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Price lab School: Student Teachers Teaching Students

I was a K-through-12 “lab rat” at Malcolm Price Lab School. Sounds pretty pejorative, but I take it as a badge of honor and privilege: we were in a laboratory school for a teachers college.

What good fortune to be in a school that so prized education, so valued teaching, and so often kindled the thrill of learning. Student teachers were a big part of the equation. Every nine weeks we’d get a new crop of them.

By my later years, I learned that the Lab School had a reputation on campus for being very tough on student teachers. And I do remember sizing them up quickly, especially on whether they could maintain discipline or not. You could just about tell on their first day, and we did take advantage of some of them.

But I also remember hearing that our tough reputation caused weaker student teachers to choose to go elsewhere, so MPLS often got the best and most-confident student teachers of all.

And we had some wonderful student teachers. You could just see them blossom. A few were so good they could take over right away from our regular teachers. Some came along slowly but surely. Most of them clearly soaked up the mentoring and good guidance of our regular teachers. They grew as teachers, they grew as people.

Having student teachers only cast more light on how skilled and experienced and motivated were the regular teachers. The regulars were really college professors teaching us and their student teachers. In my years, it was Ken Butzier showing college students how to be drama directors. It was Ferd Riechmann demonstrating how to teach world history (and writing.) It was Ruth Mahon inspiring student teachers to inspire their students about science and so many more.

I don’t remember my student teachers in kindergarden, but I’m willing to wager Miss Koehring helped populate Iowa with outstanding teachers who helped many thousands of kids get off to a great start in schools all over the state.

Our school was about regular teachers teaching student teachers while both taught pupils. It was teaching squared, education cubed. I’m convinced it helped make school fun and learning a thrill, for life.

What a privilege to be a Lab Rat at MPLS.


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