Questions About Student Teaching
1. WHAT IS STUDENT TEACHING?
Student teaching is a 75-day internship experience in which teacher candidates work with a secondary teacher (called a “Cooperating Teacher”) in his or her classroom with his or her students. Student teachers must intern at two class levels during their 75 days: grades 7-9 and grades 10-12. Student teaching occurs in the final semester of the program, and teacher candidates must be finished with all other coursework before they begin student teaching. Students must apply for student teaching.
2. WHY MUST I APPLY TO STUDENT TEACH? ISN'T IT MY RIGHT TO STUDENT TEACH ONCE I'VE BEEN ADMITTED TO THE PROGRAM?
It is no one’s right to student teach. Admission to the program and completion of all coursework in good standing earns you the right to apply for student teaching. As a student teacher, you will work directly with children and young adults as a representative of Stony Brook University. We take this responsibility extremely seriously, and thus we will approve only those teacher candidates who exhibit the appropriate knowledge, skills, and dispositions. The vast majority of student teachers applicants are approved for student teaching. Others are delayed by a semester or more for various reasons: they have additional requirements to make up; they must take additional coursework to bring their gpa up to the necessary level (3.0)—this minimum will likely raise soon; or, they are assigned remedial tasks to address deficiencies in their application. Still others are denied the ability to student teach based on very serious concerns regarding their ability to succeed in the classroom. Once we approve student teachers, they must also be approved by the secondary schools in which they will student teach. Decisions regarding student teaching are made by the English Teacher Education Review Committee (a committee of English and English Teacher Education faculty). There is a formal Appeals Process in place for Teacher Candidates who believe they have been treated unfairly. That process is shared with students upon admission to the English Teacher Preparation Program, and may be found in the Program Introduction Memo (available to admitted students).
No. Student teaching is all-consuming of your time and energy. It is a disservice to you and—more importantly—to your secondary students for you to take courses while you are student teaching. For this reason, it is crucial that you work closely with your advisors to ensure all your coursework is completed and your passing CST score is submitted by the time you apply to student teach.
We place student teachers in schools with which we have formal arrangements and where we can be sure our teacher candidates will be given a professional and fulfilling experience. You are encouraged to request particular schools and geographic locations in your student teaching application, and we try our best to meet these requests, but we cannot guarantee them. It is entirely up to schools whether or not they take student teachers. All we can do is ask. If they say no, we have no further recourse. (This is another reason why we will approve only those most capable and professional for student teaching. One poorly-performing student teacher can close a school’s doors to us for years.)
To ensure that you will have a professional experience and that you will be assessed appropriately, we do not allow student teachers to student teach in schools they have attended as students. It’s important for you to feel like a real teacher (not a student), and that is very difficult to do in a school in which you were a student and with your own former teachers. It is also a benefit to you to get experience in other schools. Diverse experience is a marketable skill for English teachers. We also do not allow students to student teach in districts in which their family members are employed in order to avoid potential problems with assessment and chain of command. See the program director if you have additional questions about this.
Yes! In cooperation with an excellent program, the SUNY Urban Teacher Education Program (SUTEC), our students may student teach in New York City. We also offer a NYC section of the Student Teaching Seminar. Many of our students have gone through this program in the past and all who have done so have been pleased with the experience. Interested students are encouraged to contact SUTEC through the Director of the English Teacher Education Program. We will be happy to put you in touch with student teachers who have gone through the SUTEC program. The availability of student teaching in NYC is dependent upon enough interest among our students. In the past ten years, we have been able to offer this program for all but one semester.
The New York State Department of Education requires that student teachers experience teaching at grades 7-9 and grades 10-12 in order to ensure that student teachers experience the differences between those two instructional settings. This split placement means additional challenges, but making sure you experience both levels is worth dealing with the administrative details. Many teacher candidates expect to prefer teaching high school, and fully half of them find after student teaching that they prefer teaching middle school. Look at the split placement as a chance to see where you feel more comfortable and effective.
40 days is the minimum standard for student teaching that NYS will accept. Stony Brook University is not interested in achieving only the minimum standard. Instead, we have developed a program that in many ways exceeds state minimum standards and that we believe produces excellent teachers for the schools and students we serve. It is more costly for the University for us to hold ourselves to these higher standards, and they require more effort from our teacher candidates and English Teacher Education faculty. The children and young adults we ultimately serve are worth it.
You’ll wish you hadn’t. Ask anyone who has successfully student taught and he or she will tell you that student teaching is thoroughly exhausting and completely consuming of your time. In the strongest terms possible we encourage our teacher candidates to save money, take loans, and otherwise arrange things so that they can student teach without attempting to hold a paid job. In most cases in which student teachers have not been successful, we have found they attempted to hold a paid job in addition to student teaching. You have worked too hard and for too long to risk messing up your student teaching. Take the measures necessary to make student teaching your sole occupation for 75 days.
Unfortunately, no. In both student teaching and field experience, you are expected to be supervised, which means an employee paid by the school district must be directly responsible for you and for your work. If there is not a paid supervisor responsible for you, then you are not in a supervised situation; thus, the experience cannot count as supervised. Until school districts are willing to pay extra money for the services of student teachers and field experience students, you may not be paid for performing those services. Instead, you should consider your time well compensated by the directly employable-skills and professional connections you build in field experience and student teaching.
11. IF I AM STUDENT TEACHING AND MY COOPERATE TEACHER IS GOING TO BE ABSENT, MAY I SERVE AS THE PAID SUBSTITUTE TEACHER FOR THE DAY?
No. See above. This can be frustrating—indeed, years ago the current Director of English Teacher Education was a student teacher, sweating tirelessly to educate America’s youth, as a paid substitute teacher sat in the back of the room for several days, knitting. If you find yourself in this situation, consider asking the substitute teacher to help you by offering you a unique perspective and critical examination of your skills. Be paid in professional advice and experience instead of money.