Like any relationship in life, communication is key to a successful co-teaching relationship. Before the year begins, sit down and DTR as the kids say. Define the relationship! If you start the year with a discussion about who is going to be responsible for what you avoid a lot of problems. Neither of you will feel as though the other is stepping on your toes because they’re doing something you thought was your job. And, neither of you will feel like the other isn’t picking up the slack when they’re not doing something you thought was their job.
It will also make the classroom routine go more smoothly. Starting a class period knowing who is going to be responsible for checking and going over the homework, who is going to be the primary speaker in the lesson, and what will happen will make the routines more seamless. Not only does this create a healthier, more efficient relationship, it will also cause less dead time.
As a co-teacher, we have all had those days where you walk into math class with the students and have to start your conversation by saying, “what are we doing today?” This can be frustrating! And, having this type of co-teaching relationship on a regular basis is wasting the skills of the co-teacher.
It is important that before the lesson both teachers know what is going to happen. This allows for both teachers’ strengths to be utilized in designing the lesson. Instead of trying to modify assignments and accommodate students on the spot, it can be built into the lesson. If one teacher is better at teaching strategies and the other is better at being creative and coming up with centers; working together can result in a great interactive class period where the students get the most out of it.
Unfortunately, many districts, like my own, do not provide co-planning time. I co-teach with three different teachers and am only provided regular co-planning time with one of them. The other I have to meet before school or after school, but we’re not always available to come in early or stay late.
Be flexible and open-minded
When two people are trying to be in charge and share the authority, it can lead to some disagreements. It is important that you try to see from the other person’s perspective. Just like any friendship, or any other relationship, you are not going to always see eye-to-eye. Remember that you both have the same goal, to help your students be successful, and the problem isn’t that you are working against each other, but that you have different opinions on the best way to reach your goal.
Share your students
If you are the special education teacher, make sure you are working with all of the students in the class, not just the ones on your caseload. It is easy to focus on the students that you are providing services for, but there are many benefits from making sure that you are interacting and working with all students. One being, it can help lessen the stigma of being a special education student. If you are working with all of the students in the class, no one is going to notice that you are working with the kids on your caseload all the time. It will make is more difficult to identify them.
If you are the general education teacher, don’t avoid the students on IEPs. Maybe you are stronger in the content than the special education teacher. Maybe the students with disabilities would benefit from you working one-on-one with them while the special education teacher addresses the rest of the class.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up. You never know what great things can happen if you don’t try them!
In a great co-teaching relationship, students shouldn’t think of one teacher as the main teacher and the other as the “helper” teacher. Both teachers should receive the same level of respect and have the same level of authority. Before the school year starts, come up with some classroom rules that you are both comfortable with. If Mrs. A gives you a detention for gum chewing, but Mr. B doesn’t care if you chew gum, things can get confusing for the students.
There are always going to be situations where one teacher is stricter than the other, or one teacher is having a bad day… we’re human! But, if you are clear about certain rules before the start of the year, you present as a teaching team.
No matter what you do, just remember that a co-teaching relationship is not going to be great right out of the gate. I currently work with three fantastic general education teachers, and we often get complimented from the administration. But, my first year with each of them, I felt like I was just fumbling along. I was the new one, I was unfamiliar with the grade level, the content, and the teachers. As time goes on, IT GETS EASIER! I promise 🙂
Share your tips in the comments!
Get your free IEP summary page!
Subscribe to get our latest content by email.