As an administrator, in my first year out of the classroom, there are some things that I love about my current job because I didn’t get a chance to do them when I was in the classroom. But there are also lots of things I miss about being in the classroom. One thing, errr person, I miss the most is my former co-teacher Missy.
Teaching in an Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) setting was both challenging and rewarding but I loved every minute of it and they easily were my best years of teaching. Like any classroom, regardless of setting or grade, there are a lot of moving parts to juggle. To begin sharing some of my experience with ICT, I’ll start with two of the most important elements, establishing a partnership with your co-teacher and the different ICT models.
To ICT or Not to ICT?
Before jumping into an ICT classroom, think about what kind of person and teacher you are. As teachers, I find that many of us can be a bit controlling. I’m very guilty of this and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. To be an effective teacher, you must have a firm grasp on your classroom environment, supplies, your instruction, the list goes on, which means being in control in even the most crazy situations. But when you enter into a teaching partnership, you have to be ready to give up some of that control. Before you accept an offer or agree to enter into an ICT partnership, think if you would be comfortable with this.
Secondly, think about your educational philosophy. In graduate school, I had to write a paper about my educational philosophy. At the time, I thought it was a lame assignment and since I’m not one for the overly sentimental, it felt cheesy to me. However, when I started teaching in an ICT setting and got along so well with Missy, I realized that we had very similar philosophies and because I had to write that paper I knew what that was. Missy and I had the same beliefs when it came to instruction, child development, and classroom management. If you’re going to be giving up some control over your classroom to someone else, it helps to know that you’re on the same page.
Getting into an ICT Setting at Your School
Many people who start teaching in an ICT classroom partner with people already in their school. If this is or will be the case for you, think about your co-workers and who you would work well with and who might not be the best choice. If your principal asks you about this, be kind but be honest. If there is a person or people you don’t think would be a good fit, explain how you feel. If you don’t, you and your co-teacher will be stuck in a less than ideal situation for an entire year. Plus if you can’t communicate well with someone, you won’t feel completely comfortable in your classroom but the people who will suffer most will be your students.
Similarly, if the person you think would be your best co-teacher is your best friend on the staff, think about when you create student partnerships. Most likely, your principal knows you’re close with that person. Be prepared with a list of reasons why that person and you have a great WORKING relationship and why you would make a good co-teaching team. It’s OK to work with your best friend, as long as you can focus on the work and save your personal conversations for your lunch period and you want your principal to know that’s how you feel.
New School, New Setting
Sometimes, ICT teams come together from already existing staff members and sometimes one or both teachers are new hires. If this is the case, get involved with the hiring process and ask questions.
When Missy and I started teaching together, we both were new hires to the school but we were lucky. I was hired first and my new principal asked me to be a part of the hiring process. After he did initial interviews with candidates, he narrowed it down to three people and asked me to invite them out for coffee over the course of a week. He explained that, ultimately, he would make the final decision that he felt was best for the school but that he wanted my input before he made his decision. From the start, I felt valued and Missy and I knew we weren’t just thrown together, but that this was a well thought out partnership.
If you know that you will be starting on an ICT team and the other teacher isn’t hired yet, don’t wait to be invited into the hiring process. Ask to be a part it. It will show your commitment to creating the best and most effective ICT environment. If you are being interviewed for the second spot on an ICT team, ask to meet with the other teacher if she isn’t already in the interview. Whether you are sitting in on an interview or being interviewed, having some questions to ask your possible co-teacher wouldn’t hurt either. Some of the things I asked when I met my potential co-teachers for coffee were about their previous classroom experience, their most difficult students, their favorite students, their favorite subject to teach, and when they plan. These questions may sound generic, but if asked properly, they can give you insight into a person’s instructional practices and approaches to classroom environment and behavior management. One person I met for coffee, said that she likes to be in at 8 (when the students arrived) and out by 3 (when the students are dismissed). If she was teaching alone, there would be no problem with this, but I knew that for a co-teacher I wanted someone who was willing to touch base daily, even if for a quick 15 minutes. Missy and I didn’t stay late every day, but we always made sure we were on the same page and that everything was prepped for the next day before we left; sometimes that would take an hour and sometimes it was 10 minutes. Regardless, make sure you know your teaching and planning habits and ask questions that will give insight into the other person’s habits.
Like any good partnership, the best ICT teams are ones where both people contribute equally and gain from each other. I loved working with Missy for lots of reasons, but mostly because we learned from each other. From me, she gained a better understanding of planning and instruction around core curricula and from her, I learned so much more about students with special needs and how to best serve and teach them. I became a better teacher because I taught in an ICT classroom with Missy.
Once you’re in an ICT team, you’re next step is to think about how to teach in this setting with your new partner. In my next post, I’ll outline the various ICT models along with tips on how and when to use them. Again, I would love to hear from you. Share your ICT stories or questions below in the comments.