Powering the Global Education Conversation: About edCircuit

Where Do We Get Cooperating Teachers for Student Teachers?

By Franklin Schargel

The practical learning experience for my student teaching (now referred to as “clinical practice”) was greater than the theoretical learning of four years in a college classroom. The firsthand experience of observing experienced teachers at work and practicing my skills in front of a classroom was extremely valuable. Research from the National Council on Teacher Quality “indicates that student teaching offers a direct path in improving classroom teaching performance. “A new teacher who has had student teaching is as effective in their first year as most third-year teachers.” A good student teaching experience jump-starts a new teaching career. The payoff in terms of teacher quality is enormous.

How are mentor teachers selected? Traditional schools generally select people who volunteer. “Currently, only 4 percent of traditional programs appear to take much of a role in deciding who mentors the teacher candidate. Most programs send K-12 schools a list of student teachers who need mentors and accept the teachers that the schools propose. Because mentor selection has traditionally been the responsibility of the placement schools and because it can be hard to find teachers who are willing to serve as mentors.” (Source: 2020 Teacher Prep Review: Clinical Practice and Classroom Management, NCQT) Frequently, it is because they volunteer. I served as a mentor teacher several times. In K-12 schools, I was offered a course at the university.

Colleges provide students with background theory but little practical information. That comes with hands-on experience provided by someone who has been in a K-12 classroom. Some of the classes that I took in my college of education were taught by people who lacked K-12 classroom experience. Two of the cooperating teachers I had were superb, and even in the years that have passed, I remember Max Lipchitz and Marv Levine for their willingness to share their knowledge. They provided me with their years of experiences they had acquired in a variety of classrooms and situations.

Research indicates that when student teachers are matched with effective mentoring teachers, both groups learn from each other. With the narrowing of the university to K-12 classroom pipeline, fewer teachers are being prepared for the classroom. Only 4% percent of programs ensure that the mentor teachers have the skills necessary to effectively mentor potential teacher candidates.

Where can districts find effective mentoring teachers? There is a large body of experienced, retired educators who can serve as mentors. The reason many are not being used is that states place a cap on how much income they can earn in addition to collecting a pension. However, because there is a narrowing of the available staff to be mentored, it would appear to me that in the interest of providing additional mentors, the cap could be lifted.

My book Who Will Teach the Children? Recruiting, Retaining & Refreshing Highly Effective Educators (available through Amazon) provides a number of suggestions of improving classroom instruction through the hiring of teachers who have had experience with student teaching, including the creation of a special license for substitute teachers.

About the author

Franklin P. Schargel is a former classroom teacher, school counselor and school administrator who successfully designed, developed and helped implement a process that:  dramatically increased parental engagement, increased post-secondary school attendance and significantly lowered his Title 1 high school’s dropout rate. The U.S. Department of Education, Business Week, Fortune Magazine, National Public Radio (NPR), the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), and The New York Times have recognized his work. In addition, Schargel served as the Education Division Chair of the American Society for Quality and helped develop the National Quality Award, the Malcolm Baldridge Award for Education.

Schargel is an internationally recognized speaker, trainer and author of thirteen best-selling books. His last published book: “Creating Safe Schools: A Guide for School Leaders, Classroom Teachers, Counselors and Parents” has been published internationally by Francis and Taylor, LLC. In addition, he has written over 100 published articles dealing with school reform.

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