Two weeks ago I wrote about best practices for creating a successful team with your Paraprofessional. Don’t forget to check out the Paraprofessional Training Manual. This week I am going to focus on ways to create a successful C0-TEACHING team. Co-teaching between a General Education and Special Education Teacher can be very difficult but it is so important to create a strong team to best meet the needs of your students!
Co-Teaching is defined as two teachers (teacher candidate and cooperating teacher) working together with groups of students; sharing the planning, organization, delivery, and assessment of instruction, as well as the physical space. (Bacharach, Heck & Dank, 2004)
Listed Below are the 5 common types of Co-Teaching. My experience as a special education teacher, in a blended preschool program falls towards the top of this pyramid: Team Teaching. However no matter what type of co-teaching style you choose, there are core foundations that need to be laid in order to make the best TEAM.
Here are 5 helpful tips to create a successful co-teaching team:
- Get to know your Partner. So it doesn’t have to be a formal date with 20 questions and you don’t have to be your co-teachers best friend. However, getting to know your team member both inside and outside the classroom will go a long ways. Try to get together before school begins and do something non-school related (hint- find a common interest i.e. coffee, books, concerts, art galleries, museums, sports, etc). Spend a few days in the classroom setting up together and learning about each others strengths and weakness as a teacher. Invest interest and respect in your co-teacher because it will make misunderstandings and problem solving much easier and the 10 months more enjoyable.
If you BOTH take a sense responsibility for all the students, you and your students will have a successful school year!
2. Get to know your students. In a co-teaching setting, it’s important to get know all of the students in your class. Make sure you sit down at the beginning of the year and go through your roster together. If you’re a SpEd teacher, have your students portfolio with their IEP and other documents available for the GenEd teacher to look through. Highlight any important information i.e health, accommodations, modifications, learning styles, behaviors etc. Vice versa for a GenEd teacher. There may be GenEd students who need extra support that your co SpED teacher can help give. Key Point– your job as co-teachers is make to sure the needs of all the students are being met. While the GenEd holds responsibility for all students and the SpEd holds responsibility for servicing the IEP goals, if you BOTH take a sense responsibility for all the students, you and your students will have a successful school year!
3. Be Flexible and Forgiving. This can be one of the hardest things to remember. Having two teachers in a classroom means having two (most often) excellent ideas, expectations, and plans. It can be hard sifting through each others ideas and opinions to reach an agreement. And sometimes an agreement won’t be reached. This is where you decide to give and take, be flexible, and be open. Some things aren’t always worth fighting the battle for and when both teachers compromise it feels a lot easier to not always get your way. Who knows, the wonderful thing about having two opinions and ideas is that you might actually learn something new 🙂 Also always remember that your co-teacher is human and will make mistakes just like you. Learn to forgive and let go of mistakes or grudges, it will only make the school year that much easier and enjoyable.
4. Set Classroom Management expectations. In order to for-go any unnecessary disagreements and limit the amount of the compromising and forgiving, set expectations at the beginning of the year. Following through with these expectations can be difficult. We get busy, forget, and make spur of the moments decisions. Always remember to check yourself and be open to reminders from your co-teacher. To the right are common expectations you might want to set at the beginning of the year.
- Planning- how & when you will plan together
- Collecting Data- how, when, & who will be collecting
- A common classroom language- do’s & don’ts of language
- Communicating with parents- how, when, & who is responsible
- Expected classroom behaviors
- Positive Reinforcement
- General Classroom Produces- lining up, cleaning up, attention getters
- Preparing Material- this one is huge for Preschool!
- Field Trips
5. Put In Equal Effort. Once you have expectations and a classroom management plan, make sure you are following through and putting in an equal effort. It is the most frustrating feeling, to feel like you are doing all the of work. If you feel like you have been slacking acknowledge to your co-teacher and simply make a change. On the other hand, if you feel like you have been putting in all the effort, respectfully have a conversation with your partner. It’s better to be open and honest, then let your feelings build up!
Co-teaching can truly be an amazing experience. Make the most of this opportunity to have another set of helping hands and brilliant ideas. You and your students can benefit immensely from a co-teachng setting!