Student Teaching During Remote Learning

Dr. Ellen Mauer
Dr. Ellen Mauer
Elementary school principal; Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies
Young woman wearing headphones sitting in front of a laptop moving her hands.

What is Student Teaching?

Student teaching is a period of time, usually between 8 and 16 weeks, in which the college student works in a classroom alongside and in place of the regular teacher. Length of time is up to each particular university. There is no pay for this type of internship, as it is typically a requirement for completion of the program. Student teaching is the student’s opportunity to gain real life experience in a classroom and demonstrate the skills and knowledge they’ve gained so far in their program.

Challenges a Student Teacher Faces While Teaching Remotely

Doing student teaching during a period of remote learning will be particularly tricky. It can be more difficult to make connections with the cooperating teacher, staff members, students, and parents of students. Making connections and forming good relationships is the backbone of student teaching, and it is imperative that this continue, even while experiencing remote learning programs.

It also may be difficult to determine the level of the student. With younger children, it is hard to know exactly what they did on their own or what their parent or sibling may have helped them with. If a paper or assignment comes in perfectly done, yet the student exhibits struggles with the same content virtually, a teacher must question the issue and find a way to assess the student on their own.

Technology glitches can throw a wrench into student teaching. Whether the glitch is with the internet connection or actual device being used, it is frustrating to not have things go as planned. This can happen with students in the class, the cooperating teacher, or the student teacher. It will be important to note what the process is to get these issues fixed before beginning the experience with remote learning.

Additionally, many districts have not done extensive work with remote learning before last spring. While there are some districts that had plenty of experience with it and have had 1:1 device programing for years, it is more likely that a district is still somewhere in between and has not had a myriad of experiences. The district is still learning how to implement these programs, the cooperating teacher may still be learning how to implement remote learning, and so the student teacher will be learning along with all of the counterparts in the system. That can make things more difficult. Use it as an opportunity to come up with solutions for problems that occur and suggest them to the cooperating teacher. All ideas will be welcome!

Strategies for Connecting with Students while Student Teaching

There are many ways to connect with students during the student teaching semester. Before making any contacts, run the communication plan by the cooperating teacher to be sure that all school and district policies and protocols are observed. The general rule is that the older the child is, the more direct connection there will be with that child and a little less with the parent. If it is a younger child, there will be more parent connection and the child connection may be under supervision of the parent.

Regardless of the type of communication used, it is wise to keep a communication log and go through it with the cooperating teacher each week. Decide upon methods that work best for the student and family.

One way to connect is through Zoom or Google Hangouts or some kind of online video program that the district has endorsed. That direct face-to-face connection over the computer gives a chance to see what the student’s body language is like and to allow the student/family to see the student teacher smiling and engaging with them.

Along with doing group online video programs, consider setting up individual sessions with students to make sure they are getting what they need and that they are making that important connection to their student teacher. Emailing and calling are also good ways to keep in contact with the student and family. The age of the child and the preference of the family will determine what works best. Some younger students have enjoyed getting snail mail from school staff as well. A cheery note in the mail is fun for a child to receive. It also may help them to want to practice writing skills by sending a note back.

Personal Qualities Can Make or Break the Experience

There are personal qualities that a student teacher may exhibit that will enhance the experience or, if they are not seen, will negatively affect the experience. A student teacher needs to be able to seek and accept constructive feedback. This sounds easy, but for some beginning student teachers, it may be hard not to take this feedback personally. The cooperating teacher and student teacher supervisor are there to give suggestions and will expect that those suggestions be taken and implemented immediately.

Arguing or giving the impression that feedback is not warranted will cause the supervisors in the field to have a negative view of the student teacher and will not bode well when it is time for reference checks for jobs. Feedback is critical to every staff member’s well being and even excellent, seasoned teachers continually strive to seek out ways to improve each and every year.

Having a good work ethic, punctuality, volunteerism, and participation in team and staff meetings are also characteristics that are noticed and will make a difference. It is critical to make a great impression with everyone in the school, including, but not limited to, custodians, secretaries, certified staff, and non-certified staff. Forming these relationships will only add to the student teaching experience and will give the student teacher more opportunities to add to a reference list.

Finally, don’t forget to have fun and take some risks while student teaching.  This is the time to try new things and take a few chances.

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