“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
Co-Teaching should be in all classrooms for all students. Have you ever thought of having a co-teacher in your classroom? If you have run your own classroom for years, it may be difficult to have another teacher sharing the teaching role. You might like the idea of having 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 having two teachers in the classroom. Just like any relationship, there will be some ups and downs. The time and effort put into co-teaching will help support your learners of all abilities.
As with anything, 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
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 all students to receive extra support in the classroom as needed. Scaffolding can occur more often with the ability to continue to have access to the grade-level curriculum. Here are just a few of the benefits of teaching in co-teaching in classrooms.
Benefits of Co-Teaching
- 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 styles- Each teacher may have a teaching style that will reach different students in your classroom. Embrace the differences!
- Classroom engagement– Utilizing multiple teaching styles, more students will be engaged in their learning!
- 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.
- Supports New Teachers– Co-Teaching allows new teachers to learn from veteran teachers each day.
Challenges of Co-Teaching
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 the lack of time planning time together. 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.
Collaboration Builds Relationships
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 as a second-class teacher because they are coming into another room. Give them as much control in the class to help make decisions with the curriculum as well as behaviors in the classroom.
Collaboration and Flexibility
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. Help grade as much as possible to help out the general education teacher when co-teaching in classrooms.
Working through Plans and Conflict in a Respectful Way
It does not matter if they have an IEP or not, but make sure that those students have their accommodations in place. The plan will help and guide you with each other’s roles and responsibilities. If you do have a disagreement with a colleague, find ways to work through your conflict in a healthy way.
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. Be 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 in classrooms before you give it a try, check out these additional resources from the University of Minnesota’s Education Department as well as the book, Co-Teaching That Works: Structures and Strategies for Maximizing Student Learning. Are you a new teacher or are working with a new teacher? This resource is a must-have. Check out this 180-day guide for new teachers. It walks new teachers through each day of the school year with practical advice and encouragement!
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