As I’ve said, student teaching counts as a university course. And yet, this time of learning can bring up many fears and anxieties in some student teachers. Many nervous teachers in-training ask me if it’s possible to fail student teaching. The simplest answer to the question is “yes.” But… well, there’s a lot of “buts” here. Student teaching isn’t like other university classes.
Reasons You Could Fail Student Teaching, and How to Prevent Failure
In most — possibly all — teacher colleges, your student teaching grade depends on three factors:
- evaluations from your cooperating teacher,
- evaluations from your professors who observe your teaching, and
- grades you receive on school assignments (essays and projects) related to your student teaching.
If you fare poorly in any of these three areas, you risk failing your student teaching. Of these three aspects, performance on school assignments causes the least trouble for most student teachers. Universities are aware that student teaching is not just a class, but also a demanding, full-time job. So the homework you get will be relatively light. You’ll likely be asked to complete short personal reflections about your teaching experience, not in-depth research projects or lengthy term papers.
Evaluations from Professors
Evaluations from professors can be more of a concern, as this is where your school will hold you to high standards. However, feedback will likely be frequent and very detailed throughout your student teaching period. If your trainers see something they don’t like, they’ll talk to you about it right away. You’ll be given feedback and chances to correct any problems with your teaching well before the problems become so big that you could flunk out of your placement.
Evaluation from Cooperating Teacher
The evaluations you get from your cooperating teacher are the ones that can sometimes create huge problems. They can put a dent in your student teaching grade after it’s too late to fix anything. This is only the case sometimes, though. Like your professors, some cooperating teachers will give you frequent feedback and provide correction as needed. However, other cooperating teachers can be silent for most of the term, sending their feedback to your university only at the end of semester.
If you get low marks from a cooperating teacher at semester’s end, that could be enough to cause you to fail your student teaching. To avoid this potential problem, be open with your cooperating teacher from the get-go. Make it clear that you value their feedback and understand how important their opinion is. If you are open and eager to learn, you should be able to get the steady flow of feedback you need from your cooperating teacher.
What You Should Do if You Fail Student Teaching
Most obviously, you’ll need to do another period of student teaching; you’ll need to retake the course, in other words. If that happens, there are other things you can do as well to make sure you ultimately succeed as a teacher. Here are steps to take if you were recently involved in a bad student teaching experience.