So, you are getting a student teacher.  If you’re new to this gig, you are probably thinking a few things:

  1. WOW!  I get to be someone’s mentor!  That must mean I know important things!
  2. I get to have a second pair of hands, eyes, etc. in my classroom!  This.Is.AMAZING.
  3. Wait a minute…what do *I* know?  I still have so much to learn.
  4. Oh, no.  Maybe I don’t know enough!  Will I be good enough?
  5. MUST.ACT.SERIOUS.  I am now expected to be a perfect teacher who knows all things, does all things and is flawless in ALL THINGS.

If you have been a cooperating teacher before, you are probably thinking a few things, too:

  1. WOW!  I get to be someone’s mentor again!  That must mean I did a pretty good job last time!
  2. I get to have a second pair of hands, eyes, etc. in my classroom!  This.Is.AMAZING.
  3. Wait a minute…what if this one is a dud?
  4. What if they don’t even WANT Elementary Music?
  5. MUST.ACT.SERIOUS.  However, I am NOT expected to be a perfect teacher who knows all things, does all things and is flawless in ALL THINGS.

Phew!  Okay.  Calm down.  THIS IS GOING TO BE OKAY.

If there is one thing I can promise you about being a cooperating teacher, it is this:  Mentoring a student teacher makes you a better teacher.  Say it to yourself every morning if you need to.  It will make you feel better!  When you teach someone else how to teach, it makes you carefully consider why, how, and WHAT you are teaching.  When you hear your student teacher say some of the things that they have heard you say to your classes, you might even be left wondering, “Do I really say that?  Hmmm… Maybe it would be better if…”

With all of that said, here are my steps to success for hosting a student teacher.  Details vary based on which university they attend, your teaching assignment, etc.

  1.  Prepare for your new guest.  I always provide a binder with a customized cover, filled with important information such as a welcome letter, expectations, class schedule, district curriculum guide, TEKS (because I’m in Texas, y’all…use National Standards if needed) and several articles that I have collected from workshops and other publications throughout the years that I have found to be particularly relevant to new teachers. (Start collecting these…they’re really good to have!).  I also provide a goody bag because who doesn’t love a goody bag?  It contains things like a box of Emergen-C which I advise them to start using immediately, a bottle of water, lip balm, hand sanitizer, Post-Its, etc.
  2. Allow at least one week for your student teacher to just observe you in action.  Let them introduce themselves to each class.  Have them take notes during your lessons.  Encourage them to ask a lot of WHY questions.
  3. Assuming you teach some lessons multiple times (for instance, by Friday, I have already taught each lesson 4 times) let your student teacher take over small tasks and join in on activities towards the end of the first week.  By the end of the first week, my student teachers are definitely at least leading the warm up for each class and doing simple things like lining the students up at the end of class.
  4. Ease them into responsibility both through participation and scheduling.  My student teachers are with me for 7 weeks.  The other 7 weeks are spent doing secondary band, choir or orchestra.  After their first week of observation, they take over the planning and teaching of ONE grade level.  The third week, they take on two more grade levels.  The fourth week, they add one or two more and so on.  By weeks 6 and 7, they are teaching the entire schedule with little to no assistance.  The hardest part for me during this time is backing off.  It is so hard to hand your classroom over!  Of course, before they have taken over a grade level, they should be actively participating with the class and teaching parts of lessons with you more and more the longer they have been in your classroom.
  5. Respect your student teacher at all times.  Speak to them as a person of intelligence and authority in front of students and other teachers and that respect will be repaid by those people as well.  If correction is needed, be respectful and brief.  Sometimes, immediate feedback is appropriate.  Other times, you can write things down in a notebook or on index cards (my preferred method) for them to read later and reflect on.
  6. Set aside ample time for planning, debriefing, reflecting and just generally chatting with your student teacher.  Time spent together on these things is so important.
  7. Make it your goal to familiarize your student teacher with as many quality resources as possible.  This is SO HARD.  There is just so much out there, but you can pick the cream of the crop and make sure they know about it.  If possible, make a master list of teacher resources (if spreadsheets excite you, you will love this!) so that when they have their first teaching assignment, they will have something to refer to when purchasing new materials.
  8. Take pictures of your student teacher in action so that they will have memories to take with them.
  9. Be ready for tears.  Be ready for victories.  There will probably be both.
  10. Finally, commit to being a mentor for life.  Let it be known that you are someone who they can call on for years to come if they need anything at all!

I absolutely love being a cooperating teacher.  I am currently mentoring my 9th student teacher and having a blast!

I would love to mentor YOU!  If you want to know anything more about being a cooperating teacher or how I manage my classroom with a student teacher at the helm, feel free to contact me.

In music,


Marti Chandler

Hello! My name is Marti Chandler. I graduated from the University of Houston in 2002 with a Bachelor of Music in Music Education (Go Coogs!). I have 16 years of classroom teaching experience and it is both my work and my passion! I spent my first two years teaching Elementary Music in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, then came back home to teach in my hometown of Houston, Texas in 2004. I have been teaching Elementary Music and Choir in Clear Creek ISD for the past 14 years where I have also served as Co-Director of the Clear Creek ISD Elementary Honor Choir and have written curriculum for the district. In addition to those roles, I also enjoy hosting student teachers from the University of Houston and designing classroom teaching materials for my Teachers Pay Teachers store. When I am not working, I enjoy traveling, nerding out about meteorology (I love to track hurricanes!), cooking and spending time with my rocket scientist husband, three children and our giant, goofy Mastiff named Mags.