What is a Student Teacher? What Do They Do?

It's surprising how many people aren't sure of the role a student teacher has in the classroom. What precisely is it that they do? What responsibilities do they have? Do they get paid? The list continues. Here, we look to address as many of these questions as possible, by assessing in greater depth a student teacher's position as a staff member.

Being a student teacher normally indicates that you are an individual studying at college or graduate level. Student teachers do not manage classes on their own at first, but rather under the supervision of a qualified professional. The experienced teacher normally makes notes of some description relating to the student's performance along the way, which are submitted to their tutor at the end of the work placement.

The placement process normally allocates the student teacher to a class containing pupils who are studying the subject that they wish to teach upon their qualification. They may also be matched to an age group they would like to work with; preschool, elementary and secondary are the main choices for this, but the final decision depends on availability and acceptance by the host school at the time of subscription.

Prior to the student entering the actual classroom, they will have the opportunity to meet with the usual class teacher. What is expected, any rules or regulations, and general getting to know one another better will take place here.

From this point onwards, the 'real' work begins. Initially, the student will look at how the classroom is set up, the kinds of activities that are done within it, and how successful teacher and pupil interactions should be carried out. This stage is commonly labeled as the observation process.

After some time, the student will get to grips with the daily schedule, as well as the names and positives/weaknesses of the pupils who take part in it. Still under supervision, the student teacher may be given the chance to host one-to-one sessions with individual pupils, as well as traveling around the classroom to give support where and when it is considered necessary.

Moving on from just one student, the trainee will start to host small sessions with the collective group of pupils - be this a short activity or something that engages that whole class, such as guided reading.

As the end of their stay continues to come closer, the student's list of responsibilities will persistently expand. Ultimately, they will begin to plan lessons and carry them off without supervision of such a high intensity as was insisted upon in the beginning. Lesson plans will be stored as part of their records, and later marked on their detail, purpose and impact.

The above wraps up the role of a student teacher, aside from the period of performance evaluation they may undergo at the end of their stay. This allows them to look at what they thought went well, and what they wish to improve next time round. It's building up this level of experience that allows substantial progress to be made in the long run, hopefully leading to a role as a part or full time qualified teacher.