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Mentoring Matters

February 07, 2023 - 5 minute read

The student teaching experience has been noted as one of the most stressful experiences for a pre-service teacher (Izadina, 2017). They have invested significant time, money, and effort into their dream of becoming a teacher. Now in student teaching, their proficiency as a teacher is tested. As experienced teachers, it is easy to forget what it was like being a novice student teacher. A cooperating teacher’s expertise is highly desired by student teachers and profoundly influences their self-efficacy (Izadina, 2016). The mentoring role is more than simply handing over your classroom of students. It is providing calm, insightful coaching. It is walking alongside a beginning teacher each day to support their development. There are several key components in a productive mentoring relationship: providing regular feedback, engaging in open communication to clarify expectations, and building a relationship of trust.

Regular Feedback

Student teachers crave feedback that provides both affirmations for their success and specific feedback that identifies areas to improve (Sayeski, 2012).   Providing only praise to a student teacher can feel disingenuous, as if the cooperating teacher is not observing closely enough to find areas of growth. Overly critical feedback becomes taxing and weighs down the fragile confidence of student teacher. By intentionally providing praise and evaluation, one affirms and challenges the student teacher. 

Align Expectations through Open Communication

Cooperating teachers and student teachers bring their own unique expectations to the relationship. These are more than program expectations that are part of university guidelines. These are individual assumptions and expectations that each person has internalized. What time should the student teacher arrive? Do you expect the student teacher to take the initiative in the classroom or wait for you to hand over responsibilities? When will you set aside time to plan together? Regular conversations that clarify what both anticipate from each other and why it is important will help build trust in the relationship. Student teachers highly value having expectations articulated by their mentor teacher (Hudson & Hudson, 2018). A weekly check-in provides opportunities to openly address any areas that need clarification and prevents minor misunderstandings from becoming significant issues in the relationship.

The Key Ingredient is Trust

A productive mentoring relationship can only develop if there is trust (Jones, 2014). When the student teacher believes the cooperating teacher has their best interest at heart, they will assume the best intentions of the cooperating teacher’s behavior. Once trust is broken, they begin to question the cooperating teacher’s motives. Yes, the student teacher also needs to invest time, effort and preparation into their teaching, but the cooperating teacher sets the tone for the relationship. Doing a few small things at the beginning of the placement can start things off on the right foot. Meeting with the student teacher ahead of time to share resources, define their role in the classroom, and discuss classroom management strategies helps set them up for success and reduces anxiety. Providing a desk in the room, introducing them to school personnel, and inviting them to contribute at departmental/planning meetings communicates that everyone is excited to welcome them into the school community. When the cooperating teacher asks questions to get to know the student teacher personally and shares memories of being a first-time teacher, it helps connect on a human level. By sharing stories of struggle or failure in teaching, the power differential between the “expert” and “novice” is equalized, and trust is developed. Modeling perspective-taking and idea-sharing with the student teacher, creates a collaborative, collegial relationship. By creating this dynamic, the unsure student teacher feels safe to take risks in teaching and is more open to feedback. Through these efforts, the cooperating teacher creates opportunities for them to flourish in their own unique way as a teacher.  

The cooperating teacher plays an influential role in the positive development of a student teacher. The student teacher enters a classroom with the hope that they will be a successful teacher, but inside there is uncertainty and vulnerability. Student teachers are seeking support, expertise and approval. Cooperating teachers have an incredible opportunity to make a lasting impact on the confidence and growth of a successful teacher.

Dr Heather Vezner
Dean of the School of Education
Assistant Professor of Education


Dr. Heather Vezner first came to Concordia University in 2009 and has served as TPA Coordinator, Director of Student Teaching and Director of Preliminary Teacher Credential Programs.  She currently serves as Dean of the School of Education.

Dr. Vezner recently completed her Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership from Northeastern University. Her dissertation research was a qualitative study analyzing the conflicts in the student teacher and cooperating teacher relationship.  She enjoys studying leadership, mentoring and organizational culture.


Hudson, P., & Hudson, S. (2018). Mentoring preservice teachers: identifying tensions and possible resolutions. Teacher Development, 22(1), 16–30.   

Izadinia, M. (2016). Student teachers’ and mentor teachers’ perceptions and expectations of a mentoring relationship: do they match or clash? Professional Development in Education, 42(3), 387–402.

Izadinia, M. (2017). From swan to ugly duckling? Mentoring dynamics and preservice teachers’ readiness to teach. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 42(7).

Jones, C. K., Kelsey, K. D., & Brown, N. R. (2014). Climbing the steps toward a successful cooperating teacher/student teacher mentoring relationship. Journal of Agricultural Education, 55(2), 33–47. 

Sayeski, K. L., & Paulsen, K. J. (2012). Student teacher evaluations of cooperating teachers as Indices of effective mentoring. Teacher Education Quarterly, 39(2), 117–130. Retrieved from

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