Information for the Cooperating Teacher

The following suggestions are not to be taken as a set of hard and fast rules, but rather as guiding principles to help in the guidance of a student teacher.  Considerable flexibility should be assumed; our only concern is that the student teacher has the best possible introduction to the teaching experience and that you will enjoy working with him/her.

This section of the Student Teaching Handbook contains information for the Cooperating Teacher:

Eligibility Requirements

In order to become eligible to supervise student teachers in the St. Olaf College Teacher Education program, the teacher must:

  • be regularly employed in a student teaching center
  • hold a continuing teaching license
  • be teaching in his/her field of licensure
  • have at least three years of successful teaching experience
  • voluntarily accept the responsibilities of a cooperating teacher


The Education Department at St. Olaf College is appreciative of the individual work you are willing to do to help our prospective teachers obtain the foundation necessary to become good teachers.  Our program puts a considerable amount of responsibility upon the cooperating teacher; however, we hope that the student teacher with whom you work will contribute to making the experience a happy and profitable one for you and your students.  We realize that the cooperating teacher is the heart of our student teaching program.  Please feel free to discuss any problems with the college supervisors when they make their visits.  Your student teacher will provide you with a supervisory schedule that indicates exact dates when these supervisors will visit.  If a problem cannot wait, please call the Director of Field Experiences at 507-786-3245.

Amount of Teaching Required of Student Teachers

Your student teacher will be with you for a maximum period of fourteen weeks during which time it is expected that she/he will do some observing prior to teaching classes.  This observation period will, of course, vary from student to student and will reflect the wishes of the cooperating teacher.  Some cooperating teachers feel that an observation period of a day or two is sufficient and that teaching exposure to a class or classes on a limited basis is more productive to the growth of the student teacher than is an extended period spent exclusively observing.  Most students are eager to begin actual teaching.  It is our hope that in most cases the student will not observe full-time more than one week.  Fall student teachers are encouraged to teach/co-teach at least one class or lesson starting on the first day of school.

The time allotted for observation should be spent not only observing the cooperating teacher but, hopefully, also other members of your department and other teachers at your school.  It is hoped that the student will be able to talk to school counselors, administrators, media staff, special education teachers and teachers from other departments, etc., during the observation period.  You can help a great deal by introducing the student to as many faculty and staff as possible, as soon as possible.  The quicker the student feels a part of the school, the more secure and comfortable he/she becomes.

It is recommended that your student teacher assume the responsibility of teaching in your classes for a period of at least twelve weeks.  On an hourly basis, you should plan that four hours of teaching per day or twenty hours per week is the normal load.  That too, varies in relationship to the subject taught, particularly music where the hours must be equated with the preparation and the paperwork involved.  Actual teaching, in the opinion of the college, refers to direct contact with the students in classroom activities.

Although situations vary, here are guidelines for the teaching progression. Typically St. Olaf student teachers start out observing or co-teaching a portion of a lesson. They often start teaching one class by the second week of student teaching and add additional sections of that class as they and the host teacher are comfortable. They may add a second prep if the host teacher has two different classes. Students typically work up to teaching four classes by the midpoint of student teaching. Our program sees value in  full-time student teaching, but since circumstances may not allow for that, it is not a requirement. However, we do support a period of full time student teaching if the student teacher and host teach would like to do so.

Suggestions have been made to student teachers before leaving the college regarding the type of schedule they are expected to arrange, a schedule which should be worked out with the cooperating teachers and has the approval of the principal.  In brief, the schedule requirements are as follows:

  • Three or four hours of teaching per day; usually no more than two lesson preparations each day; a period for conference with the cooperating teachers; and some time for lesson preparation during the day.  If possible, the student teacher should have two classes in the same subject.
  • Time not spent in teaching, preparing, or conferencing may be spent in related worthwhile activities such as observing other teachers who are willing to have their classes observed, assisting with duties outside the classroom (i.e. study hall, lunch duty), and observing and assisting in co-curricular activities.  The cooperating teacher will, no doubt, guide the student teacher to assume other activities, recognizing that the student teacher should balance work with some relaxation.

The above recommendation may, of necessity, have to be modified in special cases as in the example of music instruction.  If you have any questions, please contact the Director of Field Experiences.

