Achieve Co-Teacher Harmony This School Year

A MiddleWeb Blog


Some of you have already returned to school (hey y’all down South!), and some of us still have a few weeks of vacation ahead. Either way, we all share the anticipation of great possibilities that goes along with the planning and creating for a successful school year.

Each year as school approaches, I feel like I’m getting ready to run through a snowy field and be the first to put my footsteps in the freshly fallen snow. Many decisions must be made. We have the basic choices such as: How will we set up our classrooms? How will we organize our lesson plans? What learning activities will we plan for the first week of school?

Co-teachers have additional decisions to make: How will we organize the information from the Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) to align students’ needs to make sure all students will have access to the curriculum? What will my co-teaching role look like?

Whatever our teaching role, the list of decisions to be made goes on and on. And if we’re smart, we will make sure that we prioritize our personal decision list, so we set the tone for a successful year. Here’s why that’s important.

We don’t want to get caught in the “could have been” web

Does this sound familiar? “Next year I’m going to implement this strategy or that strategy. Next year I am going to organize my classroom this way. Next year I will communicate better with my co-teacher.”

Inevitably, dedicated teachers reach a point in the school year (usually around November) where they look back and wish they had made certain decisions – but now the time to make those vital decisions has passed. Too many days have gone by and we’re no longer in the position to make different choices.

As time passes, we are swept up in the fast pace of each school day, and we create a momentum that our students and colleagues grow accustomed to. When this happens, we may find ourselves caught in the nagging cycle of If only I had…then… thinking that easily creates frustration.

country school house in winterBut this doesn’t have to happen! We have the gift of a new beginning – fresh snow – a clean slate! If we make them a top priority, our beginning-of-the-year decisions can set a productive, collaborative tone for the rest of the year.

I am making a vow to seize the day and address important time-sensitive decisions at the very front end of the 2013-14 school year. My priority decisions fall into two very distinct but connected groups: (1) Relationship building and co-teacher harmony; (2) Instructional and assessment practices. I want to address each of these separately. In this post, let’s think together about the relationship building piece.

Tips and strategies for improving the co-teaching relationship have been in print since the early 90’s. Yet here we are—over two decades later—and the same questions and problems persist. How do we make the co-teaching relationship work day in and day out? How do we achieve professional harmony?

Clearly we have moved forward in raising our awareness about the value of co-teaching, shifting more learners into the general education environment, and advocating for learners with diverse needs. Yet when it comes to the day-to-day co-teaching relationship, we appear to be on a treadmill. The success or demise of these relationships seems to be left up to the two people in the classroom—their personalities, their patience, their consideration, their decisions, and their willingness to be a part of a potentially powerful relationship.

Check out this link for insightful co-teaching resources by The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY). There is something for everyone here!

Some of my questions and decisions for building relationships

1. How will I make sure my voice is heard and the needs of my students are met?

It’s all about active listening. I value the views of my co-teachers in the content areas, and I must expect them to value my own views in return. I must speak up, speak out, listen up, and advocate for my students. Case closed.

teachers2. How will I create a planning routine with my co-teachers?

I plan to meet individually with each teacher prior to the first day and throughout the year. Before school starts I will focus on getting answers to questions such as:

  1. What are your classroom management beliefs/routines?
  2. How would you describe your typical lesson/teaching style?
  3. How do you monitor/assess/evaluate students’ learning/progress?
  4. How do you provide for varied learners during your lessons?
  5. How can we build trust and maintain confidentiality in our co-teaching relationship?
  6. How do we view each other’s roles? What part will we each play in the instructional/learning process?

3. How will I create ongoing collaborative communication?

In addition to face-to-face conversations, there are so many online tools (such as Google Docs, Edmodo and Evernote) that can spark and strengthen communication. I’m on a mission to learn more about Evernote and Edmodo this year. I will listen to what my co-teachers have to say, and what they don’t say. I will keep lines of communication open. It’s the only way.

4. How will I create a realistic schedule to pace myself effectively?

You know how it is. It’s a juggling of class time, planning time, responding to emails and phone calls, providing extra help, and oh yeah, eating lunch (if I remember to). All of this action happens within the confines of a bell ringing every forty-one minutes to shuffle us off to another class, another subject, another task that focuses on meeting the needs of students and adults. It’s enough to make one hear imaginary bells in the middle of the night. The key to making good scheduling decisions loops back to the necessity for open communication and self-discipline, all the time remaining focused on what’s most important right now.

