I had my first student teacher this fall, and I found myself growing and thinking deeper about every aspect of my teaching. She started on the first day of school, along with every new student for my 10th year as a teacher. To me, it seemed more logical for her to start in the spring, but as we worked together through the beginning of the year classroom strategies and routines, I realized that starting at the beginning of the year was ideal.
Because I endeavor to start the year with structure and intention, I modeled teaching for her every minute of my day. I learned students' names much faster than in past years because I felt pushed to be the best role model. I could not ask her to accomplish tasks I was not already modeling, and I had to be clear about my examples, questioning, and relationship-building. I used down time to work with students or work on planing or grading. It was exhausting. It was also the best teaching I'd done in a very long time.
I had more than the eyes of 20-30 students (multiply that times 5) on me. I had a future teacher who would go on to touch thousands of lives, just as I have already in my career. Her future students would see where I shaped her as a teacher.
Over the course of the semester, I made mistakes, and she made mistakes. The best part was constant discussions and reflections on how to make it (whatever "it" was) better. We also started projects I'd wanted to start, but couldn't manage by myself. I was also always caught up. It took two of us to keep up with all of the administrative work teachers are required to do. We could pass back graded assessments quickly. We could conference with students in double the time.
During the days that I handed full responsibility over to her and worked in a teacher workroom, I was approached by many teachers. I can't say many had had good experiences. I also saw some refuse to give up full control unless absolutely required. What is the experience for? A student teacher needs to teach and learn how to manage a full day. My student teacher had a lock down drill in the middle of a supervisor's evaluation. She did great. She also took the students out for fire drills. She needed every bizarre and random experience that teachers might face in the classroom. She needed to face them when another teacher was still nearby and responsible for helping oversee the classes.
When my student teacher left, I definitely needed some adjustment time. I had to get used to being the only adult in the room. I didn't have my confidant and comrade-at-arms by my side all day. I had to teach all the students all day long.
And now, we've moved into a new normal. I have to fight some of my own bad tendencies and lazy habits. I'm also already behind in grading. I'm worried about missing some report or important email because it's only me.
I was blessed. Having a student teacher was a great experience. I grew, and I could observe my own strategies knowing another teacher would follow my path.