For Teachers

5 Strategies That Co-Teachers Can Use to Work Better Together

By Meaghan Maldonado, MEd February 20, 2018

Many teachers share their classrooms with other educators, and you might be one of them. Sometimes one educator is teaching the whole class while the other is working with English learners, students with special needs, and/or those with learning differences.  Here are five ways to help make the transition from flying solo to working in a partnership more manageable, equitable, and effective.

Prepare

There are six different models of co-teaching. They are:

  • One teach, one observe. Teachers take turns teaching and gathering data, rather than assuming that the special educator is the only person who should observe.
  • Station teaching. Teachers divide content and students. Each teacher then teaches the content to one group and subsequently repeats the instruction for the other group.
  • Parallel teaching. Teachers both teach the same information, but they do so in a divided class group. This helps students who require extra supervision.
  • Alternative teaching: One teacher takes responsibility for the large group while the other works with a smaller group. The smaller groups tackle remediation or other special issues.
  • Teaming: Both teachers share delivery of the same instruction to a whole student group. Co-teachers tend to like this method and find it satisfying.
  • One teach, one assist. One teacher becomes the primary educator while the other monitors the room and provides quiet assistance to students who need it.

Carefully choose the most appropriate model for the content to be delivered. Consider the physical space of the room, furniture available, and the noise level tolerance each of you has to find a model that works best.

Next, have an honest discussion about what each of you feels are your strengths and weaknesses. Be upfront about what each person is expected to contribute, and what both of you may need in regards to support.

Be united

It’s important for your students to see both of you as equally invested in their education. That could mean something as simple as putting both names on the front of the board in the classroom, to joint meetings with parents, and equal responsibility for student grades. Also, discuss classroom expectations and routines ahead of time to ensure consistency.

In the planning process, careful consideration should be made to ensure both of you are given opportunities to present material so that one teacher does not always take on the supporting role or, conversely, the lead role.

Plan together

The core of great teaching is great planning. Respectively, effective co-teaching happens with proper co-planning. Ideally, administrators would support both of you by offering a shared planning time during the week. Another option is administrators might find periodic blocks of time throughout the year to focus on your team’s co-teaching plans. If that is not the case, then consider other options for document sharing lesson plans or materials, and seek each other out whenever possible to plan.

Enjoy learning from each other

One of the greatest joys of a successful co-teaching relationship is the ability to learn from one another in real-time, in the classroom. Gone is the abstract wondering of what other teachers do in their classrooms behind closed doors. Instead, co-teachers get to watch each other in action, absorbing new and effective strategies from one another.

Give it time

Relationships take time to build. Give the other educator in the room the benefit of the doubt that they are coming from a place of true compassion for student learning. Trust can and will be built over time as expectations are discussed, teaching styles are navigated, and partnerships are forged.

With proper preparation and planning, the co-teaching relationship can foster a unique way to grow professionally and to watch students successfully master content.

Meaghan Maldonado has a BA in English from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MEd from Claremont Graduate University.  She spent almost a decade working with elementary students as a classroom teacher in California, and later as a specialist for English Learners in Virginia.  She was actively involved in school leadership and continued her education as a teacher with graduate level courses. She currently resides in the suburbs of Washington D.C. where she enjoys writing, traveling, and spending time with her family.

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