For the last three years, I have had a almost full-time student teacher in my classroom. They all purport to be very thankful for the learning experience, etc., but let's be honest: while hosting a student teacher is at times a lot of work, and while sharing one's classroom can be difficult, the student teacher is a boon.
All of my experience with student teachers has been at least good. They do need support. They need coaching. They need feedback, and sometimes you have to set down limits and expectations (I hate this; managing adults is not my thing). Sometimes they do things wrong and you have to fix them. Your lesson plans need a new attention to detail so that student teachers can understand and apply them. That's the work.
And then there comes the time when you watch your student teacher do a routine lesson or oversee a management situation and you think, "NO NO NO NO NO WRONG WRONG...oh, wait: not everything has to be just the way I do it." And possibly you like the student teacher's method better.
And those moments when you hear one of your verbal tics come from the student teacher's mouth and think, "Gee, I need to quit using that expression so much."
Not to mention the time your student teacher asks you a question and you have to think about the answer, which requires some reflection. Or you realize that you actually have no answer, that's just how you do it - and that really requires some reflection.
A student teacher means you can use the bathroom even on rainy days when you have no recess break. Nor do you need to spend three hours portioning out paint, washing brushes, making copies, filing papers...your student teacher can help with some of these tasks.
Eventually come student teacher solo weeks, during which supervising teachers can cut, laminate, letter, copy, organize, pack, and clean to their hearts' content.
Given all this, I like to get my student teachers presents regularly: at the winter break, when they finish a solo day or week, when they finish one of their major credentialing projects, and so on. Here are some I believe were well-received; I am running low on ideas and would love more should you have any.
- Gifts for the person: accessories keyed to the student teacher's taste, items for the home, massage/spa certificates.
- Gift certificates to Lakeshore. Lakeshore materials are pricey and hard to justify unless you have a gift certificate, but they come finished and perfect for the new teacher.
- Gift certificates to Donors Choose, combined with help the next year getting those first projects up.
- A bunch of the readalouds you love and the student teacher has heard over and over and over. Buy these in hardcover; if you can find good quality used copies you can buy a lot of them for very little money.
- Solo Kits - your student teacher will likely be the only adult in his or her classroom next year. Get things that the kids can do while the student teacher tests or pulls small groups: fuse bead kits (don't forget an iron!), learning games, flash cards, etc. Homemade is fine, too: you will be saving the student teacher time next year.
- Better quality and/or esoteric supplies: real fadeless paper for the walls, actual Crayola crayons, Sharpie chart markers, chart paper pads, post-it glue, scented markers.
- Science stuff: a terrarium, a set of magnifiers or prisms, etc.
- Art stuff: like science stuff, this isn't always provided. Paint, beads, etc.
- Pillows and carpet squares.
- Storage containers: you the demonstration teacher may have been saving glass jars for ten years and select your yogurt based on the usefulness of the plastic tubs in which it comes, but the student teacher has yet to be inducted into the fine arts of material management.