Confessions of a Cooperating Teacher by Susan Woller



My own learning experience

The fall of 2013 began like any other school year. I was assigned to teach science, just like the previous 20 school years. My classroom looked the same, only cleaner, polished tabletops and freshly waxed floors.  My textbook was on the shelf with my lesson plan binder right next to it. Same text, same binder…sure I’d mix it up a bit, modifying an activity, changing an assignment, but basically, I was not stressed. I knew what I was doing, and I knew that I was prepared to do it well.


The morning of our first in-service day was full of discussion with friends and family updates. The common exchange between two multitasking teachers was asking, “How was your summer?” and answering, “Too short!” Time was precious; every minute counted, starting now. The season of clock watching had officially begun. I am actually one of those people who choose this season as her favorite season, yes fall, not summer. I thrive on routine, and nothing has more structure than a middle school bell schedule. Once you get back into the swing, all physical responses fall right into place. Your stomach always growls at 11:52, even on the weekends. I truly love routine!

The first faculty meeting was called to order. Our agenda was placed before us: the value of staff presence in the hallways, the rules about copier usage, the importance of the PSSA’s. There was nothing that I hadn’t heard many, many times before. No staff changes were to be announced, or so I thought; then, she was introduced. Her name was Charlotte, Charlotte Danielson to be precise. Charlotte had her own agenda about domains, documentation, and accountability, but it seemed singular in purpose: Make my life miserable. I did not have time to be accountable for everything that I was already doing. I am a good teacher…and now I have to prove it…in a portfolio. If documenting my domains wasn’t bad enough, I still wasn’t sure what I had to do. What in the world does “Involvement in a Culture of Professional Inquiry” actually mean? How can I prove that I am doing it, if I don’t even know what it is?

Needless to say, my first day of school, my I CAN DO IT and by the way, I AM GREAT DOING IT attitude, was nowhere in my being. I went back to my room and googled job opportunities for every place but my present employment. Would anyone be willing to pay me my salary for doing something else? Forget the pride that I have in teaching. I am completely stressed out. Stress is not fun. I just want to earn money. Forget about molding our future. I won’t have time to do it anyway; I’ll be too busy working on my portfolio! A knock on the door interrupts my frenzied search. Wow, those IT guys are good! To my relief, it was not the IT guy, but rather my principal. He had a question. Do I want a student teacher? I have never had one. I do believe it is my professional responsibility. Sure I say. I’ll do it. Why not? This year cannot get any worse.

I tell my coworkers that I am getting a student teacher this spring. They look shocked. They remind me that I am a control freak. I know. They remind me that I will be in the midst of putting together my portfolio while assisting this new teacher. I know. I secretly hope she knows Charlotte. They have to be teaching this in college, right?

After the most stressful six months to start a school year, full of more remediation classes than tolerable, more data review than possible, more e-mails than necessary, she arrives. She is lovely, personable, and motivated, all of the things that I have been lacking since September. She is a physical reminder of why I started out in this profession in the first place, to be a teacher who teaches. In the past two months, I have been teaching her about lesson planning, questioning techniques, and the pacing of instructional delivery. In the past two months, she has been reminding me why I love teaching, as I refocus my time on the students themselves and away from the data profiles of them.

As a 1993 graduate of The Slippery Rock School of Education, it has been an honor and a privilege to give back to the program that has given so much to me. Having a student teacher has been a rewarding and enriching experience not only for me, but also for my fellow staff members who have had the opportunity to share in our journey together. I look forward to keeping in touch with my student teacher as she begins her path of enlightening the lives of the young people that she will touch with her own unique gifts and talents. Oh, and by the way, she does know Charlotte. We are doing our portfolios together.










This entry was posted in General News & Information. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply