and how to take all the @!!#* with a huge
grain of salt. As one who has lived through cycle after cycle of "New
and Improved" educational philosophies, the thought that keeps me (and
my colleagues) sane is, "this, too, shall pass."

Cheryl Riley


95/03 From-> "Charles J. James" <>
Subject: Re: Suggestions about FL methods courses, Student Teaching, etc.

That does it. Here I come.

I would love to teach high school again. But which school district would
permit it? After all, I now teach at the university, where, according to
many contributors to this LISTSERV, I live in an ivory tower divorced
from reality. Instead, I have to rely on my colleagues in the high
schools to provide the experiences in grading, discipline, lesson
planning, materials development, and lunchroom conversation.

In the past week I have observed over ten hours of student teaching in
five different schools. How often have I wanted to stand up and say "Use
the Force! This is what you have to do!" But no, I have to sit there and
scribble detailed notes for the follow-up debriefing, realizing that
neither the cooperating teacher nor I can do more than make suggestions,
albeit strong ones, as to how to do it better in the future.

Here is a terrifying thought: after ten years doing this, here in
Wisconsin there are high school students who know me - one of them is
now one of my advisees - and know what student teachers need to do. One
of them the other day even blurted out to the student teacher: "I think
you should do it this way!" That wasn't exactly what he said, but you
get the idea. No, I would love to teach high school again. I envy those
who do, though I do not envy the nonsense they have to put up with from
concerned parents, angry taxpayers, highly motivated and highly
unmotivated students, equipment failures, inadequate class materials,
budget-slashing school boards, power hungry Republican governors (oops,
shouldn't say that!), and Newt Gingrich. Teachers, cooperating or not,
deserve all the support they can get. I intend to give it to them. I can
no longer do what they have to do. Would you really want me to?

Charles J. James
Department of German / Department of Curriculum & Instruction


95/03 From-> "Jeri H. Dies" <>
Subject: Re: Suggestions about FL methods courses, Student Teaching, etc.

Didn't a colleague of yours Ali Moeller teach in secondary school after
finishing the Ph.D.? I would love to hear some of her views about
secondary vs. college teaching.

Not wanting to get too behavioral, I do think that we all model behavior
for our students regardless of teaching level. All students/human beings
have built-in lie detectors. They truly know if we are doing/teaching
things which have personal meaning for us.

When I supervised student teachers, I wanted the best for them. However,
forgive the sport's metaphor--they are the ones that have to stand up to
take their turn at bat. Perhaps the biggest difference between a
beginning teacher and seasoned teacher is the ability to confront
difficult situations.

Perhaps the biggest difference between secondary and university teaching
is the discipline. For secondary teachers: no discipline = no teaching.
During the student-teacher practicum, it's really important to all the
student teachers to observe a number of teachers in addition to the CT.
Unfortunately, this may be the last opportunity for them to observe
colleagues. I miss doing student-teacher observations (not the
driving!). Supporting the next teaching generation is one of the most
important legacies to our profession.

Teaching foreign languages at any level has to be the best job in the
world. We offer the hope for a global community. So let's not forget
that ;-). Leaving the soapbox--I will try to lurk more in the future.

Jeri H. Dies


95/03 From-> "Robert D. Peckham" <bobp@UTM.Edu>
Subject: Re: Suggestions about FL methods courses, Student Teaching, etc.

I feel that in general, discipline should be handled in a forum other
than a content-specific class (probably the same place where they learn
to deal with parents and the ant hill...I mean the administration). Many
FL educators in our corner of TN have had too little time to think about
their discipline or how, specifically, to teach it. Let’s not let
another general education concern invade the time of our subjects.

Having said this, however, I do see a special place for discipline
concerns. This will not make many theoretical methodologists unhappy,
but I think that those of us who teach methodology might do well to
think through the discipline aspect of the teaching strategies we
suggest. I have seen many well-conceived exercises that will not work
with classes that are anything but docile. Again, I do not believe it is
wise to include discipline as a unit. It should be the job of another
part of the education curriculum to do this, and the cooperating teacher
should play a very large role in this, since the CT is the only player
full-time on the field. CAVEAT: Though I have been a CT (back in my bad
ole coaching days) I have never been a methods teacher.


B. Advice for the Student Teacher

2013/10 From-> Peter Hunt <phunt810@GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Student Teaching

I was wondering if any one has any advice for student teaching? I'm going to start student teaching next semester and I was wondering if anyone had any wisdom to share.
P Hunt


2013/10 From-> paul conley <pconleynm@COMCAST.NET>
Subject: Student Teaching

P Hunt,
Anticipate everything and expect nothing. You’ll learn a lot during your student teaching experience. Some of what you have learned in your Ed. classes will help and some won’t. Hopefully, you’ll have a good master teacher. Establish a trusting relationship with him/her, and take any advice that you are given. Be inventive, be realistic, and be adaptable. It’s a wild, refreshing ride that doesn’t require seat belts.


2013/10 From-> CAROL ROSS STACY <crjs@MAC.COM>
Subject: Student Teaching

I do, indeed, have advice!

Know now that your semester of student teaching is the hardest thing you have ever done (until your first year of teaching.) Be prepared:
1. Get your wardrobe in order. Wear a dress shirt and tie. Every day. Even if you have a day when teachers can wear jeans and a t shirt, don't do it. (Well, maybe dockers and a polo shirt.) If you don't have a professional wardrobe, go to Goodwill and give your family hints for holiday gifts. Look like an adult so you start to think of yourself as an adult.
2. Stock up on vitamins and the like. Plan exercise time. Take care of yourself.
3. Don't plan much of anything else. You won't have time.
4. Take care of daily things now. Need a new battery in your car? Get it now. Don't go out to your car and find out that the battery is gone (like I did last Monday. Not fun.) Stock up on the basics like cat food (in my case) and toilet paper and staples in the kitchen and all the stuff that you're going to be too tired to do. Buy birthday gifts now that you will need in April, because you won't have time.
5. Shift your expectations of yourself from student expectations to adult expectations. Students are sometimes happy with a grade of 85, ecstatic with a 95. Teacher expectations are "I'm going to be right every time. I'm going to be prepared, I'm going to look surf up. I'm going to be over-planned." OK, you won't be 100% correct, but that's your professional goal.
6. Prepare to plan, plan some more, then plan some more. If you're over-prepared, you will have fewer discipline problems.
7. REalize that you are walking into classes that the teacher has already gotten under control. Ask him/her how he/she started the year. Ask about kids.
8. Remember that you aren't there to be friends with the students. (See above about learning to see yourself as an adult.) That sounds condescending, and I'm sorry, but this frequently becomes an issue. Under no circumstances do you become FaceBook friends, don't text them, don't see them out of class, and if you do run into them at WalMart, make sure they call you "Mr. Hunt." No first names with kids. Ever. Under no circumstances do you let a student into your car, even if it's freezing cold and the kid doesn't have a ride home. Pay for a cab. And no, I'm not kidding. Under. No. Circumstances.
9. Communicate professionally. Pay attention to caps and punctuation. (You did, in your post. Not everyone does.) Spelling matters now that you're a Grown Up.
10. Start saving your money to travel to the country of your target language next summer. Plan how you're going to grow in the language, both in this country and otherwise. My motto: the day you stop learning is the day you start to die. Learn something new every day. Read newspapers online and seek out native speakers so that your language improves every day.
11. Student teaching will stretch you. Prepare for a good semester. Prepare to be totally exhausted, prepare to grow professionally. And welcome to the best profession in the world.



2013/10 From-> Stephanie Piggott <spiggott@MAIL.USF.EDU>
Subject: Student Teaching

Be prepared for nothing to go the way you planned it! I just did my student teaching last semester and I absolutely LOVED it! But you must be flexible! I know that up to this point in school you have been asked to create elaborate lesson plans with an insane amount of detail to every second that is spent on a lesson. Make your lesson plans flexible; also when planning each unit give yourself one or two 'extra' days in case you need to go back and recover topics. Learn to be able to 'flow' with your students, assessing whether or not they are on the same page as you in the learning. Remember, it's not about us, it's about them.

Stephanie Piggott


2013/10 From->
Subject: Student Teaching


2013/10 From-> Kline, Rebecca <kliner@DICKINSON.EDU>
Subject: Student Teaching

These are excellent suggestions, to which I might add:

1. No matter how well prepared you are, be prepared for things to go differently than you thought they would and to be flexible! (That said, you still have to over-prepare, as Carol recommends!).
2. Many of our professional associations have fantastic student rates for everything from memberships to webinars to conference fees to journal subscriptions. Sign up while you're still a student -- in many cases, a membership will last the calendar year, so it will be January 2015 before you have to re-up at the normal rate.

My organization, NECTFL, is focusing on students and new teachers at our spring conference in Boston (March 27-30, 2014). Among other things, we're having "newbie" webinars starting in January that will be free to students, teachers in their first years, career changers, etc. We solicit questions and input from our newest colleagues and use that as a basis for creating the content of the webinars, so they are extremely responsive and user-friendly! You'll get info on the conference so you don't feel like a fish out of water when you arrive.

Please check us out at and check back as information is updated.

Best of luck to you as you enter this noble profession!

Becky Kline
Executive Director, NECTFL


2013/10 From-> Bill Heller <thinchalkline@GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Student Teaching

As someone who now supervises student teachers, I can only echo what Carol Stacy said. These are fundamentally important.

I'd like to add a couple of specific suggestions on learning behavior management, which is usually the "bête noire" of student and beginning teachers.

1. Visualize your lesson plan in the way an athlete visualizes a dive, a skating routine, or a gymnastic routine. Focus on how you will transition from one section of the lesson to the next and how you will keep the students with you.

2. For each activity you plan make sure to think through your EXACT instructions for the students. Include visual supports (Powerpoint or Smartboard slide with a checklist or bullet points of instructions; notes on whiteboard, individual reference sheets, etc.) to help students understand and independently follow directions. In your instructions include behavioral expectations (depending on the level of your group - what you expect to see and hear). Plan some kind of "accountability check" to debrief and assess each activity. Finally, figure out how to transition to the next activity.

3. Write out questions in advance - don't count on being able to do questioning "on the fly." Good questioning needs to be planned in advance, at least as you're beginning your career. After about 5 years it becomes more natural.

4. Do all student assignments yourself before assigning them. This is a check for errors and also makes sure that the students can do the task you've planned with the vocabulary and structures that they have learned or are targeting.

5. Plan for every minute of instruction from what you and the students are doing from the time they enter until the time they leave. Leave nothing to chance.

6. Finally, it may turn out that there are some practices that your cooperating teacher does that you may question. This is his/her classroom and you are a guest. S/he is accountable for their progress. Sometimes, you may find that you need to expand your repertoire to include approaches that you didn't know about before. Other times, you'll identify that the practice in question is truly not effective. That's fine. You won't choose to do that when you have your own classroom and your own kids. That being said, don't be afraid to ask your coop teacher for permission to try an alternative strategy that may be new to him/her. Most coop teachers I have worked with choose to work with an ST because they also gain so much in terms of new ideas and in terms of reflecting on their own practice in order to answer the ST's questions.

Good luck! Now, more than ever, we need effective, passionate and compassionate teachers and advocates for world language proficiency for all.

Bill Heller


2013/10 From-> Troy Fullerton <northdude7@YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Student Teaching

You're getting some great advice; let me add a few thoughts of my own.

1. Don't be a critic, and keep your negative opinions to yourself. You're there to observe and to learn, not to give advice and not to fix anything. Teachers, like anybody else, don't always live up to the ideal image of what you may think they should. You may see or hear things you don't agree with or consider unprofessional. Make a mental note of those things, but don't take issue, and especially, don't talk to the other teachers about their colleagues. You may be 100% correct, and the people you're talking to may even know it--but they won't want to hear it from you.

2. Keep an open mind, particularly with experienced teachers who have some proverbial fruit on their professional "trees". Talk to them and learn all you can about things like classroom discipline, relating to kids, dealing with parents, getting along with administration, and navigating the system. You're never going to have this good of an opportunity to learn the nuts and bolts of your career. This would be a great time for some journaling, some interviews, and some classroom visitations.

3. Steal ideas wherever you can find them. Learn all the games, techniques, and gimmicks you can. Remember that teachers love to teach--so let them share their ideas and advice with you.

4. Make your cooperating teacher look good---to EVERYONE--parents, colleagues, administration, students--speak highly of him/her, and talk about what you appreciate about him/her. You'll understand the wisdom behind this after you get into your own classroom. For now, suffice it to say that it is a bigger deal that you may imagine to have in a student teacher, and everything you can do to foster a good relationship with him/her is worth the investment.

Troy L. Fullerton
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma


2013/10 From-> Joanne O'Toole <jeotoole423@GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Student Teaching

Dear Peter,

I concur with all the wonderful advice that has been given so far.  Here are my two (or more) centavos:

1.  Enter into student teaching with the mindset that you are a teacher, not a student.  This can be particularly difficult when you see other college students able to just be college students.  But it will make all the difference in how you approach your experience and how you are perceived.

2.  Consider every ounce of work you are asked to do as an opportunity rather than an obligation or burden.  The more experiences you have, the more learning can take place, and ultimately, the better prepared you will be to take on your own classroom.

3.  Consider student struggles as an opportunity to become a better teacher rather than a source of frustration.  Investigate the issues, identify alternative teaching strategies, teach learning strategies, build experience promoting the learning of all students.

4.  Travel beyond the four walls of the classroom to which you are assigned.  Meet and talk to the guidance counselors, school psychologist, social worker, special educators, ESL teachers, librarian, nurse, etc.
Learn about their positions and ways their positions inform yours.  Talk to and observe teachers in your same and other content areas to broaden your insights and strengthen your repertoire of teaching practices.

5.  Know what you are going to teach so well that you can focus your attention on the students when you are teaching, rather than on your lesson plan.  Through that attention, you can make strong connections to students and know how to best address their needs.




2013/11 From-> Mary Keller <marousko4@GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Student Teaching

Hello Peter,

Above all, be professional at all times, in doing all your work to the best of your ability, in your attire, in your comportment, in your dialogue and in your relationships with your students. Observe a variety of classroom management techiques used by other teachers in your building. Model and adapt the good classroom management strategies for your own classroom. Prepare your lesson plans thoroughly and stay organized Do not be discouraged if the lessons you worked on for many hours didn't go as you had hoped. Don't throw these plans away but return to them later and see how they can be reworked and modified. Students need to be actively engaged in the learning process. Start with what your students know, connect this basic frame of knowledge to what they are about to learn, and then keep inching them forward to higher objectives. Provide many opportunities for your students to practice in a variety of ways what you expect them to learn. Remember that every student has a different learning style. Some may need more visual reinforcement, while others learn better by repetition or in written form.

While the student teaching experience may sound daunting, the honest and willing rapport you and your supervising teacher establish will lead to a rewarding outcome for you as you begin your teaching career.

All my best wishes to you.

kind regards,
a retired high school French teacher


2013/11 From-> Darla Miller <DMiller@HIGHLANDSCHOOLS.ORG>
Subject: Student Teaching


All of these wise teachers have given great advice.  In fact I read many of them just to remind myself after 20 years of things that remain important.   I will echo Troy.  Make your teacher look good.  We had a bad experience with student teacher in our building last year.  She badmouthed her cooperating teacher to others in our building.  Her cooperating teacher is one of the most loved teacher in our district and this student teacher was complaining in front of her friends.  Remember that you are a guest in other teachers' "home".  Keep your classroom clean, wash your dishes in the lounge, if you drink coffee donate to the coffee fund - and let others know that you are donating.  This sounds silly and petty but it truly is part of professional courtesy.  It may not be noticed if you do it but will certainly be noticed if you don't.   Finally, don't say negative things to anyone in the building.  Some of the best advice I ever received as a new teacher was don't give any negative opinions for your first year.  It will influence how others see you and might just save your neck.



C. The Responsibilities of the Student Teacher

96/08 From-> "Charles J. James" <>
Subject: Student teaching

A number of FLTers have asked about guidelines for student teachers. The
following are mine from last spring, although in the past five years the
basic outline has changed little. Obviously, cooperating teachers
receive a copy, too, although most of the teachers I routinely work with
already know pretty much what to expect - and to demand - from student

1.The  guidelines below are flexible. You and the cooperating teacher
with whom you will be working will determine specifics. Your semester
is, however, the high school's semester, not the University's. Please be
ready to begin student teaching in January after the New Year's break.

2. You will be a student teacher in a program that already exists. Your
first task will be to learn how your cooperating teacher teaches, what
kinds of materials and techniques he/she uses, and what expectations are
presented to students in the school. For this reason you should spend at
least one week observing the cooperating teacher and his/her students at
work in their program, unless you are familiar with it already.

3. You are not expected to begin teaching full time right from the
start.  By the middle of the semester (March), however, you should be
teaching according to your student status (three/four classes for a
major, one/two for a minor). After approximately three weeks full time
work, you should feel free to pull back to the one or two classes that
you feel most comfortable teaching. By mid-May, you should be ready to
return most of the classes to the cooperating teacher, since this will
be his/her last opportunity of the year to get "their" students back
before graduation and summer vacation.

4. Your cooperating teacher should observe your teaching every day for
at least the first three weeks of continuous teaching, and then again as
you add a new class. You may be left on your own, without the
cooperating teacher in the room, in a class that you are thoroughly
familiar with, but should not be alone for longer than one week at a
time. Even when you are on your own you should discuss your work with
the cooperating teacher every single day.

5. Recall all that you have learned in (our university classes), but do
not feel obligated to try everything out in high school classes; it
simply will not work. Plan every class hour very carefully with your
cooperating teacher, asking for suggestions or simply observing
techniques that he/she uses, but also where you would like to try out
something "new."

6a.---> Keep a detailed (daily) diary of your work as a student
teacher. I will want to see it at the end of the semester.

6b.---> Keep copies of any handouts that you make for your students or
that your cooperating teacher uses while you are observing her/him at
work. At the end of the semester I will want to receive a folder from
you with this material.

6c.---> In addition I will expect you to write a short (FIVE to SEVEN)
page summary of your student teaching experiences, discussing techniques
you have learned to use effectively and materials that you have had the
opportunity to develop.

7. I will visit you at least four times in your classes during the
semester, schedule and weather permitting, starting at the end of
January. Especially if you have a major placement, I will stay in the
school for at least two or three class periods. I will always inform you
when I plan to visit; there will be no "surprise visits," unless
requested by the cooperating teacher.

8. My role is as instructor of record for the course . I base my
evaluations on:

a. recommendation by your cooperating teacher, b. quality of your diary,
folder, and summary report, and c. my observations in your classes, in
that order. That aside, one of my unofficial roles is that of resource
person: if I have materials and references that you and/or your
cooperating teacher might find useful, do not hesitate to ask about - or
for! - them.

Alles Gute im Semester!


The following is a set of notes  taken over the years relating to
specific areas of high school teaching of (foreign language). Some may
not mean much now, but read them over now anyway.

Thema Nr. 0: Preparation

When preparing each class, work through each activity from the
perspective of your students. How much new information will they need?
How long will it take them to work through an activity? What happens if
they do not respond as you plan? What vocabulary and/or structures are
they likely to ask questions about beyond what you plan? Always put
yourself in the student's place when you plan your lessons.

Thema Nr. 1: Attentiveness

Learners cannot learn unless you have their attention. Simply talking to
the class is not enough. Come away from the desk or overhead or the
corner of the room and stand in the middle of the students' field of
vision. Speak clearly, in short statements, and with enough volume to be
heard by the torpid teenager in the corner. Make sure that you have
students' attention before you go on to the first (or next) activity. It
is not necessary to have pin-dropping silence. However, you and your
students must be able to hear and see each other before either of you
can work effectively.

Thema Nr. 2: Assignments and Directions

Make sure that your directions to students are clear and concise, spoken
in language that students can understand, be it German or English. Above
all: Keep your directions simple. Maintain eye contact with the group so
that you can tell whether or not your students have caught on to what
you are saying. Do not begin an activity until everyone understands what
you want them to do. This takes just a few seconds, but can save you
many minutes of long-winded repetition. Warning: never ask students if
they "understand." The answer is always "yes!"

Thema Nr. 3: Formal “you” versus informal “you”

We all assume that you have total control of the German language in the
classroom. However, you must be especially careful to be consistent
about addressing students in German. If you address one informally, then
you must use the plural form for the entire class. If you are not used
to using these forms, it is time to learn to do so.

Thema Nr. 4: English versus Target Language

How much English should you use? What if students seem to have
difficulty understanding you when you speak German? Is it necessary to
use German all the time? To the first question: use English with
beginning students to explain involved procedures. Allow all students to
use English to respond to material not immediately related to what they
are learning. To the second question: what is said may be less of a
problem than how much is said. If you talk a lot, in either English or
German, you cannot hear or see how students are reacting.

Students of a second language always - I repeat, always - react more
slowly to the target language than to their native language. They simply
cannot process it fast enough. Reread the section on "Aufgaben und
Anweisungen" (Assignments and Directions) for additional thoughts. To
the last question about using German all the time, the answer is No! Use
German where it can be readily understood, such as when you are
practicing a pattern, or using everyday classroom management language
(Schlagt die Buecher auf Seite 99 auf! Wie bitte? usw.)(Open the books
up to page 99! How’s that? etc.).

Gear your language to the class you are teaching, keeping in mind that
students should be listening to as much meaningful German as possible.
One last but critical thought: avoid saying something in German and then
giving an English translation. Students will never listen to German if
they know that you are going to translate it for them, especially in
situations where they could understand the German.

Thema Nr. 5: Four things to promote:

Make them listen - When asking a question or giving a pattern for
students to practice, let the entire group know what the task is before
you call on a student. Ask your question, then look around to see who
might have the answer. Call on him/her, if you wish. Or call on someone
who has not raised his/her hand. Do not call on one student until all
students have heard the question and are, potentially, ready to respond.
In addition, try not to call on students in some sort of predictable
order, such as a seating chart. This allows them to tune out to what is
going on since it isn't their turn yet (or again). Always speak to a
class as a unit before asking a student to respond.

Make them answer - The answer is rarely important. Nor is it important
that you give all answers all the time. What is, however, very
important, is that students practice. If a student does not give "the"
answer that you might like to hear, ask another student to answer.
Listen to students. Be sure that they give the answers before you repeat
it for the entire class.

Let them finish - Wait until a student has given an answer before trying
to correct. Be judicious about correcting students in mid-sentence or
giving an answer without practice by the student. When you finally do
give the answer, it should be to confirm, or simply to repeat for the
entire class, an answer already given by one or more students.

Have answers repeated - Frequently students give "incorrect" or simply
unexpected responses. However, even if one student gives a "good"
answer, students at the other end of the room may not have heard it.
Have students repeat. They need practice. Let them have it.

Observation I. ---> K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple, Student!)

Plan your lessons carefully, but do not overplan. Do not have so much
detail that you cannot keep the details straight. Instead of a
ten-minute lecture, present three or four clear examples, and let
students take it from there. Instead of asking five questions of three
students, ask three and let five students answer them. Instead of
setting three tasks all at once, set one task, have all students work on
it for a short time, then follow it up with another (hopefully related)
task. And please don't talk tasks to death! A short, concise set of
directions should be enough. If you have to talk for two to three
minutes about what you have in mind for students to do, chances are it
is too complicated. If students need more guidance, be ready to give it,
but do not assume that they cannot do it until they say so.

Observation II. ---> WIE BITTE? (What did you say?)

One phenomenon permeates a lot of teaching observed over the years:
student teachers are afraid to allow students to speak. Student teachers
love to talk (to?) themselves. And talk. And talk. And talk. Then they
ask questions. Over and over again. Sometimes in German. Sometimes in
English. Sometimes in both. Sometimes in both at once. But when they
finally call on a student, he/she mumbles something inaudible, they say
"Sehr gut" or "Sehr schoen" and give the answer they wanted to hear
instead of responding to the one that the student actually said. Then
they go on to the next hapless soul who mumbles something
incomprehensible which they immediately try to correct, often clumsily.
Usw. Here then are three principles to observe:

1) Listen! Have students speak up as clearly as possible. Play deaf if
you have to. You cannot work with something you have not heard clearly.
You are not the center of attraction; they are. Let them speak!

2) Have students repeat what they have just said. Whether it was correct
or not, this allows you to decide where and what to correct or praise.
It definitely gives students an opportunity to get an extra few seconds
of practice, which they can always use. The right answer is not as
important as students learning how to create them in the first place.

3) Have other students help when necessary before intervening with the
"correct" answer. Students are there to learn German, not simply to hear
yours. They need practice speaking. You don't.

Bemerkung III. ---> German or not German, that is NOT the question!

You speak German well. However, none of you are natives. We encourage
the use of German in the classroom, which means that it is necessary for
you to be as confident in your use of German as possible. At the same
time, errors are inevitable, especially if you are trying to adjust your
level of spoken German to the students' level of listening proficiency,
which is always slow at best. Even if you were natives, you may never
have spoken before a group of people before, in either German or
English, with the result that you can easily slip into ungeschicktes
Geplapper. Knowing how much to say is as important as exactly what to

With this in mind, here are two laws - not principles - to observe:

1) Under no circumstances teach students "wrong" German. If you are not
sure of the gender or plural of a noun or the Imperfekt of a verb or
whether a word is spelled with an Umlaut or not, but you plan to have
students say or write these forms in class, check them out ahead of
time. ...

2) If students ask questions in class and you are not sure of the
answer, never "fake" an answer. If you can give a clear, accurate
answer, fine. However, your authority in the classroom comes from your
ability to help students learn, not from your (lack of) knowledge of
German. There is nothing wrong with going blank. Show students where and
how to find the answer. How about the textbook? Or a DICTIONARY (hint,
hint!)? Two good techniques are to ask if another student has the answer
or to hand students a dictionary and have them look it up. After all,
what will they do when you are not around?

Charles J. James

D. Observing Other Teachers; Debriefing Your Own Experience With Your Fellow ST-ers.

96/08 From-> Patricia Seaver <>
Subject: student teachers

One of the things I encourage student teachers to do is to ask their
cooperating teacher to recommend master teachers in the building and to
arrange observations and consultations with those teachers when the
student teacher has a free period.  Even when (our student teachers) are
placed with a top notch cooperating teacher, I think it's good for them
to observe other teaching styles. However, I always caution them that
*observing* isn't enough--they have to *reflect* on what they have
observed. They need to ask why a teacher uses a certain technique or why
the teacher handled a given situation a certain way.

Pat Seaver
SUNY College at Geneseo


96/09 From-> Timothy Mason <>
Subject: Re: Debriefing session after practicum

Jean LeLoup, addressing the question of how to debrief trainees after
practicum, suggests that they should "relate the best of what they saw
and the worst in terms of classroom practices they may have observed
during their stint at ST-ing". I am slightly unhappy with this for at
least two reasons - but it may be that I do not understand exactly what
you mean by 'practicum'.
First, teachers who are willing to have trainees sit in on their lessons
- and not all of them will - have the right not to be regarded in the
judgmental light that Jean's advice suggests. When I send my students
out to observe classroom teaching for the first time, I make it very
clear to them that I do not want them to look for the good and the bad -
but simply to observe what actually happens.

Second, I find that trainees very often react to their own teaching in
these evaluative terms - but are incapable of saying what it was that
they did. I usually suggest that trainees record at least one of their
lessons, using a pocket tape-recorder. We are also able to send them
into the field in pairs with a video camera. Going back through the
session with the trainer is difficult but extremely rewarding.

William won't have these techniques available. I'd suggest asking them
each to think of some language that they taught - a function, a rule of
grammar or whatever - to a particular class, and to try to remember how
they taught it. Get them to work in pairs or in groups, telling each
other how they tackled each of the phases of the lesson, how they
planned it, and how it worked in practice. Then bring them together and
discuss how and why real lessons differ from planned ones - always
asking them to keep it concrete, and give examples.

Oh, yes - and do allow those who have discovered that it is not their
thing to bow out gracefully.

Best wishes
Timothy Mason
IUFM de Versailles


96/09 From-> Irene Moon <>
Subject: Re: Debriefing session after practicum

The comments and suggestions for debriefing, I thought, were very good
ones. I'd like to add some additional thoughts, some things that perhaps
have grown out of working with entry level teachers and designing staff
development programs for experienced teachers.

I think it is very important that early on beginners get into the habit
of being self-reflective. I suppose in a way, to "debrief" themselves on
a daily basis. What went well? what didn't? Was there another way to
handle the kid w an outburst in my class today?

Did I accomplish my instructional goals for the day (notice I didn't say
did I cover pages 7-10 or did I cover the preterit today?) All teachers
need to evaluate their plan for the day.

What could I have done better? How could I link the new material to
something relevant in the student's life? How could I give the student
some ownership of what we're doing in class? (AS with adult learners,
students become more motivated when they have more control over and
ownership of their own learning). What percentage of the time was spent
teacher talk and what percent in student talk? How can I design lessons
that get students into active participation? interactive strategies?

What kind of a classroom atmosphere have I created in which learning can
take place? What kind of praise am I offering? (general and public is
meaningless in most cases; private and specific is better in Sec. Ed.
i.e. "Very effective use of transitional words" is better than "great
job!" Do we do some instructional things that are also fun, appealing?
This list is a rich source for such!!

In debriefing, soon to be entry year teachers need to be making the
transition, or at least be aware that thru student teaching their focus
has been on "Me, the teacher.. lesson designer, implementer, leader,
assignment maker/checker, grade giver etc." Let's help them bridge the
gap to being "Student centered" or how is my teaching impacting the
students? are they learning? are they on task? Am I getting/giving
feedback about their/my performance? Am I monitoring and adjusting the
instruction as I both carry through the daily plan and observe its

Sharing and collaborating is GOOD! AS those of us on the list know so
well! EYT need to be encouraged to do this with mentors and other
newbies for professional growth and personal and emotional stability. All
the research by Joyce and Showers indicates that teaching is a very
lonely profession where we go into the classroom at the beginning of the
year and throw a mattress up against the door and start and finish the
year that way, keeping to ourselves the good ideas, the
failures...afraid or unwilling to share them with anyone.

Perhaps it should also be mentioned that risk-taking is good too! Always
be willing to try something new! Keep growing! No one is perfect.. we can
all improve. That especially, is so difficult, for most experienced
teachers to accept. They go to pieces when an evaluator suggest
something. Be open to change when it is appropriate.

Thanks for letting me share, guys! My heart is touched by the needs of
the new teacher, especially knowing that their professional lives are
going to be so much more complex and demanding than when we started, oh,
so long ago.

Irene Moon


96/09 From-> John Young <>
Subject: Re: Debriefing session after practicum

>A group of student-teachers who are almost finished their 7 week practicum
>will be returning to class in a couple of weeks. Do any of you have any
>suggestions for a debriefing session ?
>>William Armour

I have been in debriefings where each person wrote on a 3x5 card a
problem s/he had had to deal with. The facilitator collected the cards,
read one and the group discussed it--trouble-shooting, analyzing,
suggesting, and applying what we had learned. Then on to the next card.
It worked pretty well, and allowed those who wished to remain anonymous
to do so.

Might not be a bad idea to also provide for them to tell about successes
and how they brought them about.

Good luck,

Mary Young


97/08 From-> Wendy Yamazaki <>
Subject: Re: Student teaching

I just completed my practicum and thought it was the best experience!
You learn so much about teaching and dealing with kids that you'll never
learn at the universities.

1) relax. You're there to learn, so don't expect to be perfect. Expect
to make mistakes and learn from them.

2) be yourself. Don't try to imitate your sponsor teachers. Take any
advice they give or techniques that they use that suit your style.

3) have clear expectations, re: student behaviour, academic performance,
etc. Know what you want of them beforehand.

4) be clear on consequences of inappropriate behaviour and be
consistent. e.g. students cheating on a test will get an automatic 0 ,

Those are just a few. I could go on, but it really depends on the
students you get, your sponsor teacher, the administration and staff of
the practicum school, and your personal style. I had some of the best
sponsor teachers and the main sponsor teacher (Japanese lang.) felt that
learning how to teach was intuitive so he left me to my own devices.
Even though I felt like I was floundering most of the time, it worked
out and I managed to get through it. A couple of the students actually
liked me! ;^)

The students WILL try to get under your skin because you're a student
teacher, so don't take it personally. A sense of humour will help you
tremendously as well.

Good Luck! I'm sure you'll do fine.

Gambatte ne, Sensei!

Wendy Yamazaki

E. Key Comments From Survivors About How They Did It

97/08 From-> "Susan J. Mitchell" <>
Subject: Re: Student teaching

>This suggestion may seem a little off the wall to you at this point, but 4 of my student
>teachers did not realize the value of a long nights sleep...They had to be told!
>They thought they could still hang out with college buddies or be on the phone until
>2 am and figured they'd have enough energy to get through the day...They did not.
>Teaching can be exhausting!!! Put your night life on the back burner, and get all of
>the sleep you can...At least then, you'll have the energy and alertness to tackle the lesson.

This is some good advice for student teachers to know. As a veteran
teacher, I always make sure I begin the school year with getting good
sleep since it is exhausting and having been off all summer ..... well,
one can function and think better when one has a good night's sleep. So
I make sure I get good sleep the first few weeks of school until I am
back into the swing of things and even then continue with the good night

Student teachers need to realize this and make the necessary adjustments
to provide for good sleep, because job performance won't be up to par
without it. I will need to remind myself to mention this to my student
teacher in a week or fact I may just email her with a few
reminders and mention this to her at that time.

Susan J. Mitchell


97/08 From-> Megan Horn <>
Subject: Re: Student teaching

Thanks for your advice about the sleep. I'm 30 years old this year
(ack!) and have discovered that all of a sudden I need lots of sleep. I
mean lots. During my pre-student teaching (a 3 week stint), I found
myself actually going to bed a couple of nights at 7:30! I hope I'm not
that exhausted the whole time I am student teaching, but I have been
counting on it!



97/08 From->
Subject: Re: Student teaching


I remember before I decided to become a teacher, my mom was a teacher
and on weekends I couldn't understand why she wanted to sleep in. After,
there was just too many things to do, like go hiking or skiing or
shopping. Anyway, after becoming a teacher myself, I find that I want to
sleep in on weekends. As a matter of fact, right near the end of the
year, I fall asleep on the couch watching the news. It is just very
energy demanding having to put on a show for six hours a day, plus all
the other work that is required, planning, grading, etc. You are not
alone in this phenomenon. I love my free time. Good luck this

Anna Damiens


97/09 From-> Patricia Seaver <>
Subject: Re: tips for student-teaching

>In a few weeks I will be student -teaching. I'm a little nervous and I don't what to
>expect. Is there anyone that can give me a few tips on how to prepare for this?

Check the FLTEACH archives for Marilyn Barrueta's post "Advice to New
Teachers"--she reposted it recently.

Some additional advice from a college supervisor of student teachers:
Plan to get lots of rest. Take multi-vitamins. Clear your calendar for
the first few weeks. Observe other teachers in the building. Get to know
the librarian, guidance counselors, administrators. Start learning names
immediately. Take the initiative to assist your cooperating teacher
during the "observation" period. Volunteer to correct homeworks and
tests; it's a good way to connect names, faces and performance which
will help you get to know your students. Stay subscribed to FLTEACH.

Patricia Seaver


97/09 From-> Denise Overfield <>
Subject: Re: tips for student-teaching

Melissa: While I don't have a LOT of experience supervising student
teachers, I have some. Here are some things some of those teachers have
said to me or reflected on while student teaching:

1. Keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your
supervising teacher. This is true whether or not you are having problems
with any aspect of the experience.

