The benefits of student teaching for students and mentors are many. Students teachers learn necessary skills for the classroom, and mentors reap the benefits of sharing their expertise and strengthening it. They also can get some great new ideas!
Kelli Isaacson gave her class of fifth-graders instructions for how to proceed with a writing assignment about animals in a kelp forest..
“Give three details about what you read,” Isaacson told two dozen Flynn Elementary School students. “Then write two interesting facts you learned and write out one question you still have about the topic.”
During her instructions, two students near her carried on a conversation. Isaacson calmly told those students to be quiet, and she then continued to give directions.
Isaacson handled the situation like a seasoned veteran. But she isn’t a longtime teacher. She’s a 22-year-old student teacher near the end of a semester working with students in classrooms, sessions required of all Wisconsin educators before they take their first jobs in schools.
Isaacson has taught under the tutelage of Flynn fifth-grade teacher Cheryl Lawrence since March, having been at Chippewa Falls Middle School earlier in the semester.
A short time after explaining the writing assignment, as pairs of students worked together with Lawrence’s assistance, Isaacson said she wasn’t always so adept at controlling the classroom.
“Managing kids’ behaviors is a huge deal,” said Isaacson, who graduated from Auburndale High School before attending UW-Eau Claire. “Since I started here, I’ve gotten more assertive. I’ve grown more confident.”
That confidence didn’t occur overnight, Isaacson said, and it wasn’t without challenges. At first, students talked out of turn, interrupting her. Sometimes they exhibited inappropriate behavior.
“I wanted to be that cool teacher, the kind I remember having,” Isaacson said. “But I learned that first I had to learn to be an authority figure, to demand students’ respect. Then we were able to get to the cool part.”
With just one week until she ends her time at Flynn and tries to land a teaching job, Isaacson said she feels far more comfortable teaching students. On one recent morning, Isaacson answered questions from students as Lawrence handled queries from others.
“You can come up with a better word,” Isaacson told fifth-grader Devin Ryder. A moment later, after another student posed a question, Isaacson turned to Lawrence and asked, “Do you know a different word for this?”
The teaching duo discussed the question for a moment, and then they involved a group of students in helping arrive at an answer.
“It’s hard to do that when I’m teaching by myself,” Lawrence said. “It’s so much better when I have (Isaacson) in the room with me.”