Co-teaching pros and consMy district sent me to a professional development meeting recently where I found out that next year, I will be co-teaching (Surprise!). If any of you have co-taught before...

Co-teaching pros and cons

My district sent me to a professional development meeting recently where I found out that next year, I will be co-teaching (Surprise!). If any of you have co-taught before in an American, inclusive classroom, what were some of the positives as well as some of the negatives of this setup? Any suggestions or tips are more than welcome.

Expert Answers
Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All good advice here. I taught for three years as part of a co-teaching team and loved every minute of it. My teaching partner was very sharp, personable, and student-friendly. Our goals for the class meshed, and we stood in agreement on classroom procedures and discipline. Students benefited from having two teachers in the room: double the attention and individual help. They knew their two teachers liked each other and presented a united front; as a result, a really nice environment, and a productive one, was achieved. Teaching can be a lonely, isolated endeavor, but working with a co-teacher alleviates that.

I can imagine how miserable it would be to team teach in a classroom with someone who was unreasonable or difficult to work with. What a terrible situation for students who surely would pick up on the conflict and stress between their two teachers. A situation like that would not promote confidence, security, or academic achievement.

Meeting each other before meeting the students is essential. Besides establishing the groundwork, it would be important to develop some rapport. If you should by the luck of the draw find yourself working with an inflexible, difficult personality, your challenge will be great! Being confrontational isn't productive, but neither is being run over for two semesters. I think it is possible to find some common ground with just about anybody, and you might have to be the leader in doing that if you find yourself in an uncomfortable partnership.

mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Co-teaching can be either great or not so enjoyable.  Much of the above advice will help you approach the year.  Meeting ahead of time to get to know each other is very helpful, but know that you cannot expect to solve all questions in advance. Be prepared to offer ideas about how to best teach a topic, compromise if that creates better teaching, reflect honestly about how the experience is working for the two of you and the students, and above all, to keep trying. To truly co-teach, each of you must bring your A game every day willing to share in front of the students.  Don't be afraid to make mistakes or joke about mistakes made; students enjoy the sense of humor and interaction between teachers.  The best experience I had was co-teaching with a special ed teacher in a mainstreamed class in my classroom.  I was a very experienced teacher (read old) while she was experienced but younger.  We learned much from each other, and the students knew that they could ask either of us as we were both the teachers.  The key is communication. We agreed that we could ask any question of each other, suggest changes without hurt feelings, agree on and enforce the same few classroom rules, make sure we taught the curriculum,  and above all, learn from and enjoy the other person as well as their style of being in the classroom.  Also, remember chocolate helps discussions between the two of you.

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have never co-taught before, but for one year I shared a classroom with a teacher who did. While I worked quietly at my desk each day, I watched these two educators who had been working together for some time, present lesson after lesson that was well-planned and excellently executed.

I could only see the pros. The teachers took turns teaching the lesson each day, so one day one would teach while the other listened and moved around the room, and the next day they would switch. Having an extra professional in the room allowed for more students to get individualized attention. And the lessons were the result of two minds working together, each bringing their own experiences and expertise to the forefront of their educational offering each day.

I learned a lot (and I was teaching the same grade, materials, and levels of students), and I collected some wonderful ideas from them.

It was a real plus for the students because they knew that if they needed help, they did not need to be a special-needs student in order to ask a question.

And discipline issues were cut in half. If there was a problem that could not be handled quietly in the classroom, one of the teachers could remove the student with little disruption, and the lesson moved forward.

These women really worked things out marvelously, especially for the benefit of the students.

bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My first experience in co-teaching was great because both of us were committed to making it work. I taught American literature, and my co-teacher taught U.S. history. I am also a history teacher, so I could bring that experience to the table as well. My second experience was with a special education teacher who had no idea how to function in a regular classroom. She did not wish to participate in any of the teaching of the classes at first, and I was shocked when she told me she saw co-teaching as an opportunity to relax. I refused to accept this situation, so we had several conversations to see how we could make this a positive experience for us and the students. It wasn't easy, but after about three months, she began to participate in the teaching and discipline of the class. After it was over, she thanked me for not giving up on her and admitted that her reluctance stemmed from her belief that regular teachers looked down on special education teachers. In talking with other teachers, I heard remarks from some of them that they thought special education teachers weren't really teachers, just babysitters. I was appalled at their remarks, and I volunteered to co-teach with other special education teachers the next few years. These were some of the best years of teaching I have ever had.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am in agreement with poster #2.  The first time I co-taught, I was with a wonderful individual who treated me as a partner in the education success of our shared students.  I had Am. Lit, and he taught the history section.  We had a great partnership and often traded off days (we had 45 minutes each, and sometimes we found it necessary to take the entire 90 minutes to get a particular lesson completed).  There have been other times, however, that have not been as enjoyable.  The other teacher "let" me have every Friday and often left the classroom during our paired teaching time so it was only just me.  I also was left with all the writing to grade in the latter pairing--including his essays and open responses on his tests!  Not the ideal situation, but I was a beginning teacher and felt like I had no other options.

Co-teaching can be a wonderful thing, though.  So often students who do not respond well or to whom I can't seem to find the right way to explain something will get it more easily with another teacher. 

Just be sure to get your parameters and expectations out in the open before getting too far into the semester.

Good luck!

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have co-taught twice before, and once it was a great success, the other time it was a crashing disaster. The successful effort was due in large part to the fact that my co-instructor and I have similar personalities and teaching styles. We were also teaching adult learners.