The way I see it

Relationship building is at the center of everything we do as co-teachers, whether we’re in the general or special educator role. If we are going to help all students be successful, we have to be intentional and positive. We must make the time to create positive co-teaching relationships. No exceptions.

twitter-chatOnce we find ourselves in a positive co-teaching relationship, we are in a much better position to talk about how we will teach and assess for learning. I’ll talk more about this instructional alignment next time. For now (and especially if you’re already beginning the school year) sit down with your co-teacher and agree on how you will keep your lines of communication open. Make a promise to be a solution seeker.

One way to be a solution seeker is by collaborating with colleagues. Join our live Twitter chat all about co-teaching. Use hastag #coteachat to learn about our next get-together.

How do you see it? What are some of your questions and decisions for building positive co-teaching relationships?

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

39 Responses

  1. Carla says:

    It’s great to see a blog on this not-often discussed topic, co-teaching. I look forward to seeing yours and others’ insights and experiences. I work in our district special services office and we just held a PD day for our new co-teaching partners. We focused on your exact content here-relationship building. I will pass along your blog site to them in hopes the dialogue and learning can continue.

  2. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Hi, Carla–Thanks for sparking the conversation! It would be great if you and others come back to share some specifics of your PD experience. You mention the PD is for new co-teaching partners–is there any ongoing PD taking place? It sounds like great things are happening by you. Would love to hear more….

    Yes! Please share “Two Teachers in the Room” site–it is the perfect forum for collaboration–we have so much to learn from one another! As you say, let’s keep the dialogue and learning moving forward!

    Many thanks!

  3. Suzanne says:

    I have been co-teaching for five years and have been a part of this model in several different school districts. The one common factor across the board is an open mind. Co-teaching can be very challenging if you are too controling or set in your ways. With an open mind and strong communication, the co-teaching classroom is by far the most ideal learning environment for all individuals involved….including the teachers.

  4. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Hi, Suzanne, The fact that you took the time to reflect and find a common theme from your varied experiences shows that you make sure to keep an open mind!

    As we work with a variety of co-teachers, we learn to be flexible. The trick is to stay patient and strong even if we work with others who are not. But I’ve learned that open minds can be contagious and can really turn some reluctant folks around. I love what you said:

    “With an open mind and strong communication, the co-teaching classroom is by far the most ideal learning environment for all individuals involved….including the teachers.”

    It really is such a powerful life-long learning experience!

    Let’s keep this meaningful conversation going…
    From your experiences, what has been the best approach to ensuring an open mindset for you and your co-teaching partners?

    Thanks for connecting and sharing!

    All the best!

  5. Hi, Elizabeth. Thank you for your focus on communication as essential to building relationships for coteaching. As school librarians, we may be in a slightly different position than classroom teachers, but one thing I think is important in communicating with coteachers is to use plural pronouns: “our” students, “our” curriculum, “our” lessons, (you get the idea) … assessments, resources, library, and the like. We linked your post from our Building a Culture of Collaboration blog:

  6. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Judi, thank you for reaching out–it is so great to connect with you! You remind us about the value and necessity for co-teachers to collaborate with all faculty and staff–not just the teachers in the classroom. I enjoyed breezing through your blog, and I am honored to be an added resource link to your great work. It is so interesting how the language of co-teachers reach all educators–it really is a universal language–it’s the only way for students to really achieve.

    I hope you consider joining us on Twitter for #coteachat. Your insights would add such a valuable perspective. These chats are every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month.
    Check it out and add your voice! Thanks again for reaching out….

  7. Dr. Pete Post says:

    Thank you so much for sharing about the realities of trying to work collaboratively towards the common goal of helping all students to learn. My name is Pete Post and after having taught in high school special education for 30 years, I am now in the wonderful position of teaching college courses for my alma mater, Trinity Christian College. I want my students that are in my low incidence class to take the opportunity to respond to your blog. These are mainly juniors who may have a special education major or minor – and they will all be teacher aiding for up to 50 hours at Elim Christian School which happens to be where I toiled for those amazing 3 decades. I want to use your article to challenge them to think about how they intend to work with the teachers to whom they will be assigned. I look forward to having them share their reactions and reflections.

