I've been such a blessed teacher over the years to work for outstanding principals who support teacher development. (I just found out this week that mine is leaving to take the high school administrator position in my district. I've already given him permission to come back if he doesn't like them there.) Yet even the best of administrators is unable to spend a lot of time in classrooms. We teachers spend the majority of our careers by ourselves without consistent feedback regarding our practice. This is why I have strong opinions about student teachers and the responsibilities we have for their professional development.
Around five years ago, Matea, a most talented intern, spent a semester in my room. She did a beautiful job with my students. They loved her. Her classroom management was right on. Her instruction was top-notch. In fact, whenever given a suggestion, without fail, she'd incorporate the tip into her next lesson. She was simply amazing. And yet I remained in the room while she was teaching. It's not that I didn't trust her; She'd proven how capable she was. I chose not to leave, because I knew she'd never have an opportunity like that again. Once she became a teacher, she'd spend the remainder of her career on her own. So instead I positioned myself to ensure she had the privileges and benefits of a mentor, 24/7. Not only did I stay in the room, I also chose to avoid my desk, work, and my computer. Instead I watched her lessons and took notes. I jotted down all the things she was doing well and would want to continue doing. Then I listed one or two things she might want to try next time. I was her guide on the side. Her presence in my room was not my invitation to take a vacation from the classroom. It was a call to step up my game for her benefit. Her professional development was my Job Number 1.
On a side note, I chose to stay for the children too. No matter how much I trusted Matea, the children were still under my care and were my responsibility. My presence said to them, "Yes, Miss Gellings is your teacher right now and she's in charge, but I'm not abandoning you. You are too special for me to simply disappear from your life. What you're doing is important enough for me to stick around and watch." My presence also reassured parents that I was overseeing all that was going on in their children's education.
There will come a day for student teachers when they won't have someone like you or me to consistently confirm what they're doing well or offer suggestions for improvement. Our feedback is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these future teachers. That experience has the potential for being the best professional development of their career.