When I co-taught an inclusion English class with a special education teacher, we had very little communication with each other in advance. As the course progressed, it became very clear that our teaching styles were worlds apart and she disagreed strongly with many of my approaches. I fault myself in retrospect for not recognizing that this situation could have been improved had I sat down and had an honest conversation with her, ideally before the semester had ever started.

My advice to you is to speak in advance with your co-teacher and negotiate the terrain. Try to anticipate potential areas of conflict, remembering that conflict can be positive and productive if managed well.

trophyhunter1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I currently have a special ed teacher with me in a science inclusion class. It works really nicely. We plan every morning before class or the previous afternoon together on what we will do the next session. We bounce ideas back and forth. Currently, over this winter break, we gave the kids a project to do... a 3D model of a topographic map, using all of the skills we previously taught about gradient, contour interval and landscape features. It is to be made of cardboard, styrofoam, whatever, and will be counted as an EXAM according to a rubric. The kids get to demonstrate their knowledge via a vehicle that is not a test, but, it is learning by doing and certainly something they can be internalize. Since both of us are creative teachers with different perspectives, I am confident that this year's crop of Earth Science kids will be successful in the course and on the Regents.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with a lot of the advice that you have been given above. In addition, I would sum it up with the maxim: Don't expect too much and don't expect too little. Co-teaching has the potential to be an amazing experience for both you and for your class as they can in theory gain the best of both worlds and you can gain the insight of learning skills and sharing ideas. However, on the other hand, if you go into it with unrealistic expectations and without clearly defined responsibilities and roles, it can be a crushing experience. I have been paired with the kind of teacher who never planned anything and just waltzed into the classroom and I would have preferred to have root canal work without anaesthetic instead of that experience!

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've heard such arrangements compared to a marriage.  You really need to have the right people, with complementary teaching styles, personal and interpersonal strengths, a flexibility to compromise and relinquish some control (always difficult for a teacher) and an openness to new ideas of teaching and content.

I really enjoy having my own classroom with a curricular approach I can tailor to my strengths and needs.  In the one time I co-taught with someone, our styles were so different it was a disaster for everyone involved, teacher and student.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The one element I really appreciate in co-teaching is the pooling of skills and talents. For example, my talents are enthusing students, finding things that suit them and reading aloud as I'm quite creative. However, expect me to present that through media and I run from the room screaming! Luckily, another teacher is a whizz with technology so we occasionally present classes together. Ideal !

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Any experience in teaching can be turned to some value, even if it is later on.  Being patient may be the key to such a new experience as often some teachers have too much ego to want to cooperate with others.  But, when they realize that their co-teacher is not trying to outdo them, they will relax their egos usually.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The key is definitely communication. You have lots of time this year to communicate with each other and work out all the logistics of how co-teaching will work for the two of you. I would even suggest that you take the time this year to observe each others classroom's.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Get to know your co-teacher well.  Trust is very important here.  You need to be comfortable with each other, so you don't step on one another's toes.  In the end, what's best for the child is what is most important here.  Keep that in mind, because it'll be rocky.

marissa48 | Student

I have been co-teaching going on 2 years now in a high school science setting and the benefits of this setup are AMAZING!!  It takes a lot of work, but after the first few months when you get to know each other's habits and methods it does get easier. My 3 favorite benefits are: an extra set of eyes/hands in the classroom, 2 different teaching styles which benefits the kids, and 2 chances to reach a student (sometimes students will not get along with one teacher but will work for the other).

Not all teachers are meant to be co-teachers, and that's ok too. The ideal co-teacher team would be two teachers who do not mind relinquishing control in the classroom as there are 2 of you who are now teaching in the same room. We had do sit down and have an honest conversation about things such as: how we discipline our students, classroom setup, strategies to use, roles in the classroom, teaching styles, etc. Last year my co-teacher taught 3 classes with me and 3 with another teacher.  They did not have the lines of communication that we had, resulting in a hard working environment for her.

The most important advice/tips I can give you are communicate, communicate, communicate!!  If there is any kind of tension or problems between you, students will be able pick up on it and it won't be a productive environment for anyone.  Give it an honest try for a year and either way it works out, you'll be able to take away the experience

ramashishsharma | Student

The best thing about co-teaching is that students enjoy it the most. They get better exposure and readymade situation to compare and judge the teachers. The tension of the class which is might be and which  is generally is in the class room vanishes. I have got a few chances to co-teach not in the  regular class room situations but during training period. I enjoyed it. As teachers know that they are being judged and compared, they try to be innovative, friendly and they present their best. I think the idea of co-teaching is indeed wonderful - not for all the time but it can and should certainly be used from time to time to make the class live and free from being monotonous. I would rather love to co-teach. However, some advance preparation is must. Additionally there must be good understanding with the co-teacher.

jsamples23 | Student

This situation creates a win win situation for the students but, you must have a co teacher you work well with and share the same classroom philosphies with.  Co teaching allows two teachers to take their best stuff and combine it with their co teacher.  One bad thing is that someone won't be in their own classroom which for me is important. Some teachers are not comfortable in another classroom but if that isn't an issue for you then it will be fine.  Another positive is that it is quite possible that one teacher may be able to reach one student that the other might not.

epollock | Student
I have done it once, but it took all summer to lay out the framework of the class, because there are two styles of teaching it: 1) one teacher teaches for the first half, the other teaches for the second half reinforcing what the first teacher taught; this can be changed so that each teacher begins and ends the same number of times. 2) both teachers teach during the class period weaving the material between the two teachers for the entire class period. This is much more preparation intensive than the first one.

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