4 Critical Co-Teacher Conversations
Editor’s note (October 2021): Elizabeth’s reflection on the promise and challenges of co-teaching continues to be a sought-out post here at MiddleWeb. We hope it will inspire co-teachers to continue pressing for full status and partnership in their classrooms and schools. See all of her co-teaching columns here.
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I always knew co-teaching gathered like-minded thinkers who share a similar vision, and our discussion so far supports this reassuring fact.
Thanks to all who are visiting, posting, and taking a part in pushing our thinking forward. Your perspectives add a lot of value to this blog and they offer the opportunity for us to take our discussions to new levels!
I recently read a quote from the 2012 National Teacher of the Year, Rebecca Mieliwocki. She says that teaching is a team sport.
That means we can’t just row on our own. We need to row together in the direction of something bigger. I have to talk to you, I have to learn from you, I have to listen to you, I have to say difficult truths to you at times, and you to me.”
Her view clearly supports teaching in general, and easily resonates with co-teaching as well. As we think about the value derived when co-teachers achieve a shared outlook on teaching, it just makes sense that listening to one another is the first step to ensure a smooth journey.
And while we’re on this journey, we have to include “difficult truths” that may be spoken to one another in an effort to iron out the wrinkles in the educational process.
Drawing energy from difficult truths
Of course, grappling with difficult truths is the most difficult thing to do. After all, who wants to discuss a difficult truth when one can just carry on and avoid it? I know I am not alone when I say, I do!
It’s obvious that avoiding difficult truths (those elephants in the room) will only lead to status quo teaching, at best. And status quo teaching is just not good enough. We must strive and reach beyond the status quo. When we reach the place where all difficult truths are on the table, we can put all of our energy into doing what needs to be done for students.
My most successful co-teaching relationships have been when my co-teachers and I have made the time to create lesson plans, discuss student progress, and figure out our own personal strengths and weaknesses.
Some difficult truths have come into play when we discussed the need to adjust the instructional pacing, rethink some specific instructional strategies, or develop the sensitivity needed to guide diverse thinkers to learn within a positive classroom environment.
But once that kind of open and constructive co-teaching relationship is established, the rest falls into place. And those “difficult truths” help drive a powerful personal and professional growth for all.
4 elephant-in-the-room conversation starters
Let’s face it: we know that not everyone will reach this pinnacle of positive communication. But here are a few things that all teachers can discuss to keep the co-teaching partnership on an upward swing:
1. We can gather and discuss resources about co-teaching – Over time we will uncover many valuable co-teaching resources. One I’d like to offer now outlines five models of effective co-teaching that teachers should use to ensure that they are indeed sharing the planning and responsibilities.
2. We can talk about personal strengths and weaknesses – Teachers should discuss specific roles that each will be responsible for. What parts of the planning and instructional phase will each teacher take charge of? How can each teacher support the other in ways that guide students to achieve?
3. Discuss ways to stay flexible and proactive – Co-planning lessons ahead of time is a must—and so is the need to stay flexible and make appropriate adjustments while we’re in the act of teaching. Teachers should remain connected during the instructional time so they support students all along the way. In addition, teachers must use the information they gain from students’ performance to plan for future lessons.
4. Discuss the learning environment – Co-teachers must discuss the learning environment. What classroom procedures will ensure a positive learning experience? How do the personalities of each teacher contribute to creating optimal learning for students and ourselves? How can each teacher support the other in making the learning exciting and meaningful?
The bottom line, I think, is for every teacher in a co-teaching environment to do what it takes to maintain the commitment, passion and energy required to keep communication flowing and make learning matter.
Looking forward to your connections, questions, comments, and contributions as we continue our journey together. What would you add to my list of critical discussion topics?