3 Targets for Co-Teaching Success Next Year

A MiddleWeb Blog

2 teachers nobordr 210As this school year comes to a close, co-teachers are finding out their teaching placements for next year. These placements fall into two categories:

(1) Teachers who are given the gift of working together again for the upcoming year, or

(2) Teachers who are finding themselves with a new co-teaching partner.

Since it’s not realistic for every co-teacher to consistently be placed with the same partner year after year, co-teachers must focus on other variables of consistency that make co-teaching a success—regardless of who their teaching partner is.

Embracing the essence of co-teaching as the common thread that runs through all of our placements and assignments can be just the thing to make any co-teaching partnership work. And here’s my personal take:

The essence of co-teaching consists of collaboration, communication, and compassion. When any co-teaching pair mindfully makes these three ideals their everyday targets for teaching and learning together, they will have a successful partnership.

Here’s how you can reach each of these targets in the year to come, whether you’re working in a familiar partnership or teaming up for the first time.

3 targets trim

Target 1: Collaboration

  • See all learners in the room as individuals with personal life stories and connect with them within an active learning process.
  • Sync your own thinking with your co-teacher’s and your students’ thinking.
  • Be open to other perspectives and ways of achieving tasks.
  • Provide opportunities for choice and voice. Care about the opinions of your co-teacher and your students—and create an environment to allow them to share, risk-free!
  • Maintain a keen focus on the process of learning.
  • Provide opportunities for you and your co-teacher to express expertise and remain active participants throughout the instructional process

Target 2: Communication

  • Keep lines of communication open. You know what you have to do. Case closed. Enough said.
  • Integrate goal-setting and self-monitoring strategies.
  • Apply formative assessments to stay closely connected with students’ performance and learning experiences.
  • For a refresher and reminder check out: 4 Critical Co-Teacher Conversations, or read Critical Conversations in Co-Teaching by Carrie Chapman and Cate Hart Hyatt—this book can make for a great summer read and new school year launch! 

Target 3: Compassion

  • Focus on content along with each students’ social and emotional needs.
  • Take care of every learner’s whole-person style (including you and your co-teacher).
  • Create opportunities for learners to share their thoughts and feelings throughout each day to guide personal connections and have a better chance of skill transfer.
  • Learn and care about the feelings and perspective of your co-teacher.
  • See learning through the eyes of each student and adjust the process of learning accordingly.
  • Understand the perspective of parents.

Mindful decisions create positive settings

These three targets form the essence of co-teaching and they can be present in any given co-teaching relationship. Success unfolds when both co-teachers make mindful decisions that create positive settings. If only one of the two embrace a particular target, s/he must seek resources and help from colleagues, articles, websites, PD opportunities, and connections with students — all aimed at assuring what’s best for the kids we teach together.

hands shake 350As I reflect on many years of teaching and collaborating with many colleagues, it is evident that all successful co-teaching experiences include co-teachers who join together to educate learners in a “whole child” learning approach.

Each and every fruitless co-teaching experience is characterized by one or both educators  allowing ego to build an unintentional wall between them, or by a failure to make compassion and relationship building an important part of the co-teaching process.

So, make that decision.

Whether you’ll be back on a familiar team, or paired with a new co-teaching partner, begin to focus on compassion and building positive relationships. Ideally, it takes two to create this dream relationship, but if only one is game at the start, then build a solid resource base for support—and go after those targets! Keep moving the relationship forward. Your positive attitudes and actions just may be contagious!

What’s at the heart of your co-teaching success? How can you take charge and make sure that your co-teaching experience will be a success in the upcoming school year? Do you embrace the essence of positive co-teaching experiences?

Elizabeth Stein

Elizabeth Stein has more than 20 years teaching experience spanning grades K-8, specializing in universal design for learning and special education. She’s currently a special education/UDL instructional coach and new-teacher mentor in Long Island NY’s Smithtown Central School District. Elizabeth is National Board Certified in Literacy, and a contributor to Education Week and other publications. Her books include Comprehension Lessons for RTI (Grades 3-5) (Scholastic, 2013), Elevating Co-Teaching Through UDL (CAST, 2016) and Two Teachers in the Room: Strategies for Co-Teaching Success (Routledge, 2017). Follow her on Twitter @elizabethlstein and #coteachat

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