The Cooperating Teacher’s Presence in the Classroom

It is important that the cooperating teacher is in the room with the student teacher to co-teach, observe, evaluate, and make suggestions; however, we expect that the student teacher will also have the opportunity to do some solo teaching.  We understand that there is variation in the amount of time that a cooperating teacher will spend in the classroom, so please follow your school/district policy regarding leaving the student teacher alone to teach classes and use your judgment to determine the amount of responsibility the student teacher can assume.


We suggest that upon arrival, the student teacher meet the principal and assistant principal.  Sometime during the fourteen-week period it would be helpful to the student teacher to have a conference with the administrator in order to gain an idea of the school’s philosophy and the relationship between the classroom teacher and the administrator.  Such a conference might provide the beginner with some helpful suggestions about school policies, job applications, interviews, professional attitudes, and ethics.  It is the hope of the Education Department that the student teacher will acquire an overall perspective of the school system which will facilitate a good start on his/her first teaching job.

Unit/Lesson Plans

Student teachers should be required to prepare unit plans and daily lesson plans.  They should be made far enough in advance so that you, as the cooperating teacher, may have a chance to check, offer suggestions, and approve them before they are put into effect in the classroom.  They should be in sufficient detail as to reflect objectives, a sense of timing, command of materials, and understanding of the instructional strategies to be used.  When the college supervisors come to visit, they will want the student teacher to provide them with a copy of the lesson plan for the day and they may also want to see the current unit plan.  It will also help the supervisor to have in hand a copy of the textbook or other materials that are being used during the visit. We ask our students to use the this template for unit planning and this template for lesson planning;  we expect to see the lesson plan template used for the edTPA and for supervisor visits.

Routine Work

The very nature of teaching is such that there must be considerable routine work.  There are no objections whatsoever in requiring student teachers to do this work.  Even though it may be routine, there is definite value for the student in assuming such responsibility.  Routine work refers to such items as reporting attendance, filing materials, word processing, operating the copy machine, and keeping the classroom in order.

Student Teacher Development of Assessments

As a part of the student teaching experience, the student should be allowed to develop assessments, correct them, and evaluate student performance; of course, it is expected that this will be done under supervision.  Experience with a variety of assessment methods is desirable.


St. Olaf College pays an honorarium of $300.00 per student teacher to the cooperating teacher(s), school district, or fund designated by the authorized district official.  The cooperating teacher will be sent a W-9 form that is to be completed and returned to the Director of Field Experiences for processing and final payment.

If more than one cooperating teacher is assigned to a student teacher, the honorarium is divided between them.

Tk20 and Assessments

The Education Department uses Tk20, an online data management system, for student and program assessment.  You will be sent a link about a month into student teaching that you will use to complete assessments.

A midterm assessment is completed by the seventh week of student teaching for student teachers who have fourteen-week placements.  The cooperating teacher and the student teacher complete separate midterm assessment forms in Tk20 and then they meet to discuss the student teacher’s areas of strength and areas for improvement.  This gives student teachers an opportunity to self-assess as well as important feedback from their cooperating teachers on how they are progressing.

The student teacher final assessment form will be available in Tk20 for each cooperating teacher to complete. You can access the Student Teaching Assessment form at this link. An Expanded Student Teaching Assessment Rubric outlines specifics about each criteria. Student teachers may also ask cooperating teachers to write a letter of recommendation and upload it in Tk20.

Levels of Performance for Assessments

  • Emerging
    • The student teacher does not yet appear to understand the concepts underlying the component.  Working on the fundamental practices associated with the elements will enable the student teacher to grow and develop in this area.
  • Basic
    • The student teacher appears to understand the concepts underlying the component and attempts to implement its elements.  But implementation is sporadic, intermittent, or otherwise not entirely successful.  Additional reading, discussion, visiting classrooms of other teachers, and experience will enable the student teacher to become proficient in this area.  This level of competency is required to receive recommendation for teaching licensure.
  • Proficient
    • The student teacher clearly understands the concepts underlying the component and consistently implements it well.
Adapted from:
Enhancing Professional Practice:  A Framework for Teaching by Charlotte Danielson (1996)

The following suggestions will help you prepare the final assessment and the letter of recommendation.

