Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Better Together


Your curly comrade, Suzanne

We are happy to link up with our blogger friend Megan over at M*Print.  

This year I am co-teaching a "Hybrid" English 2 class.  It's a made up name.  Don't try too hard to make sense of it.  Our students are sophomores who have not passed the English 1 STAAR test and will retest in December.  If you want to go ahead and add us to your prayer list, it would be appreciated.  The nice thing about this class is that I'm not in it alone!  I have a great co-teacher, Jacklyn.  This is her first year, so that adds to the excitement.  

*Disclaimer: We've been co-teaching for approximately four weeks.  In no way are we experts, but we're going to talk about it anyway.  Haha!* 

Here are Jacklyn's tips of the co-teaching trade:

What is the best thing about co-teaching?
The best thing about co-teaching, for me, is that I get to continue to learn teaching strategies through watching and practice. This is my first year teaching, and really my first experience with students who are at-risk when it comes to state testing. My co-teacher has more experience and training than I do, so it is awesome getting to work with her and learn the things that she knows. Also, I love being able to have more one-on-one time to help students, and co-teaching allows me to do this. The class doesn't have to stop because of a struggling student. That student can get the help that he or she needs while the other teacher continues the lesson. 

What is the biggest struggle?
The biggest struggle with co-teaching, so far, is not knowing exactly what our roles are in the classroom yet. With every new partnership, it's important to find your strengths and weaknesses and be able to help each other without stepping on each other's toes. It is difficult to find the balance, but I am confident that this will come with time, and already notice it getting easier and more routine. 

What piece of advice would you give to someone new to a co-teaching model?
As somebody who is new to co-teaching, I would tell others that are new to really have an open mind; be willing to learn anything and everything that you can from your co-teacher. Make sure that you are willing to throw things out there when you guys are planning. Even if it is something that you think may not work or could be hectic, chances are your co-teacher will have ideas that can make your lesson the best that it can be. Lastly, don't be discouraged if at first co-teaching is not what you thought it would be. There may be days where you are the teacher walking around monitoring and offering individual help while your co-teacher does the majority of the teaching, and that is okay. Once you get it figured out, co-teaching will be rewarding for both you and your students. 

And here are my two cents:

What is the best thing about co-teaching? 
Co-teaching gives you flexibility that you wouldn't otherwise have.  Experts recommend these elusive writing conferences.  I've never been able to make this work in classes that I've taught solo.  If you have this opportunity, take risks.  Set up stations where students are able to be self-directed in some and teachers provide small-group instruction in others.  We are moving toward a workshop approach to writing.  One teacher can model writing while the other is answering questions and/or keeping others on task.  We can meet with more students per class periods because we divide and conquer.

What is the biggest struggle? 
I would say the biggest struggle is transitioning from one teacher to the next.  It is best for both teachers to provide part of the instruction each day.  If for no other reason, it keeps students' attention.  We have divided our roles were one teacher leads reading instruction and the other, writing.  It helps when the class schedule is well established ahead of time and one teacher can begin passing out papers, markers, etc. for their upcoming part to teach while the other is finishing up.  This keeps the class moving and avoids that destructive downtime.  This comes with time and experience with one another.

What piece of advice would you give to someone new to a co-teaching model? 
I've got two tips:
1.  Plan together.  It is impossible for both teachers to feel ownership of the lesson if both are not involved in the planning of the lesson.
2.  Like each other.  A co-teaching model can quickly make a class feel like a family if the two teachers show that they like each other.  The students enjoy seeing teachers laugh or have inside jokes with one another.  They even feel cool when they pick up on these jokes and play along.  Showing that you like each other also keeps students from creating a good-cop/bad-cop situation.  You communicate "Hey, we talk, spend time together and have each other's back."  And that is a very good message to share!

I am so thankful for Jacklyn, and we truly are better together.  I wish you the best on your co-teaching journey!

**I experienced some serious formatting issues.  Thanks for sticking with me!**

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for linking up! I'm excited to have the support for writing workshops, too. I've only been able to make those work in those rare 15-kid classes thus far, so that'll be really fantastic.

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  2. Megan's linky sent me you way :)
    I'm beginning this year with a new co-teacher as well! I absolutely love her, but we've also still are not in a routine. We struggle to switch off teaching and I frequently am at the front and she is monitoring, helping, etc. I found an awesome article on Pintrest a while back :http://www.middleweb.com/3905/4-critical-co-teacher-conversations/ that gives different models for co-teaching, etc. I found it helpful and I hope it helps in the flow of your get-up :)
    Thanks for the advice, etc.!

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    Replies
    1. Katie,
      Thank you for the link! I enjoyed the article got several take-aways that can positively impact our co-teaching relationship. You are welcome to come our way anytime!

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