Backseat Teacher

Backseat DriverIf a backseat driver is a vehicle passenger in the back seat who is not controlling the vehicle and seems to be uncomfortable with the skills of the driver and/or wants to tutor the driver while the driver is at the wheel (definition courtesy of Wikipedia), then…

…a backseat teacher is a classroom teacher who has taken a backseat and who is currently not controlling the learning of the students and seems to be uncomfortable with the skills of the teacher who is in charge of the class and/or wants to tutor that teacher while the teacher is at the front of the class (definition courtesy of moi).

It would seem that that’s how the analogy would go.

However, though I title myself a backseat teacher, I want to clarify how I do and do not meet my own definition of that label.

First, as is often the case when the main driver finds him or herself in the backseat of the vehicle, it was my choice to take a backseat to the teaching that is going on in my second-grade classroom. I volunteered to have a student teacher, knowing full well that, after several months of observing me in action while slowly easing his way into the forefront of the instruction, one subject at time, that he would eventually be responsible for the entire day of teaching. And that his entire days would turn into weeks and even months. So, like parents who have to teach their teens to drive, or an individual who perhaps drank too much and has to rely on a designated driver, I made a conscious position to remove myself from the driver’s seat.

As a backseat teacher, I am no longer in total control of my student’s learning. I am, ultimately, responsible for their learning, but for the moment (days, weeks, months), I am not governing how information is presented, how the classroom is managed, and that learning is ensured.

I must say, clearly, that I am not uncomfortable with the skills of my student teacher. He spent two full days in my classroom all last spring during his pre-internship and has been here five days a week—and for far more than 40 hours each week—since school started up again in August, marking the beginning of his internship. He watches, listens, asks questions, reads, reflects, and clearly demonstrates a desire to become a highly effective teacher. And he is well on his way.

Do I tutor him while he is at the front of the class? I most certainly do. As his cooperating teacher, it is the responsibility of the both of us to ensure that he becomes a proficient teacher. Though he is taking the lead, I am the one with the experience and insight, so it makes sense for me to pipe in, to suggest he try something in a different way, to remind him to keep an eye on a certain student, or to explain how to say something more explicitly.

I continue modeling for him. I provide additional information and remind him of our vision. I answer his questions or pose questions back to him so that he can form his own conclusions. I help him set goals for himself and show him that the students, too, need to set goals and learn how to work toward them. I hope the feedback I give aids in his reflection. I communicate that though most teaching is adequate, most progress made by students acceptable, I have greater expectations for him and his future charges. I want him to become an accomplished teacher, exemplary.

I miss teaching, miss being at the wheel and controlling the speed and direction of my students’ learning.

But I’m realizing, with every day that passes, with each new instructional strategy and classroom management technique I observe my student teacher trying and mastering, with all the learning that is happening with the students, that, for now, I’m driving a much bigger machine, a school bus perhaps, that will soon go forth on its own, to great places, with many passengers, to do great things.

Reposted on 11/7/13 for


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Beverly Horyza
    Oct 07, 2013 @ 06:57:35

    Hey — I see the topic of your next book: How to Guide a Student Teacher in Your Classroom. Think about it.


    • Randee
      Oct 07, 2013 @ 11:41:22

      Hmmm, neat idea. I’d have to do a lot of research and would be limited in real-life research, unless I had a student teacher every year. I’ll keep it in mind, Thanks for always thinking and sharing your thoughts.


  2. ashlynsmom99
    Oct 07, 2013 @ 15:54:03

    I enjoy reading the many blogs out there and wish to bring attention to a few who may not get as much readership as they should. They create wonderful content and should be recognized for their talent. I am hereby nominating the following for the Liebster Award for blogging.

    The Rules are simple:

    1. Create a link back to the person who nominated you.2. Nominate other bloggers who have less than 200 followers3. Answer the questions given to you.4. Create another set of questions for the nominees5. Notify the bloggers you have nominated them.The Questions I answered:1. Name a person you admire, living or deceased. C.S. Lewis 2. What’s your favorite color? Purple 3. Do you have a hobby? Reading and music. I love to sing. 4. How do you spend your free time? Lately, nuturing my unnatural love for Pinteret. 5. Favorite dessert. Brownies with ice cream. 6. Your dream house would be in the mountains by a river. Running water is so zen. 7. Is there a goal you still want to achieve? I want writing to be a full-time job. 8. Cartoon character you like from your childhood. Tweety Bird. Smart, sassy and impossibly cute. 9. Who is your favorite singer? This week? Probably Adele. 10. Fantasy vacation would be a trip to a tropical island with cabana boys and a spa.

    My questions for the nominees:

    1. What author would you most like to emulate?
    2. If you could spend 24 hours doing whatever you want, what would it be?
    3. What is the song that best describes your teenage years?
    4. Whose poster was on your wall as a child?
    5. What is your favorite movie of all time?
    6. Are you an animal lover?
    7. Do you prefer an artificial or real Christmas tree?
    8. Candy corn: love it or hate it?
    9. Are you athletic?
    10. Who you play you in the Lifetime movie of your life?

    And now it’s your turn my fellow bloggers!


  3. hugmamma
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 13:52:59

    I had been a student teacher, decades ago. The experience made me decide to abandon teaching. The teacher in whose class I did my student teaching was older and very set in her ways. She gave me very little direction in how to break the mold she had established. She tended to do the same format day in, day out…hand out copied material for the 4th graders to complete…have them read silently or aloud. There was little discussion to excite their minds. I’m sure I watched the clock as much as the students did. As a result, I have tremendous respect for teachers like yourself who are dedicated to growing upstanding citizens, especially in the current global environment. 🙂 And so I nominate you…Teacher of the Blogosphere! BTW…there’s no such award. It’s just my personal way of thanking you. 🙂


    • Randee
      Oct 12, 2013 @ 17:14:41

      I am honored to receive the award! I’m sorry to hear that your student teaching experience was not a positive one. Things have changed, luckily, and now it resembles more of a team teaching situation. I love young blood when it comes to teachers. They bring so much energy, enthusiasm, and idealism to the profession. Thank you for your comments.


      • hugmamma
        Oct 12, 2013 @ 23:42:46

        Happy to hear there are teachers like you. Keep on…keeping on…and doing good for all those students who enter and exit your classroom. 🙂

Kindly Leave a Thought:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: