The teaching of 21st century skills, for college and career readiness, have finally become a priority for K-12 schools. One of the pillars of 21st century skills is collaboration. Ironically, many of us are trying to ‘teach’ collaboration…alone! Sure, lesson and assessment planning are often collaborative efforts, but it’s done behind closed doors. As teachers, we know how important it is to lead by example.
Meanwhile, the mythical belief that a lone classroom teacher can meet the needs of every student is quickly fading. As evident by the rise of blended learning in an attempt to leverage technology to target individual needs. Last year I was lucky enough to visit Summit Public Schools. Founded as a blended learning school, they boast unprecedented levels of integrated custom built software. Equally impressive is their co-teaching program, founded on the belief that quality education requires the collective effort of teachers. The Summit Model, like other successful learning environments, follows the idea that teaching is a team sport, and when teachers join forces, their students and classrooms thrive.
As with any team sport, you have to decide how you will play the game. There are a number co-teaching models and loads of online resources that explain how they are intended to work. In this article, I want to share ideas on where to start. As with any decision made in the classroom, student needs will be a driving factor. But beyond this, what are the things we should consider?
Identify the strengths of your teammates.
Ask yourself; who’s in my team? What skills do they have that I don’t? Due to rigid school timetabling, we often don’t get to choose who we team up with. That’s okay. As my Dad says “a champion team will always beat a team of champions” – Anyone who watched the NBA finals this year will tell you that. (Sorry Heat fans!)
So, pick a play that complements your team. For example, when I first started co-teaching I was a relatively inexperienced. My co-teacher and I would often choose the One Teach/One Support model. It worked well for our students; they responded positively and were able to transfer some of what they saw to their own work with others. It was also a good fit for me as a member of the co-teaching team. I was able to observe a more expeienced teacher work the room and we could flip roles to ensure I had a chance to grow into the lead role.
Maybe you’ve teamed up with a teacher from another content area. This style of co-teaching is becoming more common as the benefits of cross-curricular and project based learning continue to appear. In this case, Station Teaching may just be the winning play. In this model, students move around the classroom to experience the lesson through various lenses, coached by subject specific teachers.
During college, as a student, I experienced Team Teaching. My veteran instructors would bounce off each other as they worked the room, sometimes literally finishing each other’s sentences. This may sound annoying. It wasn’t. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The pair were obviously good friends outside of school. They had years of experience teaching the content, and teaching it together. As a student, I didn’t know who was going to speak next. Injecting this type of classroom chemistry into a standard delivery model ensures authentic classroom communication between the teaching team and their students. This made for an entertaining class conversation and enjoyable class.
No two classrooms are identical. So when thinking about a co-teaching model consider your students’ needs, your needs and how each model will fit in your classroom. And as always, no one strategy will be perfect every time or for ever. Try, reflect, adapt, and continue to revisit as you go. For a more comprehensive guide, I recommend checking out this blog on collaborative teaching.
Using Showbie for Co-teaching
If you’re thinking about teaming up with a co-teacher, make sure you join their class on Showbie! Co-teachers on Showbie can see all the same students, add resources and provide feedback, just like the original teacher. To do this, ask your co-teacher for the class code (the same one that students use to join). Once you have their code, you can join via your Classes list. Just be sure to remind your co-teacher to approve your request. I’ve attached a guide to walk you through the steps below.
Good luck! And feel free to let me know how you go in the comment section below 🙂