2. Rest. Teaching is exhausting. Don't pull all-nighters. Eat well.

3. Communicate with your cooperating teacher.

4. Try to stay organized. You may feel overwhelmed at times, but those
lesson plans you've been learning to write DO help.

5. Try to keep your sense of humor. Students will test you, challenge
you, love you and hate you. You need to develop a thick hide, but a
sense of humor about the situation helps.

6. Remember that you are a professional. A novice, but a professional
nonetheless. You must dress and act the part, even when you still think
of yourself as a student.

I hope this helps. Teaching is scary but incredibly rewarding, and
you'll have days when you feel exhilarated and others when you feel like
hibernating for a few months just to escape. Good luck.

Denise Overfield
Assistant Professor of Spanish/Methods


97/10 From-> Megan Horn <>
Subject: Re: advice

>I'm going to be starting my student teaching on Monday and I can't tell you how
>nervous I am. I'm starting to have anxiety attacks. I was wondering if any of you
>had some advice for student teachers.

I'm posting this to the list in case there are any other new student
teachers out there.


First of all, get a good night's sleep every night. I go to bed soooo
early, but I feel awake during the day (and that is more than the other
student teachers feel, who stay up as late as they did before student

Second, respect your co-ops rules and ways of running his/her classroom.
Although you might think you know how to do it better, this person has
been teaching for a while and probably is doing what is right for

Third, ask your co-op if you can jump right in, even if it is just a
three minute lesson. It helps the nervousness if you start teaching
right away.

Be proactive. Don't wait for your co-op to ask you to do something, be
there ready to do it or even have it done ahead of time. Offer to hand
out papers for your co-op, or to put scores in the gradebook.

Finally, have fun (if possible). I am having the time of my life student
teaching. I know that I'm probably the only student teacher in my
school, at least, who doesn't want to leave in December. I love my
students, I'm going to miss them and the school.

Good luck!



Subject: Re: advice

>Also, I don't think that my cooperating teacher has a list of rules posted
>in the classroom. Do you think that it's necessary for a list to be posted
>in the classroom? I'm a little worried that the students might try and take
>advantage of me because I'm new.

No doubt. Kids will be kids. Hopefully you have an idea of what the
atmosphere of your classroom should be (i.e., one of mutual respect,
environment conducive to learning, etc.). You might discuss w/your CT
the possibility of reviewing class "rules" or expectations" just to make
sure the students know that you are all still on the same page. You can
always ask them what they think the class should be like in order for
optimal learning to take place. They do know and they will tell you.

>Lastly, the other day when I went into observe, a couple of students asked me
>if I was going to be in their Spanish class. Apparently I look younger than I am.
>I would like to know how to separate being their friend from being their teacher.
>I'm 24 and I have a younger brother who has some friends who are not much
>older than high school students.

Hmmm, I'm trying to remember if I ever had this problem, but it's been
so-o-o-o-o-o-o long . . .**;-) This can be a real problem--you are NOT
that far removed from them age-wise. Just dress and act professionally
and that will go a long way toward establishing who is the teacher.

Most of all, experiment, be creative, and enjoy--this is your time to
try out all that stuff you learned in FL methods, no? **:-)

Good luck!



97/10 From-> "Adrien J. Salvas" <>
Subject: Re: advice

This is for Allison, and any other soon-to-be student teacher:

* Forget the list of rules on the classroom wall.

* Yes, the students will try to take advantage of you.

* Yes, you will be tested daily by the kids.

* Yes, your fears are warranted--they're normal!

But you should take control of your fear; you will be the authority in
the classroom. You're the boss. You know far more about what you are
teaching than they do--and they know that. Do not go into this with a
me/them attitude. You will be their teacher, and just go in and act in a
professional manner--and that includes how you dress. Dress like any
other professional woman. Good Luck.

Adrien Salvas, Mendham HS, Mendham, N.J.


97/10 From-> Liz Klem <>
Subject: Re: advice

<< Lastly, the other day when I went into observe, a couple of students
asked me if I was going to be in their Spanish class. Apparently I look
younger than I am. I would like to know how to separate being their
friend from being their teacher. >>

This brings back memories! As the new student teacher being escorted by
the principal (at age 21 I looked about 16) the high school boys kept
saying "Who's the new girl?" and seemed pretty excited. It was kind of a
ripple effect. Imagine their surprise to see me in front of class. The
good news is that once I opened my mouth, they knew I was the teacher.
It worked out fine except for one sweet 7th grader who had a mighty
crush on me. He kept writing his thoughts on his papers but at least his
Spanish improved greatly from his previous work.

I did learn a bit about clothes, though. I had few clothes and no
budget.  My skirts were all amazingly short (pants were not yet allowed
in school--this was 1970--sigh) and I learned that you could not raise
your arm to write on the chalkboard. This was a problem especially
because I am only 5' tall and thus had a narrow range of useable board.
So yes, dress as professionally as you can. Rest a lot. Be the teacher.
Try not to let stress get to you and enjoy all the little things that
come up. From one who no longer looks years younger,

Good luck,

Contributors are:

Anna Damiens
Jeri Dies
Megan Horn
Charles James
Liz Klem
Jean LeLoup
Timothy Mason
Susan Mitchell
Irene Moon
Denise Overfield
Robert Peckham
Chelo R
Adrien Salvas
Patricia Seaver
Wendy Yamazaki
Mary Young

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