How to be a Great Student (& Supervising) Teacher

Thomas Rademacher
9 min readJan 4, 2020

I had this student teacher once that wasn’t doing a great job. In front of class he was cold, mechanical. He taught like he had pre-rehearsed every word he would say (he did), and really struggled to connect with students on any kind of personal level.

So it was that I was working with a student on an essay, and I was quite happy to see this student teacher talking, laughing, smiling with two students in our class.

After class, we were walking down the stairs to lunch, and said, “looks like things were going well over there.”

“Yeah,” he said, “they asked me if I had ever been to any strip clubs and…”

So I had to tell my student teacher, a guy who had traveled all over the world and was also a fully grown adult and stuff, that it was entirely unacceptable to talk to students about the differences in strip clubs all over the world, as well as in different places in the city, because that’s exactly what the hell he was talking to them about.

This was the worst and dumbest thing this student teacher did, but was not the only thing. We spent a few months together, and nearly every one of those days involved an hour of direct coaching and co-planning and goal setting, but it was like rolling a ball up-hill. Every time I let go, he started sliding backwards, as if he had no ability or interest in learning how to stand on his own. He did not know a single other staff member by name, didn’t know most of our students, and not once took it upon himself to do something he was not directly asked to do (with step by step instructions, examples, and reminders).

After a few months of this, he let it slip in passing that he really didn’t have any interest in being a teacher anyway, but was finishing the program because his girlfriend told him to.

I tell this story for a reason. I remember being wildly anxious heading into student teaching that I wouldn’t be good enough. The bar is not that high.

This guy was a case study in how to be a bad student teacher, and helps me understand why some teachers (if their last or only experience was like this one, was one in which your student teacher adds a lot of stress and work to weeks and months of your year, who doesn’t add to your…

Thomas Rademacher

Author of ‘It Won’t Be Easy.’ and ‘Raising Ollie’ 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. @mrtomrad on everything.