Reflections on a student teacher, week one: Primum non nocere

First, do no harm.

My first ever student teacher started with me one week ago, and that phrase has been on my mind a lot. I want him to be able to get his hands dirty, I want him to understand everything that goes into a teacher’s day beyond just teaching, I want him to understand what it’s like to be an educator in today’s political climate. And I want to do all of this without terrifying him.

I know, right?

After just a week, it’s clear that the whole placement is going to be a balancing act. Explaining some of the challenges one might face as a beginning teacher is fine. Drowning him in pessimism thanks to budget cuts and nasty public attacks on teachers is probably less okay. I can get pretty outspoken about the negative perception of education today, but it would be harmful for me to let that discourage a young, enthusiastic teacher.

Watching somebody else teach in my classroom, working with my kids, is also a surreal experience. That has made me consciously think about why I do things the way I do, because he’s watching me teach as well, and asking questions. There are times where I’ll want to jump in and make a suggestion, but I recognize that doing so would disrupt the learning process for both my students and my student teacher. Instead, I take notes and we debrief after class. I’m not trying to say I want to jump in because he’s doing poorly; quite the opposite. I want to jump in because I’ve known these kids for 2-3 years and I understand how they operate. He’ll develop that with time though, so I take notes instead.

An unexpected benefit of welcoming a student teacher into the classroom has been a boost in my own energy each day. There are opportunities to split classes up into smaller groups, I’ve been able to grab a secondary instrument and play along with my students for long chunks of time while not on the podium, and it’s another person to closely collaborate with each day.

Seven more weeks to go, and I’ll try to post a regular reflection each week.