What Color Is Your Co-Teaching This Year?

A MiddleWeb Blog

two_teachers-nobord-210It’s time we zoom in on co-teaching perspectives beyond the special educator’s point of view.

As the end of the year begins to come into focus, I’m extending my reflective process to include two co-teachers I connected with this year who are both in general education. They have separate co-teaching partners.

The general educator’s perspective is critical as special education teachers strive to strike a balance and co-teach effectively. So here goes. Be prepared to hear two very passionate and very different takes on co-teaching as these general educators share their views about this past school year.

I talked with each teacher separately and asked two simple questions. Check out the exchange:

Co-Teacher #1: Grade 6 English teacher

Q1:     If you were to pick a color to describe your co-teaching experience, what color would you choose and why?

orange head 300A1:  Definitely orange. I’m not sure why, but it’s a color that I connect with the many times I felt like I was learning something new from my students and with my co-teacher.

Q2:  What are the benefits of co-teaching from your perspective?

A2:  I had more time to develop relationships with my students because my co-teacher and I worked together. It was hard at first to share my classroom, but I realized I needed to in order to make it work. Sure there were times when I just wanted to teach a lesson without considering any other views, but once I shared with my co-teacher, I allowed myself to learn other ways of teaching.    

The Psychology of Orange

Color psychology is an interesting way of revealing emotions that connect with our beliefs, attitudes and experiences in a way that deepens our awareness. Check out what orange represents for co-teacher #1 according to Color Psychology.com. In part, it states:

Orange offers emotional strength in difficult times. It helps us to bounce back from disappointments and despair, assisting in recovery from grief.

The color psychology of orange is optimistic and uplifting, rejuvenating our spirit.

In addition, Orange represents

Adventure and risk taking: Orange promotes physical confidence and enthusiasm – sportsmen and adventure-seekers relate well to orange.

Social communication and interaction: Orange stimulates two-way conversation between people – in a dining room when entertaining it stimulates conversation as well as appetite.

Friendship: Group socializing, parties, the community – wherever people get together to have fun and socialize orange is a good choice.

Divorce: The optimism of the color orange helps people move on – it is forward thinking and outward thinking.

It matches her response, perfectly, don’t you think? 

Tips I Gleaned from Co-Teacher #1

  1. Open your mind, and let your guard disappear.
  2. Realize that you can learn new ways of teaching and learning.
  3. Know that it’s all about creating relationships – with your co-teacher – with your students – and with yourself!

Co-Teacher #2: Grade 5 general education teacher

Q1:     If you were to pick a color to describe your co-teaching experience, what color would you choose and why?

grey head 300A1:     I see gray – although I don’t think that could be good.

Q2:     What are the benefits of co-teaching from your perspective?

A2:     I should really take a breath before just answering, but I’m just going to say what’s on my mind. I enjoyed working with my co-teacher this year and I love my students. But I just don’t see the benefit to co-teaching in the life of a teacher.

Students struggle to keep up with the curriculum, and teachers scramble to meet the needs of struggling students. Teachers have more paperwork than they know what to do with and it’s just an exhausting position to take on.

I see my colleagues who are not co-teaching, and I feel frustrated (OK, now I see red!) and even jealous sometimes that they don’t have the extra paperwork, parent phone calls, level of struggling students and they can just plan their lessons without trying to figure out how to find time to plan with a co-teacher.

I know this sounds terrible I just don’t see the benefits intrinsic motivation just isn’t enough for me. I just can’t catch my breath on most days.

The Psychology of Gray

As we return to color psychology, we find the representation of gray to fit rather well with the response and emotions connected with co-teacher #2. In part, it states:

The color gray is an unemotional color. It is detached, neutral, impartial and indecisive – the fence-sitter.

From a color psychology perspective, gray is the color of compromise – being neither black nor white; it is the transition between two non-colors. The closer gray gets to black, the more dramatic and mysterious it becomes. The closer it gets to silver or white, the more illuminating and lively it becomes.

Being both motionless and emotionless, gray is solid and stable, creating a sense of calm and composure, relief from a chaotic world.

The color gray is subdued, quiet and reserved. It does not stimulate, energize, rejuvenate or excite.

Tips I Gleaned from Co-Teacher #2

  1. Don’t forget “the why” when you chose this profession – and let that reason center you. Allow this energy to flow through to your core and back out again and again.
  2. Reach out to get support from colleagues, your co-teacher (of course!), and your principal. Let your principal know what it is you need to calm, rejuvenate, and expand your sanity and the learning opportunities for all involved. There are always solutions!
  3. Share all responsibilities with your co-teacher. Embrace new ways of teaching and organizing so you will feel the benefits of learning with your co-teacher and your students.

From ideas to actions

equal handsSo there we have it: two completely different views of one very powerful teaching process. There is so much to learn as we share our experiences. And once we share, we must rechannel our ideas into actions.

In the case of co-teacher #1, it’s a matter of sharing a high-five and just continuing to do what works so well – and then doing it even better!

In the case of co-teacher #2, it’s a matter of finding solutions for some genuine feelings that have true value. It’s also about reaching out for supports and reaching inward to stay committed to doing what we know is right for students – at all times – no exceptions.

Let’s continue the reflections. It could be a great exercise to guide a smooth finish to this school year as we plan ahead for successful co-teaching in the months and years to come.

What color(s) do you and your co-teacher see, and what are the benefits of co-teaching from your point of view?

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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