This post was originally published on TeacherPop.
For the start of Year Two, I found out I’d be co-teaching. After preening for a few minutes at my good fortune, I thought of all the time I’d be saving by having another person to shoulder the work. After all, I thought, having a second person by me every moment of teaching would cut my work in half.
If anything, having a co-teacher has made me work much harder than I did most days during Year One, and definitely not because my co-teacher is lazy. If anything, it’s because she is so much the opposite of that.
We’re doing a lot more with our kids, going above and beyond what would be possible with just one person. But from the typical measures of time and effort spent, having a co-teacher hasn’t really helped, because we feed off of each other’s desire to be excellent teachers.
Am I doing it wrong? Not necessarily. I think my co-teacher and I are leveraging each others’ crazy work ethic and devotion to kiddos, which is great. Nonetheless, I feel like I would have benefitted quite a bit from a good heart-to-heart from a veteran co-teacher before diving into this year.
So I’m going to save you a few dozen hundred hours of work, should you ever happen to co-teach (and heck, a lot of these are good for co-worker relationships in general).
1. Say no sometimes. I’ve never had a day of teaching that didn’t involve my feeling overwhelmed at some (or every) point of the day. Many times with co-teachers, there are a lot of great ideas being generated by both teachers.
You both really want students to succeed, you know? But adding more work or changing every element of the curriculum each term actually probably won’t help kids as much as you’d like.
Instead, discuss every change thoroughly. Come to an agreement, a compromise. Think through potential problems, then implement. You’ll both be happier in the long run.
2. Don’t let kids “mom and dad” you. Man, kids are smart. In our classroom, I’ve earned the unofficial title as the “mean” one. Whenever students want something (say, a rando trip to their locker), they may ask me. I’ll probably say no. Then they ask my co-teacher, who may say yes. Is either of us inherently wrong? No. But kids have learned to play on our teaching styles and personalities to get what they want.
And it’s super-frustrating to everyone involved, including our kids. We ultimately made a sign that says “The Bathroom is…”, and we have “Open” and “Closed” signs. That one small change has prevented 50% of the “momming and dadding” (Mom says no, so go ask Dad) that kids did.
3. Lesson plan together, darn it! Our school day runs from 7:45 to 4:45. Intense, right? From the start, my co-teacher and I had planned to meet every bloody Wednesday to co-lesson plan. It was gong to be the best thing ever.
But then life happened. Students needed rides home, or we had a parent meeting, or had to keep kids back for tutoring or detention.
We’ve only really collaboratively lesson-planned maybe five times. And it has been awesome. But when we don’t (which is most of the time), lessons suffer. It’s hard to teach something you didn’t develop. After winter break, we’re committing to collaborating more and making it work. It’s definitely worth the time.
4. Observe each other teach. How often does you MTLD come by? All day e’ry day? Probably not (unless he/she has a Hermione Granger-style Time-Turner).
But your co-teacher is probably there! Have him/her set up a camera and film you. Go through it. Discuss. Get all football-announcer-style on it and circle “that part right there where you were killing the thinkaloud!” A value cannot be assigned to how helpful it is to have someone who knows your teaching – day in and day out – observe and give feedback to you.