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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is a Ph.D candidate at the University of South Florida, where he also works as a teaching assistant, supervising and teaching pre-service teachers. Steve holds a master's degree...
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Should I Host a Student Intern?

Mentor teachers play a significant role in helping to prepare new teachers for the profession. The rewards for hosting a student teacher in your classroom can be many: benefiting from their enthusiasm and energy, feelings of satisfaction as you see them grow and develop, picking up the latest teaching techniques, a chance to collaborate and co-teach.

However, deciding to mentor a student teacher is a major decision. The responsibility is great as you have agreed to serve as a role-model for this aspiring teacher, to guide them and to support them as they make the transition into the field. Hosting a student intern can be very challenging.

Mentor teachers have reported (Aspofors & Fransson, 2015; Beutel & Spooner-Lane, 2009) meeting resistance from student teachers, who are unwilling to accept advice or direction, and experienced a difference in pedegological beliefs. They have also struggled to find the time to mentor while teaching their own students and juggling other responsibilities.

Regardless, such challenges should not discourage experienced teachers from hosting student teachers, but rather, should help with making an informed decision about whether they believe they are in a position to accept the responsibility. Having worked with many mentor teachers and student interns, I crafted a short questionnaire that might help a teacher decide if mentoring is right for them.

Question 1: Do you have the patience and stamina to support a student teacher?

As a mentor teacher, you’ve contracted to host this individual in your classroom anywhere from one to five days per week (depending on the program). You will spend a lot of time together, and mentoring will require much energy and patience. Depending on your school district and the associated university, you may or may not be compensated for mentoring. In other words, there’s a good chance this is a volunteer job.

Question 2: Can you give up some control? Can you “share” the classroom?

Mentoring requires providing opportunities for the student teacher to learn and practice their craft. This means allowing them to teach, to work regularly with your students, to help design lessons, etc. You must be willing to give up some power. Of course, co-teaching models provide an effective way to navigate this space, allowing the student teacher to at times take the lead or provide support to smaller groups of students. You can design approaches that work for both of you but if you’re going to simply teach and make the intern simply observe and take notes the entire time, you might want to reconsider taking on an intern.

Question 3: Can you give honest, practical feedback?

One of the hardest things you will have to do as a mentor teacher is to provide authentic feedback. While you don’t want to discourage the student teacher, you must be willing to have honest conversations about their level of performance and development and provide direct feedback that helps them professionally.

Question 4: Can you manage the extra workload?

Serving as a mentor teacher will require completing additional paperwork and other tasks, such as formally observing the intern and conferencing with the intern and/or university supervisor. These are added tasks that take time. It’s important to consider how you will manage these duties in addition to the already heavy workload you carry as an educator.

Hopefully, these questions helped you make an informed decision over whether you should host a teaching intern. Mentoring a person and helping him or her enter the teaching profession can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your career. Just make sure you are ready.

 

References

Aspfors, J., & Fransson, G. (2015). Research on mentor education for mentors of newly qualified teachers: A qualitative meta-synthesis. Teaching and Teacher Education, 48, 75-86.

Beutel, D., & Spooner-Lane, R. (2009). Building mentoring capacities in experienced teachers. The International Journal of Learning, 16(4), 351-360.