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3 Ways to Support a Lack Luster Student Teacher

Like students, student teachers' learning capabilities vary. Some student teachers understand concepts quickly and continuously outperform their peers without much effort. Others require more personal attention and extra time to perfect their practice. 

The disparity between performing student teachers and the luck luster ones is not in their inability to teach but in their failure to respond well to the standard approach or method employed in the classroom. Observing and learning your student teachers' thought processes is essential. This way, you know where they're tripping on their feet and how you can help them stand tall.

The one-size-fits-all approach may not work for every student teacher. Instead, you can utilize specific techniques to help them understand complicated concepts and catch up with their colleagues. Here are three ways you can support lackluster student teachers.

1. Set Realistic Expectations and Smaller Targets

Every student benefits from understanding information rather than completing tasks; student teachers learn similarly. Explain your reasons for teaching a certain way. Have a dialogue with your student teacher about a particular instance you noticed them struggling; then work through the experience by discussing how they can approach it differently in the future.

It's not easy setting aside time for directing your student teacher, given your busy schedule. But you can assign approaches within their capability and build gradually. After they reach a specific goal, you can set a new achievement and build on it.

Setting realistic expectations for student teachers helps them build self-confidence through smaller and progressive successes. It's essential to note that student teachers can sometimes resign to failing because they never seem to get it right. But when you work with them to set smaller and more realistic targets, you can change their attitude towards successfully navigating tricky circumstances.

After a few of these exercises, you will notice their performance improve and their confidence increase.

2. Praise and Reward

Another excellent way to support a luck luster student teacher is to praise them after completing a particular assigned task. Measure your praise and use realistic rewards to prevent your student teacher from working for approval, not the result. Avoid material rewards that would otherwise be mistaken for favoritism. The purpose of this method is to reinforce positive actions and appropriate behavior. 

When you give a student teacher a particular assignment, and they complete it with minimal mistakes, praising them offers an incentive to complete another task at the same caliber of quality.

Instead of acting as observers, student teachers who take up the role of the main teacher take charge of their learning experience and are rewarded for their success. They will likely look forward to the next lesson. This cycle will continue, and in no time, your student teacher will build solid problem-solving skills and be able to pivot as challenges arise.

3. Encourage Peer Mentoring

Luck luster student teachers can significantly benefit from peer groups or referring back to their course work. Student teaching is a personalized, in-field learning experience. It's putting the pedal to the medal, but also it's good for discussing the mechanics, getting together with colleagues, and discussing how they can make their engine faster and more effective.

Face-to-face mentoring, advising, and conversing with colleagues can be conducive because it focuses on their problem areas in a comfortable environment. Student teachers who initiate learning, invite learning, and are eager to understand, are more likely to be better suited for the classroom. They also have a better attitude towards teaching because they are learning.

When a student teacher is supported, they feel at ease and less embarrassed to ask essential questions. A peer might know the student teacher's skill set better and then use positive encouragement to instill confidence. If their poor performance is due to restlessness in class, a learning environment outside of work hours can help. Connecting with others in similar situations cultivates a safe place to share stories, methods that work, and how to improve in various areas by adapting their strategies.

Final Thoughts

Student teachers can be lack luster in their first few teaching experiences as they dip their toes into the education world. But they can be sanded down, polished, and shine as you work with them to set realistic exceptions and goals. 

Start small and build gradually; the key to teaching is sustainability. Praise your student teacher with positive remarks for what they succeed in and readdress issue areas in your next planning meeting. If they're still struggling, encourage them to connect with their peers.

Written by Steve Ndar
Education World Contributor
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