  • Submit the final assessment and the letter of recommendation (as requested by the student teacher) in Tk20 at the completion of the student teaching assignment or shortly thereafter.
  • The letter of recommendation should be on official school stationary and contain your signature, so it is best to scan your letter as a pdf and upload to Tk20.
  • Most cooperating teachers review the final assessment and share the letter of recommendation with the student teacher before she/he leaves the assignment.
  • The letter of recommendation is of the utmost importance to prospective employers.  Emphasizing critical areas such as student rapport, planning, content knowledge, classroom management, dispositions, and future in the profession are very important.  It is not always in the best interest of the student teacher to highlight problems that she/he experienced early but solved as the student teaching experience evolved.  Statements such as, “Mary had classroom management problems the first two weeks, but completely solved the problems,” may give hiring officials an inaccurate impression.  Narratives describing the student’s abilities at the conclusion of the experience are more helpful than a historical chronology of each specific area being evaluated.
  • Many administrators like to talk to cooperating teachers prior to hiring a student.  If you do not mind being called in the summer, include a statement to that effect, perhaps even giving your home phone number.
  • If you foresee difficulty in writing the letter of recommendation, consult with one of the college supervisors.  If the assignment has been completed and you want to talk to someone, please call the college supervisor or the Director of Field Experiences.  We will be happy to visit with you.
  • Remember that the student’s credentials are not complete until the final assessment and your letter of recommendation (if applicable) have been received by the Education Department.  Your prompt attention to this will greatly aid the student in seeking a position.

Observation Guide and Checklist of Experiences in Student Teaching

You can refer to this helpful checklist for a timeline of student teacher activities and for a checklist to help orient your student teacher to your school. The student teacher checklist and observation guide has been provided to students to assist them in their transition to your school as well.

Suggestions to the Cooperating Teacher

Over the years many student teachers have offered suggestions following the completion of the student teaching assignment in exit conferences.  From these conferences, the following suggestions are offered to the cooperating teacher.

  • The courtesy of introducing your student teachers to your colleagues means a lot to them during first days of student teaching.  One student said that she liked the school because she was made a part of it immediately — they gave her her own mail box.
  • Take the initiative in seeing that your student teacher meets the principals, assistant-principals and counselors.  A few students return after fourteen weeks never having met the principal.
  • Encourage students to assume co-curricular responsibilities wherever possible.  Help them meet teachers who supervise activities in their interest area.  It may be difficult for new student teachers to walk up to a coach and ask if they can help out after school.  You can break the ice easily.
  • Provide student teachers with a place to work.  Even if your school has a space problem, a small table and chair will give them a place of their own to work when not in the classroom.
  • Spend time getting to know student teachers and building collaborative working relationships right away.  Make student teachers feel you are eager and willing to listen to and discuss problems that they might have.  Some student teachers are hesitant to speak up when they are having small problems.  An open, frank, understanding attitude will get you off to a good start and prevent small problems from becoming large ones.
  • During the observation period, provide student teachers with seating charts so that they can learn names and observe specific student characteristics and behavior.
  • Point out mistakes student teachers make as quickly as possible.  Don’t wait two weeks to tell them that you did not like the test they gave to the American History class.  The students expect constructive criticism.
  • Let students know from time to time that they are doing a good job (if this is true).  A compliment from you can be a real day brightener.
  • Keep in mind that this experience is probably the most important task that your student teacher has ever faced.  Remember your own student teaching experience and how much you wanted to succeed.  Many student teachers expect to have 100% good days and become depressed after a class has gone badly.  Share some of your “bad day” experiences with her/him when this happens.  Above all, keep your sense of humor.
  • Please inform the college quickly if you think the student teacher should be reassigned to a different school.  Personality and philosophical differences between the student teacher and the cooperating teacher sometimes make the placement unworkable.  These decisions should be made as early as possible.
  • Remember: If we at the college can help in any way, please let us know immediately.  All college supervisors in the Education Department have had public school teaching experience.  You will find us to be realistic and willing to help in any way possible.
  • Expect big things from your student teachers, and let them know this.
  • Demand well-planned lessons from the start.  You are the expert and should carefully review lesson plans before the student teacher teaches the class.  Many times you will be able to spot trouble areas and potential mistakes before they occur.
  • Inform students of procedures you want them to follow in the event of illness.  It is a good idea to tell students approximately when you leave home each morning so that they can call you prior to your departure for school.
  • Call upon student teachers to do something extra when you are faced with a time shortage.  This often makes the student feel that they are an integral part of the department and that you have confidence in their ability to do the extra task.
  • Encourage innovation.  Urge student teachers to be creative.
  • Hold conferences with the student teacher as soon as possible after your classroom observation.  This can be done in an informal manner over a cup of coffee.
  • As the student teaching experience progresses, you will no doubt give student teachers more and more responsibilities.  This is healthy and necessary if student teachers are going to develop their own teaching personality.