Monday, March 3, 2008

How Can I Have a Successful Co-Teaching Experience?

I attended the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Conference this weekend in Spartanburg, SC and did a presentation with another teacher called Survival Tips for First Year Teachers. It was such a great weekend to learn new strategies and exchange ideas. I always come away from things like this so motivated and energized. I was thrilled that our session was jammed packed that resulted in standing room only. When we opened up for questions, one of the questions asked was about co-teaching which seems to be a hot topic lately. I realized this when I got home and there was an email waiting for me which asked for my advice with dealing with a co-teacher.

Over the years I have had to work very closely with other teachers and noticed that success depended on the personalities of both teachers and how much the administration supported the situation. Both teachers need to be willing to communicate closely with each other and be willing to compromise control, which is extremely hard. Also, if the administration has forced this collaboration, usually there is resentment from one or both teachers. Now with all that being said, what if you are in that situation anyway. What do you do about it?

If this situation was just starting, I would meet with the administration and teacher and want to clarify each of our roles in the classroom. If you are a special ed teacher and want to be active in lesson planning and teaching, you need to be proactive and state this. Sometimes the general ed teacher may not realize that you do want to do this and assume that it is not your responsibility so they won’t ask you to do this. This is why communication is so important. I think it is important the general ed teacher knows that the special ed teacher is a great resource and may have strategies that will help the whole class be more successful and not just the special ed students. I believe that if the special ed teacher wants more involvement, that they need to be involved in the planning stages of the lessons before they are taught.

If the special ed teacher is already in this situation, I would go to the administration for clarification of my role in the classroom. I would not go to complain about the other teacher but ask if the administration supports me taking a more active role in the classroom. If the administration is not going to support you, you might as well stop now and accept your role as it is in the classroom. If they are supportive of this, I would tell them that I would like to meet with the teacher and insist that I be involved in the planning stages of “our” lessons. During this meeting, I would do all I could to keep the teacher from getting defensive and probably do a lot of brown nosing by complimenting how knowledgeable this teacher is and how much I enjoy the lessons. Then, I would explain that I would like more ownership in the lessons and feel that I might have some useful input. I would also state that I realize this teacher has the expertise in this field, but I have a lot of expertise in strategies that may help students be more successful in gaining this knowledge and together we would be dynamite. Again, I feel this communication is so important. I would also start off by not making too many suggestions or changes so this teacher can feel comfortable with my input. As this relationship develops and becomes more comfortable, I would add or suggest more and more things until this truly becomes collaboration.

Credits: picture by Old Shoe Woman (Day 80 Conferring with Fellow Teacher) found on Flickr Creative Commons

No comments: