5 Tips for Introducing Your Style in a Mentor Teacher’s Context

After weeks of observing, co-teaching, and getting a feel for the school, my mentor teacher finally hands over the reins of the classroom and says, “Now it’s your turn. What would you like to do?”

It can be tricky to introduce your own teaching style and values into your mentor teacher’s classroom context, especially if your styles are different. Overcome the challenge of establishing your approach while maintaining respect for your mentor teacher with these tips.

  • Be open and honest.

Keep your mentor teacher in the loop with your lesson planning, especially if it deviates from what your mentor teacher normally does. Don’t be secretive or try to surprise them with what you are going to do. If you tell them what you are thinking and planning, they can offer their perspective, suggestions, and additional ideas.

  • Ask for permission.

To respect your mentor teacher and their space, there are certain ideas that you should run past your teacher before implementing. For example, ask them for permission before rearranging the desks in their room or assigning students homework. It is better to ask for your teacher’s permission and support than for their forgiveness.

  • Support your decisions with research.

If your mentor teacher disagrees with your instructional choices, find research to share with them to explain your decisions. You also might provide your mentor teacher with successful examples of other teachers implementing your idea. If your instructional plan is backed by research, you’ll more easily convince your mentor teacher to let you try it in their classroom.

  • Don’t be afraid to say no.

There are times when your mentor teacher will share ideas for your lesson that you do not want to use. For example, my mentor teacher showed me several short stories I could use in a lesson I taught on discrimination, but I chose a different story that I thought the students would like better. It is okay to say no to your mentor teacher’s ideas; just be respectful and polite.

  • Put students’ needs first.

The goal of your instruction should be to do what is best for your students’ learning. Sometimes you will need to be honest with yourself and consider if you want to use a strategy because it sounds fun or because it will help students better understand the material. If you believe you are teaching the content in a way that genuinely puts the students’ needs first, then stand by your choices.

Finding the balance between introducing your teaching style and respecting the authority of your mentor teacher is challenging for all student teachers, but this is the time to establish your identity as a teacher and test some of your own ideas in the classroom. You only get one student teaching experience, so be confident in your values, take risks in your lesson planning, and try something different.

Resources:

Ms. Upah is a student teacher in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is currently in a seventh-grade classroom where she enjoys interacting with her unpredictable yet inspiring students. She is passionate about language arts, reading, and educational technology … and blogging. Find her latest posts at https://www.lightbulbmomentsblog.com/ or on Twitter @upahk.

A Source of Inspiration and Leadership – National Student Teacher of the Year

McKennaDunnOn behalf of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) and the Association for Teacher Educators (ATE), I am honored to introduce McKenna Dunn, our 2016 KDP/ATE National Student Teacher/Intern of the Year.

McKenna graduated summa cum laude in 2016 from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. She majored in Spanish Language Arts and Reading, and she minored in Teacher Education. McKenna was valedictorian of the 2016 class and was a member of the Alpha Gamma Phi Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education. She currently lives in New Zealand, where she volunteers at local schools.

McKenna has been described by her professor and honors thesis advisor, Dr. Katie Peterson, as “a source of inspiration and leadership” for her classmates. Peterson continues, “McKenna also demonstrated a remarkable ability to innovate teaching practices so that she met the needs of individual learners. The passion and care that she uses to deliver curriculum makes her students feel comfortable to take risks creating environments where students are able to explore concepts and ideas in developmentally appropriate ways.”

Selected from a competitive applicant pool, the award selection committee praised McKenna’s student engagement, energy, and composure and said her project epitomized what they are looking for in an exceptional student teacher.

In sharing the news of this achievement, McKenna wrote:

“Being chosen as the national student teacher of the year is an extremely humbling honor. To know that a group of such experienced and talented educators chose me validates that I have definitely made the right decision to pursue teaching as my career path.”

KDP and ATE congratulate McKenna and wish her well as she begins her first year as a practicing educator. She will be honored at an upcoming ATE conference with a $1500 award and the opportunity to address the conference attendees.

If you or someone you know will be student teaching or interning this academic year, I encourage you to learn more about the KDP/ATE National Student Teacher/Intern of the Year Award. Applications are due by June 15, 2017.

The author of this blog, Susan Perry, is the Director of Advancement for Kappa Delta Pi.

Why I Decided to Become a Teacher

Heggan 2“The word of an admired teacher carries more weight than anyone can imagine.” My sister Tracy (who is a Physical Education teacher at Eugene A. Tighe Middle School in Margate, New Jersey) said those words to me prior to my acceptance into the MST Program at Rowan University in 2014, and they have stuck with me ever since. Although I knew prior to 2014 that I wanted to change careers and become a teacher, those words cemented the feeling I already had in my heart:

I wanted to make a difference in the lives my students.

From 2005 to 2012, I worked at Adams, Rehmann and Heggan, a leader in the fields of surveying, engineering, GPS, and GIS services. Although I enjoyed my time there and loved working in the family business, it was time for a change. That change came for me when I accepted a job at the Hammonton Middle School as a paraprofessional aide for an autistic boy. Being back in the school setting was very surreal, but I felt like I was in the right place. I will forever be grateful for the then-Principal, Gene Miller, for giving me a chance. If he had given the job to someone else, I do not think I would be in the position I am today. I worked in the Middle School for a year and a half and absolutely loved my time there. The administration and staff there are exceptional and I believe they are one of the top middle schools in the area.