  8. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Dear Pete,

    I am looking forward to hearing their thoughts as well! I also teach at the undergraduate and graduate level–one of my focus points is to guide my students to hear and strengthen their own emerging teacher voice. Their perspective and talents always come through loud and clear when given the opportunities to first identify and then to share their thoughts out loud. I am looking forward to hearing and learning from your students’ perspectives.

    Also, perhaps you’ll jump in–I am intrigued by your extensive experience. I am sure you have many stories to tell!

    Thanks for reaching out–I am excited to broaden our connections!


  9. Melissa Stalman says:


    I really enjoyed reading your article. As a future teacher, it gave me a lot to think about. A lot of times we forget about how important it is to collaborate with our coteachers. Some teachers are great about working with their coteachers, and other teachers don’t seem to pay much attention to them. Both teachers need to realize that they are a team, and it is their classroom and their students. Therefore, they should both be striving toward the same goal which is to help their students succeed and reach their full potential. In order to do so, communication must be present between the two individuals. Both teachers will have different ideas and ways of doing certain things. This should not be seen as a negative thing but a positive thing. However, both teachers have to be willing to listen to one another and be flexible. They need to be able to address the needs of their students as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Then they can both share their thoughts on what strategies should be implemented in the classroom, and they may have to try a few different strategies until they find the one that works the best. Even though teachers may have to compromise in order to come to an agreement, they need to make sure that they are thinking of what is best for their students and not what is best for themselves. As the year progresses, teachers and coteachers should continue to meet and discuss the progress of their students, and they should make changes if necessary.
    I attended a small Christian school so coteaching is a new term for me, but I think coteaching can be very benefitial if the teacher and the coteacher develop a good relationship and establish open communication on a regular basis. I look forward to working with a coteacher in the future.

  10. Jaclyn W says:

    Thank you very much for posting this! I relate really well to the “I should have done this or that” or “I will next year” statements. This could happen year after year, and students need us to do these things for them now! It is very important to seize the day- and I really liked your two areas of focus. Communicating with co- teachers Is crucial, and I think this can especially apply to teachers communicating with para-professionals as well. Everyone needs to be in the loop on each student, especially if they work with them every day. I also think being very organized is key to making sure that everything can get done in a single school day. Making lists is my favorite :)

  11. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Hi, Melissa,

    Thank you for reflecting on this very important topic of co-teaching. I like how you zoom in on two key points:
    1. Communication between colleagues is a must!
    2. Putting the needs of the students above all is the only way to guide them to
    truly achieve and work toward becoming expert learners.
    And along the way, co-teachers must be considerate of one another’s perspective. It’s not always an easy balance (especially when you have four co-teachers like I do this year!) but it is always worth the process–and the product!

    All the best to you–I hope you’ll continue to add your voice to keep the spark in our discussions.
    Many thanks!

  12. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Hi, Jaclyn,
    Thank you for sharing! Yes, yes, and yes! Students need us now! Next year it is a completely new group of students–these students–this year–today–need us!
    Thanks for adding your voice to mine. As you say, everyone needs to be in the loop!
    I hope you continue to share your thoughts here–it provides such a collegial support that can empower us to give our students all we’ve got! And for those times we may feel discouraged (hey, it happens)–it’s forums like this that can rejuvenate our spirit–many thanks!

    All the best!

  13. Kaitlyn Tatem says:

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Thanks for your insightful post about co-teaching relationships. I am an education major/special ed minor college student and through my teacher aiding placements I have had the opportunity to observe different co-teacher relationships and how they affect students’ behavior. I used to think that having a co-teacher would be awesome because you wouldn’t have to be alone in a classroom all day and it would relieve some of the stress of classroom management. However, I didn’t take into account the fact that unless you are in constant communication with your co-teacher and have a predetermined management plan you both agree upon, it can be a disaster! Unfortunately, I have witnessed some disastrous co-teacher relationships in which they weren’t on the same page at all about how to address students’ behavior and there were a lot of miscommunications. (to be continued…)

  14. Kaitlyn Tatem says:

    (I couldn’t fit the rest of my reply, so here is part 2) On the other hand, I have also been able to witness co-teaching that was functioning in the way it was intended, with completely open communication lines and team work for the benefit of each student. I have found that one of the key elements to making a co-teacher relationship flourish is having an open-mind and being willing to listen to one another. When teachers already have a pre-conceived idea of how they want things done and aren’t willing to hear input from a different perspective, that is when the relationship between co-teachers begins to deteriorate.
    With all this said, your blog post has helped me to think more deeply about these issues and I hope that if I am in a classroom that involves co-teaching one day I will be able to successfully employ the strategies you have given. Not only for the benefit of my co-teacher and myself, but mainly for the benefit of the students!

