What’s it like having a student?

I have a student starting a week today. I’ve never had one before and I’m a little worried about everything going smoothly. I want to be a good mentor; I’m not so far from my teacher training that I don’t remember it and I did not have a good experience with my first mentor for several reasons and I don’t want to be like that.

I have hundreds of things buzzing in my head about it at the moment and I know it’ll be good for my professional development. Here are my main three concerns (any advice gratefully received!!):

1. How do I give honest, constructive feedback?

I’m not very good at asserting myself and telling people things they don’t want to hear. Even at parents’ evenings this is something I have yet to achieve. I know how to do it; presenting as a what went well and what could be improved, I just need to be able to do it with confidence and to believe in what I’m saying (I’m good at doubting myself – have I got something wrong, is the problem me, am I being too critical etc).

2. What’s it like being on show constantly?

I hate the pressure of being observed as it is, I get extremely nervous so how do I cope when it’s someone watching me all the time looking for examples of good practice? I would like to think I’m a good teacher but I’m not sure that’s always true. I don’t want to set a bad example!

3. How do I let go of control?

I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I really like to know what’s going on in my classroom. My lessons are usually planned to the nth detail purely for my own piece of mind. So how do I let a student take over the classroom, to introduce new rules and ways for the children to work? How do I know when/if to step in if things aren’t working? I don’t want to undermine them but at the same time I don’t want to leave it if things are wrong. How do you strike a balance?


I have loads more questions but these are the main ones. The student I’m having is a 3rd year BEd, so hopefully fairly competent by this stage, although I know it’s not guaranteed, I do want to trust that she’ll do a good job and that I’m worrying over nothing (I do tend to do that!)

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5 Responses to What’s it like having a student?

  1. Janshs says:

    Have worked with so many students and NQTs over the last 3 and a bit decades and still don’t know if I get it right! One thing I believe is very important is to try to get them to do a few things that will hopefully become habits:
    1) observe as many different teachers as possible in a wide range of curriculum areas (even for secondary)
    2) keep their portfolio up to date with lots of evidence for each standard (pics, audio, lesson observations, children’s work) – of course they could almost certainly do this online nowadays – maybe via a wiki?
    3) make connections with pupils by watching their concerts, supporting at sports matches, helping with teams or backstage, finding out what football team they follow, what their aspirations are
    4) they should take the responsibility for writing up their mentoring sessions with you – a blog perhaps?
    5) they should make full use of any feedback they get, from you, other staff, pupils, parents – and use it to constantly re-write their practice
    6) they should attend every possible bit of CPD going (this includes meetings, in-house stuff etc.) and write it up as well
    7) I usually encourage a small piece of action research that they feel has contributed to the school in some way – obviously this depends on the student and their institution
    8) they need to connect with other staff as well, get them to do the next raffle
    9) encourage them to watch Teachers’ TV!
    10) get them to join Twitter!

  2. Miss Lotriet says:

    1) I found the best way to give feedback was to ask how she thought a lesson/session/whatever had gone first. This was usually a good way in. It allowed her to be honest and share her feelings and then for me to pick up on things and go from there. I would also tell her what she could do differently next time and made it as practical as possible, advice she could actually put into practice.

    2) I honestly didn’t worry about that. I told her that actually being a teacher in reality is quite different to what she might expect. If I was teaching a lesson that didn’t go quite as planned for whatever reason I discussed this with her afterwards. It was good because it made her more at ease to be truly reflective herself. Just be honest, honest, honest! Oh and remember, she’s been placed with you for a reason. The powers that be obviously think you will make a good mentor 🙂

    3) Now this was my hardest, toughest battle and actually why I didn’t want to be a mentor at all. I am a self confessed control freak! However, it’s also why I knew it would be bloomin’ good for me to be a mentor! I needed to get over this. First off, my student didn’t introduce new rules. She had been told to (initially anyway) adopt to the behaviour management strategies of the CT and I personally think that’s important. Way too confusing for the children otherwise and also a bit of a mission for the student! Let them use your systems.

    Be prepared to bite your lip. I have had to on several occasions when the children were being ‘testing’ because I wanted to step in but I knew by doing so I would be undermining the student which wouldn’t bode well. If you can, address things that have gone wrong after the lesson, away from the children. Obviously if it’s serious and safety is compromised then step in but use your professional judgment on that I reckon. Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules!

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  4. joolzconway says:

    1. Always start with the positives, even if there is a dodgy lesson and the positives are weak (I liked this question….. You relaxed a bit when…. The starter was fun…. etc) Try a couple of positives then give one piece of constructive feedback. If you have given a focus for the ob then it could be related to that. It makes it more “relaxed” if you pose it as a question so that it turns into a conversation point where hopefully the student can work out the answer for themselves (ie How could you have engaged the boys? (when they were off task) Why did you choose that activity for the starter? How well did the top group do in that activity? (if they werent challenged) How did you assess the progress made in that lesson? (if it was too easy/hard or difficult) etc)

    2. I actually like having a student, it makes me a better teacher. At least it does if you are open and honest. You need to give an ongoing dialogue (I do this anyway, even with the kids in my class and the support staff) and tell them what has gone well, why you changed an activity, own up when you do something dodgy etc etc. Everybody ends up tweaking plans at some stage or changing things because kids are playing up/having an off day and its good for someone to see that this is normal. I like it because you are open and chat about it, you get feedback too. Sometimes you are too hard on yourself and someone else sees it differently, however, sometimes the reverse is also true 😦
    If you do have these open dialogues, it means when it comes to their turn to teach, the constructive criticism is less threatening and just part of your normal relationship so easier to manage.

    3. Being a control freak, I know a lot about this….. 😦
    It is hard ot let someone in but in my experience I find it better when I lay down the law…. by that I mean I explain how it works in my class… these are the class rules, behaviour policy, expectations of kids and myself and I give no lee way on that, this applies even to supply etc, that way, the kids have some level of consistency. Now when it comes to what is taught I also make it clear what key objectives must be covered in the lesson/unit to be taught, I do this in the weekly mentoring sessions. It is also worth mentionning that you should stick around, some mentors see it as a coffee break and disappear, never a good idea. If you have a good relationship you should talk about what role you have in the class when they are teaching. I usually ask if they would like me to sit with a particular group or child… that way I can keep an eye on progress etc… if things go to pot, always discretely intervene or chat to the student. The first lesson is always the hardest as you worry too much and keep wanting to jump in, I think once you’ve discussed how things went and they try the next lesson you get a feel for if they are following your help/guidance/lesson feedback or not. Hopefully they are!

    That said, its been 2 years since I last did this, unfortunately somone else in our school does all this training now, I used to love it. It is very rewarding when you see how the student grows in confidence and develops.

    Good luck!

  5. devoil says:

    Having a student varies so much depending on the student so it’s difficult to offer huge amounts of advice.
    I often go for the same method as an earlier reply when I give feedback and ask them how they feel about it to begin with. That gives you an indication of where to pitch your feedback. Quite often you will find that they can be very hard on themselves and you really have to push the positive elements.
    You do get used to being on show. Don’t worry about not being perfect, none of us are and they have to realise that everybody has off days.
    Letting go of your class is hard. I hate having to bite my lip when I see children getting away with things that I would stop immediately but you do have to let your student ‘own’ the class.
    Having a student is hard work but often incredibly rewarding and it is surprising how much that you can learn from them. Also analysing your own practice for someone else really makes you think about things.
    Hope it all goes well.

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