Co-teaching

Pluses

An extra set of eyes to help with differentiation and planning for a mixed ability classroom
Extra help with classroom management and discipline
Shared Responsibility

Minuses

Different Teaching Styles
Students may try to “play” one against the other
Clashing Personality
Different Goals

Interesting Question

Who is in charge of Homework
What is the plan in case one of us is absent?
Who is in charge of grades?
Are the potential differentiations fair and equal for all?

One of the things that we as teachers take for granted is that we all have one goal- positive education of our students. We believe in our students and their futures. We believe that everyone who has taken up our profession has the same goal in mind. Unfortunately, it is often our different approaches that bring us into direct conflict with each. This conflict can be seen when a co-taught classroom is created without thinking of the teachers who will teach in it.
Several of the pluses of co teaching are the increased support for all involved. In any classroom teachers make decisions based on sampling and polling the students through questions and spying on paperwork; the extra teacher can facilitate small groups and listen out for good or bad chatter (thus functioning as an extra pair of ears.) With the right model; there can be someone who can see if the pacing of displayed notes is too fast or if the notes are inadequate in design. This potentially translates to an extra mouth/ advocate for students who may not speak out for themselves. Often times students are reticent to speak out in larger classes, but they will flat out asks questions if given the proper attention. Thinking positive, if they were given that extra body, perhaps they would listen to that person explain concepts or ideas in ways that the teacher possibly didn’t fully extrapolate upon (and in turn that person can relay the message in a concise professional way.)
In previous situations where I have been locked into co-teaching with other there has been complete dissonance. Instead of working together, it seems that we often times worked apart planning and it never was on the same project. Often I would do prep work, and print out additional notes for my co-teacher and she would never take the opportunity to read them. Yet, she would jump in during my presentation phrase with answers that were hardly relevant to the task at hand. Ultimately, it began to become a waste of time to in trying to include her. She would never actually take lead or help with grading any work. Eventually, the class needed to be split into two because it was impossible to maintain with one person mainting the entire work load.
In many regards, co teaching is just like any collaborative situation. That is, it’s just like the groupings that we would place our kids into. Goals should be expressly determined. Administrations and teachers should be very aware that the ideal situations on paper may not be that way in reality. They should ask how comfortable they feel with working with another person directly. Other things they should ask is what would you be comfortable in changing in regards to your teaching style? Teachers and administrators should also take notice of a person’s experience and attitude about working with Students with Special Needs. There are a number of variables that can factor into the equation and affect the work day. The UFT website provides numerous links to the various models of coteaching. It also has sample questionnaires for administrators and teachers to answer about their attitudes on co-teaching and a survey that points towards what co-teaching environment they may thrive best in.
Co-teaching can be a great melting pot for students and teachers. However like any good stew it takes time and patience for the flavor to really develop into something satisfying. The problem is, that time is often a commodity that those in the education profession do not have in spades.

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