  15. Bridgette D says:

    I really liked you article and as a future teacher, I think that this article can be very helpful for those who are going to be or are currently co-teaching. It is really important to know where your colleague stands with discipline, work load and overall classroom management strategies. By knowing these things, you can get off to a good start with your fellow co-teacher. In the article, you state “Relationship building is at the center of everything we do as co-teachers, whether we’re in the general or special educator role.” This really is key and you do a good job of stressing that. If your relationship with your co-teacher is not working out, the student will be the first to notice and they will be the ones to suffer from it. Students can tell when things are off and it will make them feel torn between the two teachers. I really liked the questions you listed that are key in building relationships. These four questions really address all the issues that co-teachers tend to have and they are the ones that I have seen in some of my placements. Great article!!

  16. Nicole Q. says:

    As a future educator we read a lot of different articles that cover a wide range of topics, but I think this is one of the most insightful ones. It can apply to all teachers because even if we do not have a co-teacher, there should be a positive relationship with other teachers that have taught our current class of students. The sharing of information and positive communication will make things easier on everyone. Also, since mainstreaming and inclusion is the direction we are heading in, there is going to be more co-teaching and this topic will become even more relevant. I also think your article shows that co-teaching should not be something to fear, but it is a blessing to have a partner to work with everyday, so we should take advantage of it and really nurture the relationship. This relationship sets the tone of the classroom environment and can act as a model for the students.
    I think one of the biggest things I got from your article was just to be open. We need to be open minded to the different ideas and techniques that may be presented, which will support open lines of communication for both teachers.
    Thanks for sharing and I will definitely remember these techniques and words of wisdom!

  17. Alicia Sloothaak says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Thanks for sharing with us about the importance of co-teaching. This is something we all should be aware and prepared for as it can be any one of our realities! I know for myself I rarely consider how I would handle my own classroom if I had another teacher, aid, or paraprofessional with me. I am glad you brought up the importance of communication between the teachers, because I also think this is the key to success in all aspects! Teamwork in this situation can either be a blessing for the students or it can turn out disastrous if the teachers never learn to work together and collaborate. I appreciated how you said that it is in the students’ best interest as well as our own to find time now to change and work through any problems. I also think it is easy to undermine the planning and cooperation that goes into working with another teacher. It may seem like it is not a complicated process but I do think without a good deal of effort it could turn into a dysfunctional atmosphere. Overall, I really liked how you stressed that building a relationship with the teacher has a significant impact on the student which is something that should motivate us all to be the best co-teacher we can be. Thanks again for your positive article!

  18. Kristin R. says:

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Thank you so much for posting your thoughts on the realities of co-teaching! As a double major in both elementary and special education I think that your advice will be most useful in my future career in teaching. First and foremost, I appreciate your honesty about the sometimes problematic issues that arise in co-teaching and working collaboratively. Even in my own studies here at Trinity Christian College, I also find myself saying things like, “next year I’ll be sure to implement this,” or “I should have done this.” I would hate for this practice to carry over in to my future days as a teacher. I completely agree with your choice to highlight the importance of being proactive in order to properly collaborate with a fellow teacher. Teachers first need to be able to work together properly and share the same vision for their students before they can assist them in their learning. Being on the same page from the very beginning and knowing what each other desires for their students and their classroom is huge in creating an effective co-teaching environment. If teachers are properly planning ahead and working collaboratively together from the very start, there will be no room for the “should haves” and the “could haves” by the end of the year.

  19. Emily Lucas says:

    I really enjoyed reading through your article and I want to thank you for taking the time to write about an issue that I feel is not discussed often enough! As a future teacher, I got a lot of the article and it made me question and consider things I have not often thought about before. I think it is so incredibly important for coteachers to develop a relationship in which there is mutual trust and respect because, as you said, that is so important for our kiddos. I loved that you said “If we are going to help all students be successful, we have to be intentional and positive” because there is so much truth in that. We have to be positive not only towards our students, but also towards those we are working alongside in order to bring about the best situation for our students and to enable them to reach their full potential. Creating a safe and comfortable environment is so important and having any tension in the room can make things much harder for our students, so I loved that you mentioned it is important to take the time to build relationships with the other teachers before the year starts and that you were intentional about making sure the communication started early on. It is so important, I think, that teachers communicate with each other about the needs of their students and communicate about ways to bring out their strengths and teach them in and through their weaknesses.
    I grew up homeschooled and so before coming to college the only teacher I ever had was my mother. Coteaching is not something I am super familiar with, but your article made me think about it and how I would go about handling it and using it to the advantage of my students. Thank you for talking about this important topic..

