I am going to be a ‘Master’ teacher …

Tomorrow I meet my prac student from Sydney University. It is the third time I have had a prac student, but honestly the last two times weren’t that successful. (The first one quit half-way through … she said it was personal issues, but I get the feeling it was me.)

I’m rather nervous at the prospect as my teaching style is rather erratic and my ideas are always too big to be transformed into reality. I’m worried I won’t do the profession justice. I suppose my style will show her ONE way of approaching the profession.

Perhaps it is the current focus on the teaching profession (thanks to the election) that is accentuating my anxiety. Afterall, the suggestion by PM Gillard is that training to be a teacher can be shortened significantly – from a 2 year diploma of edu or masters of edu to an 8 week course!

Have you been a ‘master’ teacher before? What’s your best advice for a newbie master teacher? I want to do right by this young teacher, the profession and her future students.

I’d love your suggestions!


14 thoughts on “I am going to be a ‘Master’ teacher …

  1. I have enjoyed working with several prac students over the past few years. Of course, there have been successes and learning opportunities – but they key thing that most prac students struggle to learn is:

    Students are not your friends.

    Of course you should be friendly to your students, but do not assume in your control of the classroom that it is important to ‘be their friend’. Some students will dislike you (the teacher) the because you are new, some will dislike you because of your appearance, or teaching style and some will dislike you simply because you are up front as the teacher.

    The moment you stop caring about this – you start being able to teach well. I have experienced, and believe, that if you put in your best, students will ultimately respect that. And some will become your friends.

    And with that I shall now shut up…

    • That’s a GREAT point, David! I often forget to articulate basic teaching practices like this – I think it is something that I stuggled with when I started teaching.

      My supervising teacher was MUCH older than me and of the ‘old skool’. She made me dress differently to my personality and told me not to say ‘guys’ instead of students or boys and girls. It seems odd, but I think it helped me shift out of that ‘young person’ mentality. I wanted to impress her, not the kids.
      I know that sounds weird, but it helped me focus on what I was doing in the room and what experience I wanted the kids to have.

      Thanks for your tip! I’ll certainly pass it on 🙂

      • That is such a good point. I can’t believe that I have done four pracs and no one has ever pulled me up for saying “guys” to the students!! I love that I am still learning new tips! THANK YOU!

  2. I’ve supervised two students. One I failed and the other passed with flying colors. The best piece of advice I can give is to be explicitly clear with your expectations, with your feedback and with your assessment. Don’t try to be their best friend and give them space to make their mark in the school and with the students. Be yourself – don’t try to be the perfect teacher. They see through that. And dont expect them to be au fait with every syallble of the curriculum. Most importantly, learn from them by being teachable and enjoy the experience.

  3. Just be yourself! Erratic is good because she will see a variety of methods. If you are worried about her seeing only your ONE way (which is hardly a true description of yourself) ask another teacher to let her sit in their class.

    You are a Master Teacher even if its merely because you have survived this long. But I know you are worthy of the title simply because of your passion and commitment. Student teachers need to see the blood, sweat and tears that goes into being a decent teacher. Trust me, there are plenty of “Master Teachers” who demonstrate how not to teach, and even that is beneficial. The best part of a prac is actually taking on the role of teacher and trying out what works in the security of someone else’s class.

    By the end of the five weeks you should be able to put your feet up and just watch and learn from your student. It gives you a chance to see your students differently, when you aren’t so focused on what comes next in the lesson and keeping those juggling balls in the air. It can also give you the chance to work 1:1 with a student in your class needing extra attention. Your student teacher should come from uni with all the latest and greatest resources and ideas for teaching and trying them on your class, or at least telling you about it.

    By the way, if they turn out to be awful you are allowed to send them back. I once had a bad one, for 5 weeks, who I should have sent back but didn’t. I only let him have my Commerce class. The class was grateful when they had me back. They accepted my requirements for order (eg turning up on time) a little better after that.

    Anyway, you’ll be fine. If not, send them my way. Actually, better not, I currently have a good one. I blogged a bit about her here: http://shartley.edublogs.org/2010/08/10/student-teacher/



  4. I have had plenty of prac teachers, most have been good but I have had my share of challenging students as well (mainly mature age students for some reason – Too idealistic? Too removed from what it is to be a teenager in todays world? Maybe thinking that the job was going to be easy compared to the real world?)

    My goals as a”master” teacher are to teach the following:

    * That good teachers put in the time to prepare thoroughly and have option A, B and C ready just in case
    * That good teachers are willing to try new things
    * That good teachers know their subject – and with English this means having sound literacy skills and the confidence/ability to model good writing
    * That good teachers reflect on what they have done to find ways to improve what they do – they evaluate and assess for learning
    * That good teachers develop a rapport with their students – know their names, will ask how their day has been but remain the teacher not a buddy
    * That good teachers need to know how to integrate technology into their teaching and learning
    * That good teachers need to be passionate about their subject and their profession as this is the key to engaging students
    * That good teachers are professional in the way they present themselves and in their dealings with others.

    If they are not able to model these and you are not confident that they will be reached in later pracs then it is our duty not to pass them. It might be difficult, it might be upsetting but I always ask myself – Would I want my child to have him/her as a teacher? If the answer is no, then it is up to us to get them to that point or put a permanent roadblock in their path.

    Hope this helps!

    • wow wow wow wow wow ….

      (apologies for the lack of punctuation above but they looked so pretty spaced that way)

      That is a pretty impressive list!

      I always find it difficult to create a list of qualities that amount to a ‘good’ teacher.

      The ones that stand out for me are having a rapport with the students and being passionate about your subject. Personally I feel that I definitely don’t meet all of the criteria – specifically about being prepared or dressed professionally, but I see value in them all.

      And imagine being able to attain these things within the course of 8 weeks? Humph!

      Ta, Paula – you’re amazing!

  5. I agree with the previous posts. It is important that your praccie understands who you are as a teacher and that there are nearly as many different ways to teach as there are educators. My experience with Prac students has also been varied. Some just nail it and others have had difficulties. The key advice and hints I have are:
    – talk about setting clear and consistent behavioural expectations with students
    – communicate clearly and unambiguously
    – Maintain consistency, on all fronts, no matter what
    – be prepared for more than an expected lesson
    – make sure that your Prac student understands and has planned for the sequencing of lessons. The process of a unit of work can be good? I generally advise to include time past the duration of the prac
    – try to include the development of a formal assessment for following the lesson sequence
    – With all the above to act as stressors tell the student to just be themself. They do not need to teach like you.
    – Last thing, I heard a great teacher once say to her Prac student that “becoming a teacher does not give you the right to bore the students to death”.

    The fact that you are giving a future teacher a chance to learn is great. Make the most of the chance to reflect on your own teaching through observing and commenting on someone elses.

    Hope all goes well,

  6. Pingback: Preparation for Praccie « Bianca's Blog

  7. Bianca,

    I am so impressed with the high standards of your colleagues comments.

    I am writing from the other side of the coin. As someone who has spent the last three years answering to a large variety of student teachers, I have a couple of pointers for you.

    *Make the student teacher feel welcome. This includes introducing them to everyone. This common courtesy does wonders to put people at ease.

    *Be organised. I had one teacher who was super organised and made everything really smooth. I.E. on my first day, she had photocopied her timetable, bell times, school maps etc.

    *Set up your expectations of the student early on. Say what time you expect them to be at school etc. Also, take some time later on in their prac to go through the report with them and chat about the elements.

    *Support support support. Being supportive is probably the most important and crucial element of a master teacher in my experience. That means being there to catch me when I bomb out, building me up, sharing in the highs and lows of lessons etc.

    All of these skills I’m sure you progress, so you will have no worries. I just hope your student teacher has some initiative and knows how blessed they are to work with a professional like you.

    Finally, enjoy it! USyd master teachers are paid higher rates than the other students, and enjoy the mentoring experience. Keep us posted of how you both are getting on!

    • Thanks soo much for your comment, Alex! It means so much to me to get your honest suggestions. What has made me the most anxious is knowing how disorganised I am (I keep repeating that, it’s gonna cost me a promotion in the future, lol) … I don’t want to freak out my prac student through my own lack of organisation. I’m really going to work on that!
      Your experience now has benefited a complete stranger – amazing! I think I’ll get my student to write a couple of guest blog posts to show how she feels about the experience.

  8. Hi Bianca, I have a prac student starting soon too. She’s nice – I’ve already had her in my room for three weeks, now she comes back.

    I don’t know that I’m the best teacher for her to watch – as a teaching principal I get called out of the room, rarely ever get the time to plan the way I want and am always flat strap in between lessons, esp recess and lunch.

    that said, what I try to do is devote some time for discussion every afternoon in which we chew over educational philosophy, approaches to teaching, what makes a good teacher and other pressing matters. Then we talk the nuts and bolts of what she needs to do for the next lesson/day/week.

    I outline *my* expectations of the class, how I approach them, what works for me … then let her go for it. I don’t want her to teach like me if it isn’t how she would do it. I don’t want her to be like me. I just want her to have my kids best interests at heart. I want her to help them walk down the path of learning.

    I tend to talk – a lot! And hope I don’t bore her to sleep.

    Every time I take a prac student, I feel filled with the dread of being a fraud as a teacher. I am not organised enough, not clear enough, not comprehensive enough.

    Nonetheless, the time she spends in front of my class will be invaluable to her – it will help her refine her skills, her talents, her competencies, her dreams.

    And that will happen despite me, because after all, a lot of teaching is about interaction with students. And I am giving her one of the greatest gifts I can – time with my kids.

    • Ohh, I love this comment too! You certainly are wise! The best part is that you love to talk – me too! It’s probably why we became teachers anyway … nah, it’s cos you havethe interests of others at heart!
      I will definitely NOT encourage my praccie to teach ‘like me’ cos I know there are some serious flaws … I do hope she takes away a desire to spend more time in the classroom guiding young people to achieve their personal best!

  9. Bianca,
    Knowing about your experiences with the last two prac students I can undoubtedly tell the world it was not your fault!!!
    I was thinking about the things my supervising teachers did for me when I was a praccie and the thing that I kept coming back to was communication.
    Be explicit! Tell them about everything you did during a lesson that they observed e.g. “Did you notice the way I…; Did you see this…” etc
    Then when they get to teach tell talk to them in detail about their lesson- what went well, what needs to be fixed etc

    I knw this seems like obvious advice but I wanted to emphasise how important the feedback was to me.

    Also, I remember one of my supervising teachers holding the reins tight for my first coupld of lessons and then letting them go a little bit then a little bit more.

    Hope this helps.
    See you in the Library.

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