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.
- Establishing Authority in the Classroom: http://www.nea.org/home/38331.htm
- Strategies for Effective Lesson Planning: http://www.crlt.umich.edu/gsis/p2_5
- To Teach Students First: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/to-teach-students-first-matt-levinson
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.