  20. Nikole Linares says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    First, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic with us. I feel everything you write about here is completely relevant in today’s classroom, but I want to zero in on the “active listening” part. You make a very interesting not to mention valid point. Personally, I aspire to work with/teach people with special abilities (I say special “abilities” rather than “needs” because I feel we as a society should focus more on people’s abilities and strengths) in the church/ministry setting. I like how you speak about active listening in terms of valuing the views of co-teachers. This is so important because one day, we could have a co-teacher in the classroom with us or we could be the co-teacher, so any way we spin it, there will always be a cause-effect relationship (not to mention having great effects on the students as well!). I appreciate your eloquent expression of this and in my future vocation, I will not hesitate to ponder over some of the very valid points you’ve made here.

  21. Jessica Bordenaro says:

    I loved it when you said, “Relationship building is at the center of everything we do as co-teachers, whether we’re in the general or special educator role. If we are going to help all students be successful, we have to be intentional and positive. We must make the time to create positive co-teaching relationships. No exceptions.” I think it is very important to show students a united front and to model for them a positive relationship with your co-teachers. Kids can tell if we are faking it, so we must work on first building those healthy relationships outside of the classroom, so that later we are able to better foster a successful learning environment. I have seen first-hand, co-teachers who did not have a great relationship. As a student, I could sense the tension and competition. It made me feel uncomfortable. I love the tips/questions you wrote throughout this article, challenging and encouraging co-teachers to ask the right questions, and plan everything out ahead of time. I think that this approach would allow much more peace in the classroom. I related to this article and am very thankful that you wrote it.

  22. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. It is clear that you are learning from all of your experiences, which includes the good, bad, and ugly. And from these experiences, you are strengthening your own philosophy and teacher voice! You are right on–it’s all about the students! Even teachers with the best intentions can get caught up in the web of miscommunication–or stuck in the cycle of closed minds. And in some cases a territorial ego can create co-teaching barriers. Yet, when the focus is on what’s best for students–a successful learning environment can be nurtured.
    All the best to you–it sounds like your mindset is setting you off to a strong start!
    Thanks again–please continue to add your voice!

  23. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Bridgette, Thanks for your input! I hope your placements have helped you to build your coursework and overall philosophy on education. All the best to you!

    Nicole, I am glad that the premise of my post resonated with you! You are so right–communication is at the heart for all teachers to be successful. And now with the common core, collaboration is essential in order to guide everyone (teachers and students!) to achieve. All the best! Thanks for sharing your view!

    Thank you for sharing your connection to effective teamwork and the value of effective planning are essential and promise to be a proactive approach that can guide you to create positive colleague relationships! All the best!

  24. Elizabeth Stein says:

    I like how you focus on an abilities perspective. You should check out universal design for learning ( The UDL mindset is all about learner variability rather than disability–right in line with what you discuss. If you check out some of my archives, you’ll find some more links and information. Good luck to you and enjoy! Thanks for sharing!

  25. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Kristin, Emily, and Jessica,
    Thanks for your comments! It is so great to have the perspective from preservice teachers. It is so refreshing to see such a strong group of open-minded future educators! It’s all about perspective, while balancing the act of doing what we know is right for students! Please continue to read through my posts and share your voice!
    All the best!

  26. Michelle Interrante says:

    Thanks for sharing with us your thoughts about such an important topic in teaching! As a future teacher, I have thought of many of the questions that you have brought up. I have thought about how I want to set up my classroom and organizing lessons and planning the very first week of school! I get so excited when I think of my answers to all of these questions! The lists go on and on as I’m sure they do with all teachers. I can believe that co-teachers do have tougher decisions to make together for the good of the students. They both need to work together to make the learning environment the best that it can be for the students.
    I agree with you with the “next year I’m going to…next year…next year.” When I become a teacher I am going to try to implement the strategies and the organization and the communication along with other things right away. I want to be on top of what is going to happen in my classroom and what the future will hold for my classroom as well. I believe that if a teacher is going to implement something into his or her classroom, the sooner the better. For example, a morning routine or cue words for the students to follow. I think your priority decisions are very important in thinking about teaching. I can only imagine how difficult it might be to work with another teacher in your classroom where you want to do what you think is best. The other teacher might come in with new and different ideas that might not match up to you own. I think there needs to be a happy medium between the ideas of each teacher and there needs to be very strong communication between the two. I also think that there needs to be a well-built bond between the two teachers so they can be on the same level in the classroom.
    I really agree with you and your response to the question, “How will I create a planning routine with my co-teachers?” I really think that the points you listed will help build that strong bond that I mentioned earlier and will create a sense of community within the classroom and everyone in it. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on co-teaching and I am excited to use what I learned when I become a future teacher!