While working full-time, I was also taking classes at Atlantic Cape Community College and Camden County College. These classes were required for acceptance into the MST Program at Rowan University. I knew that if I could get through working full time, taking classes at night, and having a 2-year-old child at home, I could get through anything life would throw at me.

In 2014, I was accepted into the MST program where I was part of a cohort in which everyone was assiduous (means diligent) in accomplishing their goals of becoming successful teachers. From action research to edTPA to classes to no income to student teaching, every single person in that program deserves the award of student teacher of the year.

From that science and paraprofessional aide background, I knew then that I wanted to become a middle school science teacher. I wanted to teach my students about the wonders of the world and our universe. Carl Sagan once said that “We are all made of star stuff,” and if you ask any of my students, they could all tell you what that means. I felt back in 2013 and feel currently in 2015 that I am required as a teacher to inspire my students to use science to become whatever they want to be in this world. This has been my running goal since before leaving Adams, Rehmann and Heggan. If I could, as a teacher, motivate my students into falling in love with science and our universe (because I believe that venturing into space is our destiny), then my job as a teacher will be complete. Becoming a teacher was one of the only ways I could accomplish those goals.

Everyone is filled with experiences and those experiences are what make us who we are today. What led you to this profession? Share your experiences!

Rick Heggan is a 6th and 8th Grade Science Teacher in Medford Lakes, New Jersey and was named the 2015 KDP/ATE Student Teacher of the Year.

If you need a job for next fall, you need to attend the Job Search Summit (starting TOMORROW, Thursday, March 3, 2016) to learn about résumés, cover letters, finding a job, and interviewing.

A Job—The Ultimate Goal

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Students had to successfully construct a roller coaster, test the marble to have 10 consecutive successful runs without falling off of the track, and either land that marble in a cup at the end or knock it over. It was a great STEM lab.

“Beginning student teaching is going to be a scary experience.”

…at least that’s what I told my fellow cohort members/friends at Rowan University back at the start of Clinical Internship I in 2014. We are all trying to reach the same goal and once that is realized, it helps put things into perspective. It’s always great to remember that you have fellow students, teachers, professors, and family to help you through anything that life throws at you. Relying on their inputs really helped me get through the biggest transition period in my life.

The hardest part of student teaching for me was showing the students I had confidence in what I was teaching. From day one, students read your vibes and if you are not fully committed, they will know! On the other hand, if you are passionate and enthusiastic in what you are teaching, the students will, in a sense, fall in love with your teaching style. I was not really an expert when teaching language arts, but as long as I was confident in what I was teaching and was prepared, I knew I was going to be successful. Being passionate and motivating students is an eye opening experience and like my sister Tracy (a teacher) told me once, “The word of an admired teacher carries more weight than anyone realizes.”

In Rowan University’s Master of Science Teaching program, we student taught for two semesters. Organization with college classes, lesson plans, and hands-on experiments were all very time consuming. Some days I did not leave the school until 7 pm because I was trying to prepare for the next day. The more I felt I was organizedIMG_0134, the easier it was to teach the following day. Do not wait to start becoming organized until you take over the entire classroom; start on Day One. Trust me, it will make your life a lot easier!

Even though student teaching brings a vast number of surprises throughout the course of the one- or two-semester-long internship, one surprise was the way other teachers treated me. I was accepted into the building by the staff at Folsom Elementary and never looked back. As long as you carry yourself professionally, you will be respected. Everyone that has become a teacher has gone through student teaching, and they know how hard it is, so always say hello to everyone in the halls and offer assistance to anyone that may need it. If you can get along with everyone at the school you are student teaching in, then you can go anywhere and be a successful teacher. This is just a stepping stone and you never know when you may be offered a job! That is the ultimate goal.

Lastly, there isIMG_0103 one thing that I wish I known before going into student teaching and that was to take it one day at a time. From completing my action research, to edTPA, to trying to make 6 different lesson plans per day (I was in elementary education), it really got overwhelming at times. Some days I would feel that there was too much to do and that I did not have enough time to complete all the jobs I needed to complete. Looking back, I wish I could say to myself to take it one day at a time and everything will work itself out. As long as you stay organized, act professionally, and show enjoyment in what you are doing, you will be just fine. Good luck!

Rick HegganHeggan 2 is a recent graduate from Rowan University’s Master of Science, Teaching program where his concentration was in Elementary Education. He also received his middle school endorsement in Science during this time. Currently, Rick is teaching 6th and 8th grade Science at the Neeta School in Medford Lakes, New Jersey. Prior to this, Rick worked at the Hammonton Middle School as a paraprofessional aide for almost two (2) years. His professional experience includes working at Adams, Rehmann and Heggan (surveying and engineering corporation) for eight (8) years. He recently was awarded KDP/ATE Student Teacher of the Year for 2015.