Let’s Create Positive Co-Communications

A MiddleWeb Blog

2 teachers nobordr 210September is that magical time when we have a fresh start to the school year. It’s time to put the past behind you…and…let…it…go.

Let go — but take with you the lessons learned. One of the hottest topics for discussing a successful launch for a co-teaching partnership is communication. It’s always one of the knee-jerk responses you get when you ask someone what do all successful co-teachers do?

You should try it. Ask colleagues that question. You are bound to get open communication as an impulse response. And there’s good reason for that. Communication is what we have – it’s the tool – it’s the bridge—it’s the oxygen in the room when we want any relationship to work.

But communication and co-teaching can be a tricky business. Let’s sift through some positive surefire ways to make your co-communications not only work, but also create a knock-it-out-of-the-park kind of experience.

Why Communicate?

2 megaphones 300To me there’s only one reason. Because we have the responsibility to guide, inspire, and facilitate meaningful learning for every learner in our classroom. It boils down to this one reason. You have a mission – we all do – and it’s to Speak UP and Speak OUT for Kids.

Co-teachers, there’s no time to be shy. It’s September: it’s that fresh start we all think about throughout the year!

When you do the right thing NOW, you won’t have that nagging “oh, I should have… “ feeling later. In addition, you will replace that “Next year I will….” with “I’m so glad I pushed through to do all I could to create a positive co-teaching experience.”

Come on! Don’t be shy. And if you are on the quiet side, no need to fight with yourself – use your energy to find another way to express your views and ideas in positive ways. Write it down, send an email, keep a communication notebook with your co-teacher, share a Google Document and add your ongoing thoughts. And before you know it, you will be speaking and advocating for your students in positive ways.

Do not keep your instincts to yourself. Trust them – and raise the roof! Every day there is a reason to be the voice for students. Every day there is the necessity for YOU to advocate for what is needed. You set the tone, and you are a role model as you guide students to advocate for themselves. Yeah!

Deja Vu All Over Again

2 teachers 270Creating positive ongoing communications is one of those ongoing, can’t-get-enough kind of topics. And with each new co-teaching partnership, it seems as though we need to think of new ways to make communication work – it’s like we reinvent ourselves each time.

So let’s get to the bottom of some constants. What can we hold near and dear – each year – without reinventing ourselves in exhaustive ways to stay true to our beliefs and styles for teaching and communicating? Here’s my thinking:

► Make sure both teachers are ACTIVE participants.
Push through any discomfort or personality differences and have those difficult (and easy) conversations. Check out this past post – it’s sure to spark your thinking and actions: Four Critical Co-Teacher Conversations. And while you’re at it, check out what the National Education Association (NEA) has to say as they share 6 Steps to Successful Co-Teaching. There is something there for everyone!

► Keep student voice in the daily mix.
Make sure to consider what messages (intended and unintended) you are sending to your students. Check out this past post about What the students have to say about co-teaching. It’s a candid perspective that is sure to open up some eyes, minds, and hearts! Remember to value students’ thinking every day by providing ongoing opportunities for them to express their ideas. As we show them we value their voice, they will value it as well.

► Parent communication is on every “new teacher” topics list.
Communicating with parents and families is also a topic for every effective teacher to revisit, refine and embrace. I shared some thoughts here about creating effective communication with parents in co-taught classrooms that are worth considering.

Tools of the Trade

Here are three tools or techniques that can really boost communications:

  • box o commuicate 300Face-to-face personalized meetings with co-teachers, parents, and students are, in my mind, the best way to keep communication ongoing and positive. There’s nothing like reading the body language and nonverbal language that really adds pizzazz to any conversation.
  • Online tools break down barriers of time and space. The online options really seem to be endless. The option for asynchronous (at your own time, place and pace) communications is so valuable. Good old-fashioned emailing is still effective as long as the communicators keep it concise and save the details and meaningful conversations. Creating a shared Google Document is a very easy and effective way to go. Enough said.
  • Written dialogues work wonders. Traditional methods are still tried and true! So break out those post-its or stock up on marble notebooks and get those communications flowing!

Are you craving even more thoughts on creating positive, ongoing communications? Go to Twitter and type in the hashtag #coteachat. It offers conversations on everything co-teaching! Our last live #coteachat Twitter conversation was all about creating positive communications. Here’s the link to the archived discussion. Check it out and then add your comments to the bottom of this blog, and/or tweet your connections and questions using the hashtag #coteachat. That will link you up with a whole community of folks who value the co-teachig experience!

Be sure to check in and tell us what co-communications are working for you! Just leave a comment to share and keep our communications going! Here’s to a year of open and positive communications!

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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