Co-Teaching Helps to Meet Needs of Diverse Classrooms

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“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;”

-Romans 12:6-7 NIV

If you have run your own classroom for years, it may be difficult to have another teacher in the room helping to teach your class. You might like the idea of having the control over your lesson plans and how your day will go. For those of you who have not yet co-taught, I would suggest giving it a try. There are some great benefits to have two teachers in the classroom. Just like any relationship, there will be some ups and downs, but working together will be much for influential for the diverse needs of students in your classroom.

There are many advantages to co-teaching, but also some roadblocks to be aware of. If you can find the right staff to work together, then the possibilities are endless for what they can do for students in the classroom.

Advantages of Co-Teaching

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Besides the fact that there is another adult in the classroom, there are many benefits to having another teacher in the classroom. Typically in a co-taught classroom, there is a general education teacher and a special educator. This allows students with a documented disability to have extra support in the classroom as needed with the ability to continue to have access to grade-level curriculum with their peers. Some other benefits of co-teaching include:

  • Ability to work in smaller groups- With the nature of having more adults, you can run more intervention groups and get more one on one time with students.
  • Different teaching style- Each teacher may have a teaching style that will reach different students in your classroom. Embrace the differences!
  • Develop a sense of community– When lessons don’t go well, you can help each other out and reflect on how to make changes.
  • Specialized talents– One teacher may have more of a passion for math than another as an example. Let each teacher play to their strength
  • Compliment strengths and weaknesses– Determine early on what your strengths and weaknesses are. Together you can become a stronger teaching unit rather than teaching in isolation.
  • Support with paperwork– Grading will become less time consuming because both of you can tackle the grading together. Lesson planning will also not take as long as you can share the workload there as well. It will be nice to have your evenings back!
  • Sub plans simplified– No matter how sick you are, sub plans still need to be written for the next day. If you have a co-teacher, you may be able to email or call them up and they can help you out and teach that lesson for you!
  • Accommodations- If you have a special educator in your class, they can help ensure that all of the accommodations are in place for the right students. They will also be able to support with behavior plans, scheduling IEP meetings, etc.
  • Accountability– Both teachers will work at a higher level knowing that each teacher is counting on the other. The students will reap the benefits of a highly focused team of teachers working for them.

Challenges of Co-Teaching

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Although co-teaching has many advantages, there are also some challenges that come with working with another teacher. One of the challenges that teachers often face is time. We simply do not have enough of it in a day! Common planning time is crucial for the success of co-teaching. I have been blessed to have common planning time with my other teachers and it is great to be able to prepare for the day with them.

Another challenge could be working with someone who does not want to give up control of their classroom. I encourage both teachers to have an open mind about new ideas and strategies to help students learn. The co-teacher in the classroom needs to feel welcomed into the class. They should not be treated like a second class teacher because they are coming into another room. Give them as much control in the class to help make decisions with curriculum as well as behaviors in the classroom.

Collaboration and Flexibility

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Just like any other relationship, communication and collaboration are necessary in order to make co-teaching successful. Before the beginning of the year, or even mid-way through the year, it is important to establish the workload. Many teachers assume that the special education teacher will only grade work from students with an IEP. Don’t assume that you know what the other teacher will be contributing to the class. In my classes, for example, I help grade as much paperwork as I can to help out the general education teacher. It does not matter if they have an IEP or not, but I do make sure that those students have their accommodations in place. If you have a plan, then there will not be any question later on about roles and responsibilities.

Be flexible. This is one trait that I love about the teachers I am working with right now. They are able to go with the flow as needed. We adapt and make changes for the benefit of all students. If you are willing to compromise and be flexible, that will go a long way in developing a long-lasting co-teaching relationship. If you would like to learn more about co-teaching before you give it a try, check out this resource from the University of Minnesota’s Education Department as well as the book, Co-Teaching That Works: Structures and Strategies for Maximizing Student Learning 

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