Metaphors for Cooperating Teacher Roles
The following is adapted with permission from the TeachHUB team (2014).
Cooperating teachers cultivate the mind by nourishing, enhancing the climate, removing impediments to learning and then standing back and allowing growth to occur. Gardeners take a small seed, plant it in the ground and nurture it. They keep it free from weeds, provide water and give access to sunlight. Soon enough, that small seed turns into a flourishing plant. Teachers similarly plant seeds of truth and wisdom inside of their students and student teachers. We do everything we can to ensure that the seed we plant today will blossom tomorrow. A cooperating teacher is a gardener.
Cooperating teachers accompany student teachers on their learning journey. When we travel, it’s helpful to hire a tour guide to explain the fascinating sights we’re experiencing. The information they possess and the stories they share make old buildings, strange edifices or structures look fascinating. As cooperating teachers, we help student teachers see what is mesmerizing in the world. We expose them to new adventures and then let them decide what they’d like to pursue further. A cooperating teacher is a tour guide.
How does a juggler manage to fling four, five or more balls in the air without letting them fall? It takes years of practice and coordination to make juggling look as entertaining and effortless. Likewise, teachers manage to somehow balance students’ needs and student teachers' needs with jurisdiction requirements, collaborate with colleagues, communicate with parents, plan for lessons, grade homework, provide feedback and report at meetings—all while maintaining some semblance of a personal life. How do teachers manage to do all that without dropping the balls? A cooperating teacher is a juggler.
Sure, if you’re looking to get in shape, you could exercise on your own, but it’s much easier when you have a knowledgeable expert instructing you along the way. Physical trainers know how to assess their clients’ initial abilities and have all the right techniques to get them where they want to be. Perhaps the best thing about them is that they push you further than you would yourself. Like physical trainers, cooperating teachers know how to determine where their student teachers are and how to engage their mental muscles to grow throughout the course of the year. We push, we train and then we congratulate our student teachers on a job well done. A cooperating teacher is a physical trainer.
Coaches can push athletes to exhaustion. They can express disappointment when teams fail and joy when they succeed. They focus on fundamentals, on strategies to achieve success and on working as a team. Doesn’t that sound like teaching? We thrive when student teachers collaborate and succeed, and restore their confidence when faced with challenges. A cooperating teacher is a coach.
The entire activity of being a cooperative teacher is an aesthetic experience. There are no recipes, prescriptions, cookie-cutter processes—just wide open spaces. True art contains heart, passion, emotion, experience and finesse to fine-tune an idea into a beautiful product. Artists understand the fundamentals of their craft, but they’re also able to insert a large portion of themselves into their work, to make decisions on the fly and to subtly fine-tune a product one day at a time. Cooperating teachers, too, can see student teachers as their masterpieces, and they and draw on more than just a set of skills and techniques to teach. We don’t just mould minds, after all—we mould hearts too. A cooperating teacher is an artist.
The 9-1-1 dispatcher is the first voice you hear who assesses your needs, encourages you that it will be OK, coaches you through the first steps of response and sends the resources necessary to rescue you. As cooperating teachers, we often intervene in the same way—we see the problem and hear the calls for help, we determine what resources are necessary, we walk student teachers through the steps they need for recovery, and we assure them that it will turn out OK. A cooperating teacher is a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
TeachHUB. 2014. “Back to School Prep Guide: 8 Metaphors for a Teacher.” TeachHUB website.