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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Thinking of Mentoring a Student Teacher? Read this First

Mentoring a student teacher (often known as a teacher candidate) can be a truly rewarding experience. Helping someone enter the teaching profession and preparing them for that role is an incredibly important role.

If you are considering hosting a teaching intern, there are many considerations.  As a university supervisor, who has worked with many mentor teachers, I’d like to offer the following advice:

            Know Your Purpose

Consider the reasons why you want to invest the time and energy needed to host an intern. Often, mentor teachers do not receive financial compensation. That means your motivation could include inspiring a young person to enter the profession, staying connected with cutting-edge pedagogy (as teacher candidates are studying coursework at universities and colleges), recharging your own teaching skills (getting an infusion of “new blood”), or contributing to the larger education community. Taking on an intern because you think it means not having to teach, for instance, is not the best reason. In fact, hosting an intern means more work—coaching, teaching, paperwork, etc.

            Teaching About Teaching

Becoming a teacher educator requires not only understanding pedagogy, curriculum, classroom management, and assessment—but being able to model and teach these elements, often as you are teaching your own students. Think whether you’re willing and able to step aside while teaching to explain what you are doing and exactly why you’re are doing it.

            Sharing Space

Can you give up control? Mentoring requires giving up some control of your classroom and allowing the teaching intern to have space to practice. While you can practice various co-teaching models, you must at some point relinquish your power in the classroom and trust the intern with your students. This does not mean abandoning the intern but rather serving as a guide on the side.

            Showing Many Sides

Another aspect of mentoring is being able to expose teaching interns to a variety of teaching methods and styles. Are you comfortable with not only sharing your approach but allowing the intern to study other approaches and methods, ultimately, knowing they will choose their own path?  Mentoring is not about indoctrination, rather it is about showing the possibilities of teaching.


Mentoring also involves completing more paperwork and evaluations of the intern’s performance. This role could also require attending trainings and meetings. Understand that there is a time commitment.

Mentoring a teacher candidate can be a truly rewarding experience. Often, a close bond forms between mentor and mentee. As a mentor teacher, you have a profound influence on an emerging teacher and can help prepare them for a successful career. Reflect on the above consideration, though, before you make the commitment.