Saturday, December 31, 2005

Teacher Ed: A Cautionary Tale For Student Teachers

It is an unfortunate fact the many student teachers do not receive any training in what is and is not an appropriate level of familiarity with students. This should serve as an object lesson for all would-be educators:
A student teacher at a Moore Public Schools elementary school has been banned from the district after parents complained of alleged inappropriate contact with students.

Superintendent Debbie Arato confirmed Tuesday night a student teacher at Briarwood Elementary School had been removed this week, emphasizing the woman was not a school employee. She said she couldn't comment further.

A police report filed with the Oklahoma City Police Department claims the 24-year-old woman was allegedly sending "dirty e-mails" to a 12-year-old Briarwood student.

Charges have not been filed against the woman.

An Oklahoma City police officer was called to the school Monday afternoon in response to a parent wishing to file a report against her son's student teacher. When the officer arrived, the student teacher had already left the premises, so he couldn't talk to her.

The mother told the officer she started questioning her son the previous day about whom he was talking to when he had been on the phone for a long time. He told her it was his student teacher, according to the police report.

The report states the mother was shocked and checked her son's e-mail account that night, finding many messages between the student teacher and her son that "contained a lot of flirting and suggestive material in them."

The mother printed them out and took them to the school's principal Monday. The mother gave the officer copies of the e-mails which he later logged into evidence, according to the report. The messages were dated between Dec. 13 and Dec. 18.

The officer quoted the e-mails in his report. According to the report, one e-mail dated Dec. 18 read, "If I was 12, there are a few others that like me that I would also like. It's hard sometimes when I'm around all of you all day. I forget I'm older and once in a while find myself flirting back. Which you've probably noticed. I'm sure some people have if they've paid any attention to me."
During my 14 years of teaching service, I've hired and supervised a number of young college students who've worked with our junior high school pupils.

For many of these aspiring teachers, it's the first time that they've ever been on campus as a grownup "staff member" and not as a pupil. Consequently, many of them really don't know how to act around students. They don't know what demeanor is expected of them in the classroom, around the campus, and out in the community.

One of the things that I emphasized when training these paid tutors was the need for all adults who work with students to maintain what I termed as "professional distance" between themselves and students. I indicated that it was great to model courteous behavior with students and to show concern when things aren't going well. But I also pointed out that they were not there to be a buddy with students and to remember that they were a part of the school's professional staff.

In other words, they were there to do a job that they would hopefully find to also be fulfilling and enjoyable.

I think that all student teachers should be reminded of this several times by their building principals and supervising teachers as a part of their orientation and continuing on-campus training.

I firmly believe that with thorough preparation and communication between supervisors and beginning staff, many of these types of incidents can be prevented.
Visit this week's edition of The Carnival Of Education here and our latest posts over there.