  27. Brie Arnold says:

    Thank you so much for your insight and willingness to share your own experiences. I am a junior Elementary Education and Special Education Major, so as a future teacher, I learned a lot from your blog post. Many of us put a lot of focus on the aspect of teaching well and focusing on the students. While these things are very important, there is another aspect that you so clearly point out in this article and that is the importance of relationships with your co-teachers. I can see the relevance of relationship building among co-teachers from the hours I have spent aiding in kindergarten and second grade classrooms. The teachers must constantly be in communication with one another and maintain a stable, positive relationship. I also notice the way that my cooperating teachers interact with me while I am in the classroom. They are always willing to explain what they are doing and why they are doing it. However, the implications of this blog post for my future in teaching are even greater. I love that you said relationship building is at the center of everything co-teachers do. What a true and powerful statement that is! In my future classrooms, I will strive to focus on my relationships, not just with the students, but also with the co-teachers that I will also be working with. I will not begin with bad habits, but will set a precedent from the beginning of what the year will look like.

  28. David J says:

    I really believe in the part where you said that a person can make all the plans they want and than look back and wish they had done it differently. That is definitely true for a lot of teachers, and I think reflection afterwards helps improve us for the next year. I think that by preparing ourselves for the school year we have to make conscious decisions for our students, but in some cases in a Special Education classroom, some preparation will have to wait or be tweeked as we meet the students in our classroom. It is also very important to have a good relationship in a co-teaching environment and I am completely convinced that by having multiple teachers in the classroom you can really make a difference and reach more students by having different teaching styles which allow you to reach more learning styles.

  29. Alyssa Huizinga says:

    I really loved how you opened your article asking us the question, “what will my co-teaching role look like?” I feel as tho it is so important for teachers to self reflect on how they can make the new year a great year. As you mentioned in your article, we often say “I wish I would have done this better,” but we don’t change anything. It’s easy to be stuck in a rut, however, in order to provide the best possible education to our students we should be continually looking for ways to change our teaching methods for the better.
    Relationships are so important in all aspects of education! Thank you so much for highlighting that when talking about co-teaching. In order for any child to excel we need to have open communication and strong relationships!! Thank you for giving us insightful ideas on how to make stronger relationships to make co-teacher easier, more effective and used how it’s supposed to be.

  30. Kari LeGrand says:

    Hi Elizabeth!
    Thank you for posting this and sharing your ideas and advice with us. As a future educator, I believe that the points you covered are extremely important for me to learn and have in mind before entering into a classroom as an educator. I love that you focused on having a common ground with your co-teacher and understanding each other’s take on different situations that will come up throughout the school year. I especially liked when you talked about creating a planning routine with a co-teacher. I like hearing from your perspective because I know you have experienced this first-hand and know some of the best strategies for making a classroom function smoothly. I agree with you in this post because I am a firm believer in hearing out other people and buildling solid relationships. This applies to so many other areas in life apart from co-teaching. I think that students will learn from our examples and value these strong relationships. Being selfless and adaptable is a value that we should acquire and encourage our students to acquire as well.
    Thank you again for sharing with us!

  31. Kim says:

    Hello Elizabeth,

    Thanks for taking the time to share can really happen in co-teaching! I always am one to tend to push things off and say I will do it next year. It is good for me to hear this, so I can try not to do it as much. Being an elementary and special education double major, co-teaching is definitely on the horizon for my future. I think I would be afraid to actually speak my mind if the other teacher was very particular about what he or she wanted for a student. I would not want conflict or tension to get in between us. I like how you said giving the online options like Edmodo could be used for more teacher communication. I never though a site like Edmodo could be used for that. That is a great idea. I think communication and building relationships is very important to. Co-teachers must be able to build a relationship and put aside differences for the benefit of the students. I really enjoyed reading your blog. It made me think of important details that I would not normally think to be a huge deal. Thanks again! Blessings!


