About the Term "Student Teacher"

The education field has all sorts of funny terms that seem somehow redundant or contradictory, like "teacher education" and "student teacher." When I enrolled in my MAT program, I noticed that the term "intern teacher" was often used in the literature instead of student teacher. As a high school student, I always heard and used the term student teacher, so that's what I've been calling myself.

"Intern teacher" sounded weird to me, even demeaning. I wasn't going to be an intern, was I? Interns are just people who work at a company for next to nothing doing menial labor just for the sake of "experience." I certainly didn't want to be associated with the word "intern"; I would be something more while I spent a year at a school for next to nothing—a student of teaching, a real learner.

Last Tuesday, however, my beliefs about the appropriateness of the title "student teacher" were challenged. An advisor from the university came to visit me at school, and early on in our discussion he told me that during this year I should not be acting as a student at all. I should be acting as a teacher, and be treated like one by my mentors.

My advisor's words resonated with me, to some extent. There had been moments when I was observing in class when I felt more like a student than a teacher—speaking up during a student discussion, raising my hand to get the teacher to call on me, and thinking, (only for a moment), that it might be good to do the studentsʼ homework along with them.

I agree with my advisor that my foremost goal for the next year should be to act as a teacher, not a student, and I should continually "scrape my knees," as he put it, in running a classroom and being an educator. Thankfully, my mentor teachers all seem more than willing, even eager, to give me those knee-scraping experiences whenever I want them, whether itʼs leading the class for fifteen or thirty minutes of the period or subbing for a day and getting to employ my own lesson plans. Later on in the year, I may be taking over for weeks or even months at a time.

When I think about the term for what Iʼm doing, "student teacher" does seem like it might get confused too easily with the other people I work with—the students. "Intern teacher," while it may be harmless enough, makes teaching sound like too much of an occupation to my ears, rather than a profession. Perhaps I should call myself an "apprentice" instead, but in the end it hardly matters. What matters for us student-intern-apprentice teachers, as Gandalf would say, is "what to do with the time that is given to us."