“That’s student teacher, not guest teacher.”

Posted on February 17, 2009Filed Under student teachers, Teaching | 5 Comments

“They asked me to take a student teacher, and for once, I want to know what you think.”

“What’s that mean?”

“The student teacher part, or the part about asking your opinion?”


“Never mind. For a while she would watch how we do things, and then I would watch her as she took over, and then I would leave, and she would be running the show.”

Politeness Girl had tears in her eyes. (me: sniff.)

“Would they know how to use the clickers?”

“I guess we could teach her stuff like clickers and the LCD projector.”

“What about the nutty videos?”

“I doubt it.”


“What about SSI? Would she make us do SSI?”

“I guess that would be up to her. Maybe she would have her own way of getting you to study.”


“What about rating us from 1-10 and having to get an 8 and all that? That’s hard!”

“We’re talking about a student teacher, not a guest teacher.”

“Oh. YAY!”

“Thanks a lot. I’ll miss you too.”

I usually have a policy of only accepting full-time student teachers; I can’t find my groove in half a day, and invariably they’re taking other classes, and always have to rush away before we can have our heart-to-heart. This latest request was for 2-3 periods.

In fact, I’ve only said yes to full-time requests three times in 16 years. I know I’m supposed to be training the next generation and all that, but I have control issues. (I HAVE been a BTSA mentor for several years.)  Two of the three candidates did fine work with me, and are currently working as teachers. The other one…well, let’s just say, this one is always in the back of my mind whenever I am asked to take on a student teacher.

He had all the enthusiasm in the world…and a 25-hour-per-week job he wouldn’t give up. Red flag right away. How many of you had an extra 25 hours a week while you were full-time student teaching? He gave me a resume, a pamphlet, a philosophy of teaching essay, a bio…but I had no idea what was going to happen on any given day in the classroom. Extra credit flowed like water — bonus points for passing out papers?!  What is this? Second grade? He was more interested in the formatting and fonts of the day’s plan than the content. He let the kids call the shots, and make up their own project options. The kids even started asking me to give them more to do. OMG, I couldn’t cope.

One day, I told him I needed to see a little more advanced planning, some idea of where he was going, and what the kids would be doing for the next week or two. I told him I really needed to see some organization and some content and so forth.

“All right. All right.”

At my site I am known as the early bird. I usually get to school by 6 am, because I prefer that to working after school, and there’s never a line for the copier. So I show up the next day at six so I can go over a few other school related things before he gets there… And he’s already there.

Hmmm. And he has a couple weeks’ worth of plans printed out. It looks like he’s taken some things to heart. I figure I’ll spend the day checking them out while I watch the show.

In second period – I think we were in the library doing research – one of the girls comes up to me and whispers, “Mr. X spent the night here.”

“In the library?”

“No, the classroom.”

“What? What makes you think he spent the night?”

“He told us.”

“No, he just stayed late working on stuff…it just seemed like all night to him. And he got here early because he wanted to show he was serious his preparation.”

“No, he spent the  night.”

“How do you KNOW?”

“It’s the same outfit.”

(Sure enough. She was right. It was. And he did.)


5 Responses to ““That’s student teacher, not guest teacher.””

  1. Matthew on February 19th, 2009 6:38 am

    Just discovered your blog and am finding it most illuminating (I teach a mixed class of 7th and 8th graders at a charter school)

    When I was student teaching, about a month into the process, my mentor teacher had to have knee surgery and was out for about a month, leaving me alone in the classroom (at first with a substitute, but that turned out to be a disaster…different story). Because he had done a really good job preparing me, it turned out to be just about the perfect learning experience – was exhilarated to find I could manage even without the safety net.

  2. mrC on February 19th, 2009 10:34 pm

    Sometimes sink or swim is a good thing. Congratulations. How is it having 7th and 8th graders together? Eighth graders can be so S and R (sullen and resentful)…and disdainful of 7th graders. It’s the whole high school thing squeezed into two years. I’m glad you found something you could use.

  3. Ben on February 23rd, 2009 8:34 am

    Mr. C., I found your site while looking for Tom Sawyer essay questions. Some days, I feel like all I do is look for Tom Sawyer essay questions. I figure, why reinvent the wheel, right?

    So now we’re having a little SSR in my sixth-grade class because half of them have been out sick since last week and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let this book drag on through our March vacation!

    I’ll be back to your blog on a regular basis. I can’t wait to read more.

  4. mrC on February 23rd, 2009 7:36 pm

    You can find some more Tom Sawyer essay topics here:
    I haven’t gotten around to adding this year’s new stuff to the novel pages. Also, go check out the Tom Sawyer Moodle we have going, especially the wiki.

  5. Ben on February 24th, 2009 4:59 am

    Mr. C., thanks so much for the Moodle link—I’ll check it out first period! I’m also going to introduce the concept of the “open-mouth quiz” during my classes today. We’ll see how they do!

    Here’s a funny middle school story for you: every winter, I grow a beard to celebrate…I don’t know, to celebrate something. (I live in southern Connecticut, so our winters are cold but not “Michigan cold.”) I usually keep the beard until March vacation, but, because it’s been such a long winter, I decided to shave it off last night. My hope is that maybe Mother Nature will be fooled into “springing” spring a few weeks early.

    In any case, you can imagine what happened this morning. I was sitting at my desk, which faces my classroom door and one of our “locker nooks.” (That sounds so much more grown-up than “place where middle school kids run around acting like dinosaurs,” which is what I usually call it.) The first few kids to arrive didn’t say anything.

    But then HE showed up: Tommy, our male, East coast equivalent of your Polite Girl. He bounded into the room like Tigger on Red Bull and shouted, “Hey, Mr. Gott! You shaved!”

    “Yes, I did, Tommy,” I replied. “You’re very observant this morning.”

    “Wow!” he said. “You look so much younger!”

    “Thanks, I guess,” I said. “Are you guys not going to listen to me now?”

    For the next five minutes, hordes of kids showed up at my door. “Mr. G—…Oh, God! Oy vey!” said one. “Mr. Gott, you look like I could beat you up!” said another. The girls just stopped by. “You look like my history teacher!” I look like a middle-aged balding man? Thanks, ladies.

    I need a vacation!

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