  32. Alyssa Slinkman says:

    I really appreciated this part of your post:
    “Relationship building is at the center of everything we do as co-teachers, whether we’re in the general or special educator role. If we are going to help all students be successful, we have to be intentional and positive. We must make the time to create positive co-teaching relationships. No exceptions.”
    As teachers, we will have very little time (if any!) to accomplish all of the things that we want to accomplish. It must be a priority to develop sound relationships with our co-teachers. Not only is it our duty to our co-teacher, but to our students. The relationship between co-teachers can EASILY make or break the overall success of the students in a classroom. Not only will that relationship affect how well students learn (academically), but the relationship is also a subliminal model of relationships in general (social/ emotional).
    So thank you for pointing that out–sometimes we forget!

  33. Kathryn W says:


    Thank you for sharing your insight and experience!

    Co-teaching was not something I had the opportunity to witness or experience in grade school and am very interested in how these relationships work in the classroom. Although I look forward to the potential for team teaching and collaborating with other professionals in the field you made some very good points about the challenges associated with the practice. I am challenged and motivated by your statement: The success or demise of these relationships seems to be left up to the two people in the classroom—their personalities, their patience, their consideration, their decisions, and their willingness to be a part of a potentially powerful relationship. It seems that the success or demise of those relationships can be directly related to the success of demise of the students we serve. Students depend on us to model effective cooperation and teamwork. Your suggestions and guidance will be very helpful as I move toward more of these working relationships.

    I also really appreciate your question: How will I create a realistic schedule to pace myself effectively? This is something that we as college students face already and it is important that we establish that as early as possible for healthy teaching and living. We cannot take care of those around us if we are not taking care of ourselves.

    Thanks again for your insight. Now that the semester has begun, how have you found these strategies to be helpful? What has and hasn’t worked for you so far this year?

  34. Nikole Linares says:


    Thank you for the advice; I will most definitely be researching the UDL (which I am a bit familiar with but it never hurts to be informed). I love how you take time from (what I’m certain) is a very busy schedule to personally respond to each individual commenter. Thank you for that and by doing this, you have demonstrated to me how important it is to validate each person’s opinion, so thanks for that.

    • Christine M Indelli says:

      Totally agree. I will be doing the same. I am also familiar with UDL, but believe there is always more to learn. It is so important to be an active listener and understand and validate the point of view of others.

  35. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Thank you, Michelle and Brie, for taking the time to reflect and connect. Michelle, being proactive is so important to launching the school year off! And then it is equally as important to adjust your plans and be flexible enough to combine your organization with the needs of colleagues and students–thanks for your post!
    Brie, you are right on! Communication is essential. It is also important (as you know) that this applies with all colleagues. The only way to guide students successfully through the Common Core is when colleagues collaborate!

    David, It is so true, we must make some of the decisions for our students in order to guide them toward learning mastery. It is also important to insert opportunities for students to make their own decisions, so that they take charge of their learning. I appreciate your comments on learning styles–and I agree with you to a point. Be sure to see my post stating that learning styles don’t exist! I say this with deep conviction–and all due respect to all who are die-hard believers.

    Alyssa, Kari, Kim, Alyssa, and Kathryn,
    As with all the posts, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Thanks for sharing your connections and your ideas from where you stand right now. You are all spot on when it comes to knowing you must seek out and nurture positive co-teaching and colleague relationships! Collaboration is where it’s at!

    All the best!

  36. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Nikole, great to hear the you are familiar with UDL! It is such a common sense approach to setting up learning environments for all students to succeed with the Common Core–not to mention creating expert learners for life!

    I enjoy reading and connecting with everyone here! Hearing the perspectives from you and your peers gives us all a fresh perspective, which is such a valuable reality check for everyone!

    To all who have posted here: I would love to continue our conversations! In addition to visiting and commenting here–follow me on Twitter: @ElizabethLStein — I’d love to continue these great discussions!

    All the best!

  1. 08/30/2013

    […] decisions into two categories. In my last post I focused on creating positive relationships (check out the link here). This week’s post will focus on paving the way for effective instructional and assessment […]

  2. 09/10/2013

    […] Shared Building Strong Co-Teaching Relationships from the Start | MiddleWeb. […]

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