Student Assistance Program: Completing the Circle

“Everyone is responsible for his/her own education. Everyone is responsible for the education of all students.” This session began by identifying that this program is in its first year and there is a learning curve they experience with its implementation. We began with a quotation from Why School? by Mike Rose, encouraging us to think deeply about what we want our schools to be.

The birth/concept of this program began with teachers and 5 students who wanted to envision seniors working in freshman classes. The numbers grew to 25 students within an elective program, and this mentoring program really “completed the circle.” As an elective, the schedule had to carve out time for 4 meetings weekly. The group is dedicated and spirited, and halfway through the years, they readjusted the student teaching program, revamping with needed reconsideration for the student teachers.

A teacher, a tutor, a mentor, and a helper are the support systems in the SLA classrooms. The student teachers have credibility as co-teachers because they have been in the same seats, same situations. Each student teacher assumes a different role, depending on the class and teacher with whom they work. What resonates through each student’s description of his/her role is one-on-one instruction. Students meet weekly with their “teacher,” have and share co-planning, and even grade “small things.” They work in their designated classrooms everyday and meet collectively once a month to share experiences, ask for advice, build community and group identity. The meetings last upwards of 1.5 hours and energize the program and the school.

On insight into the meetings, the students provided video footage of actual meetings on peer advice at a Student Assistant Teacher Meeting. Student teachers realized that they needed to help struggling students more intensely. The next discussion focused on how kids acts in different environments and how that can be adapted. The student teachers realized that they need to find different approaches to helping students, especially those for whom a class is an elective that they may/not care that much about. These students actually discussed their role in discipline, and they know that they need to switch roles like lightning to adjust to the students’ interest levels.

The third meeting we viewed centered on how student teachers react to discipline problems, knowing that a year or two ago, they may have been guilty of the same behavior. They recognized that teachers “hear but ignore some stuff.” If you call students on things they say, the student teachers are told to report to their teacher anything potentially dangerous to the welfare of the students and the community. But, they also need to distinguish between real threat v. kids being kids. Part of what student teachers cope with is the students’ perception that no one cares about what they say, in spite of the fact that student/teachers do care.

From the Student Teachers:

Meetings are for support in the process to keep the program running smoothly. Teachers facilitate via a choice of journal topics, usually two, and then they write as the springboard for the meeting. They use Moodle for a series of discussion threads when they do not meet. The students felt that the journaling and discussion boards were useful in organizing the student teachers for the meetings by being prepared. Most student teachers check Moodle every day, because this program “takes on a life of its own.” When meetings get cut off, having a place to post online is great because the conversation continues. Journals are a way to catch up with misses meetings. Student teachers check online journals as a way to keep up with all the outlying Moodle conversations that extend beyond the core group and are less active.

I could not help noticing the white board this history classroom, and some topics under various categories:

Utilities of Force (Peace Spectrum):

  • status quo v. hegemon
  • anarchy v. hierarchy
  • balancing v. bandwagoning
  • hard v. soft power.

Peace of Westphalia

Trans-National Group

Cold War

  • spheres of influence.

I must admit that I am impressed with the language not to mention the conceptual level of imagined engagement.

We were given the privilege of reading hard copy of some student comments about the student teacher program on Moodle. You can see more about this program here. When asked by the audience why student teachers selected this program varied from finding what they want to do in life to knowing they want to teach and know that they already are building an experience resume by teaching students as a student. Others understand the need for educational reform and know that this program speaks to creating meaningful change. Unconditional teaching is paying attention to everyone in the classroom, rather than conditional teaching focused toward one group. Student teachers experience not only hands-on but also current trends in research readings. This program moves students toward creating a vision of school built from the ground up, beginning and ending with students.

Four Corners Small Group Discussions with the Student/Teachers:

  1. Challenges of being a youth with a teacher role: Time constraints did not allow for a fourth rotation, so I missed this group discussion.
  2. Challenges of working with a mentor teacher: Some of the challenges include the difference between how student teachers and teachers think. One student teacher said that working with a first-year teacher creates challenges, especially with Spanish; this student teacher is bi-lingual, so he was recruited to help the teacher, actually. The student teacher is Facebooked by his students and posts his assignments to FB; he feels that the students have more of a connection to him because of his age, language fluency, and social networking; The other student teacher in this group feels she makes better connections but the teacher believes that is a good thing. Both worry about overpowering the class. Sometimes problems arise with students when they see a teacher looking for help from the student teacher. However, that situation was resolved, but challenges arise throughout the year. Sometimes student teachers are better at discipline, and their relationship with their mentor teacher enables this collaboration. When asked how they feel about re-teaching, the student teachers said it makes them feel good because they remember their own student experiences and knew what worked for them. Scheduling is a challenge; this program drives the scheduling, especially for freshmen. In the SAT program, student teachers get to see why a teacher acts the way s/he does, because it takes a lot of time to discipline disruption. As a student teacher, you get to see how much the teachers care about their students. They also noted that they have different roles inside and outside the classroom, and their teachers have asked them to speak to the students about these two roles. They drew a line between the two roles, but find it weird sometimes dealing with it. They noted that students did not know how to address them and sometimes mix up the two teachers.
  3. Insights about teaching: The principal orchestrates the program and the students find it amazing to be able to teach; it has helped them learn and grow and differentiate roles, seeing into how hard it is to lead a class of 20-30 students, knowing the kids “get it”; sometimes they work outside their content comfort, so it forces them to learn more to be helpful to their students. It’s helpful to have someone who struggled with a subject to be a student teacher in that subject, because you understand the students you are trying to help. They also help students understand that procrastination does not work and they tend to listen to student teachers more than the teacher. Students create lesson plans to teach and assist, so jumped in to help students get on task from the first day, but admit they learn a lot about observing. From observations, they learn what works and what does not when they are doing stuff, and they think they would deal with behavior problems differently. You can’t be a successful teacher without an observation period. You learn the dynamics of the classroom and how to apply it. Student teachers learn from caring teachers and their classroom management. They also noted that they can’t bring a bad day into the classroom because it produces a negative reaction. One drawback: the program is pretty much student teacher to teacher, and not enough interaction among the group of student teachers. Student teachers actually read about educational theory because they find it benefits them and therefore their class.
  4. Leadership of the S.A.T. program and what it is like to be a mentor: This program was an organic process that evolved in the third year of the school’s existence. Student teachers comit to a year-long program which is a good thing because there is an observation period and a comfort zone to establish. Mentors plan carefully with student teachers before/after teaching. It’s a time committment, but an enjoyable different level. Since the program was voluntary on both parts, both students and teachers were comfortable with their roles because of a pre-existing framework which avoided disasters. You need the right people on both sides and it has to be voluntary. In reflection, the mentors would like a mentor meeting established on a regular basis so they can connect. From a teacher’s perspective, it makes you a better role model with a different dynamic practioner approach.

I must end by saying that I have never been anything but impressed with all the SLA students I have met.

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One Comment;

  1. Prof. Seeman said:

    You make some good points above.
    However, I also think that this can be helpful to you:
    The book and Training Video: PREVENTING Classroom Discipline Problems

    If you can get this book and video: [they are in many libraries, so you don’t have to buy them] email me and I can refer you to the sections of the book and video [that demonstrates the effective vs. the ineffective teacher] that can help you.

    If your library does not have them, you can get them at:

    that are also used at this online course:

    See: Reviews at:

    If you cannot get the book or video, email me anyway, and I will try to help.

    Best regards,


    Howard Seeman, Ph.D.
    Professor Emeritus,
    City Univ. of New York

    Prof. Seeman

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