However, I also feel the obligation to pass my experience to the next generation. Here are some of the reasons I love having a student-teacher (or teacher candidate) in my classroom.
1. I enjoy creating stuff.
Leaving my students in the hands of a novice can be a difficult proposition, but I have been allowed the opportunity to create new lessons, activities, and projects for future classes. In some cases, these have been made available for the teacher candidate, helping her "fill the time" from bell to bell. I feel a little guilty (not really) allowing myself the time to search for materials and gather them into a useful pile, but I have been productive and very little time has been wasted.
2. I don't like grading papers.
When the teacher candidate is fully in charge of the classroom, she needs to get the entire teaching experience. That means I have not had to fully grade papers, which is a huge load off of my responsibilities. Now, that doesn't mean that I don't still have responsibilities in this realm. I still have to touch every paper and record every justifiable grade, and at times I have to discern the purpose or the weight of certain grades. With another person grading, report cards are interesting. Since a variable has been changed, I plan to compensate for that change after the assignments are tabulated. Still, not having the day-to-day headache of meticulously evaluating assignments personally is a relief of which I will gladly take advantage.
3. I get a feel for the pulse of the school.
Being in the halls more during the times I normally teach has shown me more of the personality of our school. Teaching is a profession that is typically done in a vacuum, without a lot of collaboration with peers. That's usually OK with me, as I tend to march to the beat of a different drummer, but sometimes listening in on other classes - or even stepping in on other classes - gives me a better feel for my environment.
4. There is great value in experience.
I see a difference in the experienced teachers and the newer ones. Just as there is a change that occurs between kindergarten and fifth grade, there is also a maturity that comes with serving a number of years as a teacher. For some, the changes are subtle, but for others, there is a certain confidence that drives us. Hopefully, we don't overreact to the choices our students make. And also maturity may not be the best way to describe us, we are able to articulate issues and solutions at a higher level than some of our younger peers.
5. I'm a seasoned educator; pass it on.
The last few years have been years of growth in my career. They have not always been easy ones. Changes in direction for our district - both positive ones and negative ones - have affected me tremendously. I know what it is like to hit the wall and to get burned out. I understand better, now, how to survive more than tornados and terrorists. I know better, now, that I have to work through the pain. There is a blue sky after the storm, and the world is not going to crumble if I don't kill myself trying to comply with all of the requirements of my job. Teachers in training do not have that view. Their walls are years into their future, and their challenges are very different. My challenge as a cooperating teacher is one of calm support. The teacher candidate has to understand that being quick to listen, slow to anger, and slow to speak is golden advice. It will save a great deal of heartache in the future. I gladly pass on little bits of wisdom throughout the experience of having an unripened educator under my wing.
6. Shop 'til you drop.
Sometimes there are materials, concepts, and ideas available to us that we simply don't have the time to discover. I enjoy the hunt, and I have discovered some treasures that I now have to find a way to acquire. For example, while I have watched the STEM movement grow up around us, but I have not invested much time to develop or collect materials to bring the movement into my classroom. Having a teacher candidate in my classroom has allowed me some time to explore some of the STEM materials that are out there.
7. The good ol' days are alive and well.
Seeing a new teacher find her niche and grow professionally, in spite of there being such a short time period in which to do so, has often drawn me into my own first years. I remember the simple things being not so easy. I remember the people who helped me. I'm sure those years were tough, and I remember feeling quite inadequate, but as with most of us, those were the good ol' days. My reminiscing is filled more with the beauty a time removed from reality. And I appreciate those stepping stones that made me who I am today.
8. I get the chance to professionally reflect.
In the same ilk, I have been given the opportunity to reflect upon my own current practices in the classroom. I have done more professional reading in the last year than at any time in my career, and in the last semester I have especially developed a pattern of applying what I have learned to my teaching philosophy. Much of this has affirmed what I believe and try to practice, while others have challenged me to change or try new directions. I don't think teachers typically do this; more often we tread water, trying to keep ourselves alive while we feel overwhelmed from all directions. When I develop myself professionally and in a self-driven manner, I am better prepared to face the challenges that can arise from peers, pupils, parents, and principals.
9. I have the challenge of old problems.
I forgot the challenge of time management - of not knowing how long a project will take, of forgetting to leave in time to get to lunch or art, of forgetting that dismissal is at 2:55. It's a challenge that still rears its ugly head from time to time, but not in such a rudimentary manner. With a student-teacher in the room, I have gotten to revisit my old nemesis of time. Now, I have the responsibility to lead another human being in addressing the challenges of class management and time management, leaving me with a feeling of supportiveness.
10. Contact with other branches of education are important.
I have not been in college for a few years now. I have not been in contact with our regional professional developers in years. To rekindle relationships at those levels, albeit with different people in positions, is a valuable part of my time as a cooperating teacher. More and more, I am convinced that I have more to offer to education than what I present daily to my fourth graders. Networking with educators outside of the bubble of my own classroom or even my own school site is something more teachers should take on.