questionsCo-Teaching was introduced to me three years ago when I was asked to attend a seminar by my principal. It was presented to me in the format of two teachers with equal degrees in the same subject, sharing the classroom teaching equally. Since then, it seems that co-teaching has evolved to the more common scenario of a regular ed teacher and a special ed teacher, sharing the classroom education equally. Since then, I too have been asked to become a part of co-teaching, so my questions on co-teaching have come in the form as, “What is it? What does it look like? Where did it come from? Why do we do it? and Does research support its success?” In my newly formed experiences in co-teaching, I’ve seen the good, bad and the beautiful, and while more work, not less, has seemingly come into play on my classroom-sharing experience, I’ve had to ask myself, where do I stand on the co-teaching platform?

What Co-Teaching is Supposed to Be

“Co-teaching is two or more people sharing responsibility for teaching some or all of the students assigned to a classroom. It involves the distribution of responsibility among people for planning, instruction, and evaluation for a classroom of students.” (Unknown)

“Co-Teaching is an attitude of sharing the classroom and students. Co-Teachers must always be thinking: ‘We are both teaching!'” (Bacharach & Heck, 2011)

“Both educators on the co-teaching team are responsible for differentiating the instructional planning and delivery, assessment of student achievement, and classroom management.” (Effective Co-Teaching Strategies, Dr. Richard Villa, 2014)

“Co-teaching is the instructional arrangement in which a general education teacher and a special education teacher deliver core instruction along with specialized instruction, as needed, to a diverse group of students in a single physical space.” (Utah State Office of Education, 2011)

What Co-Teaching Can Be

[It] supports academic diversity in the regular classroom [and] provides all students with access to the county and state curriculum.” (Six Steps to Successful Co-Teaching, Natalie Marston, Maryland)

“[It] allows general and special educators to differentiate and deliver instruction with assurances that all students have full access to the grade-level expectations of the general curriculum.” (Texas Educational Agency)

“[It allows for] greater collegial exchanges of strategies between professionals, increased understanding of all students’ needs, stronger instructional programs grounded in general education content for students with disabilities, increased acceptance of students with disabilities by their peers, and decreased burnout for professionals.” (Cooperative Teaching, University of Kansas)

What Co-Teaching Is Not

“School districts who put two teachers in an ‘inclusive’ classroom [and] call it co-teaching… simply because two bodies are in the room.” (Does Co-Teaching Work?- Susan Fitzell, 2014)

Real People/Real Opinions

“There was virtually no training – I started the year with no schedule! I would LOVE to say that things went smoothly but that was not the case. I was treated anywhere from a good “aide” to a somewhat competent “student teacher” to a complete intruder.”

“Finding time to collaborate on lesson plans can be nearly impossible, resulting in me feeling unprepared when I enter the other classroom. In such cases, I would often end up just helping one or two of the special education students complete their assignment.”

“The special ed teacher must learn how to teach the specific content for all of the students. They are often most comfortable teaching individual or small groups of students, now they must teach an entire class of students. This can be a difficult shift.”

Let’s Hear From the Students

According to Middleweb.com, students had some great opinions on the subject of co-teaching: (What Kids Say About Inclusion, Elizabeth Stein, 2013)

I personally feel like it is very important to have a second teacher in the room. While one teacher is teaching the class, the other teacher can make the rounds and help single students at a time if they don’t get the subject.”

“I like how there is double the help.”

“I like that there are more than one person to help me. I don’t like that it’s harder to talk to a friend.”

“If you have a question you can get the answer quicker, and I always have a lot of questions.”

My Experiences

When I first learned of co-teaching, I thought I would never see it in my lifetime as I had decided that there would be no way a school district would pay two full-degreed, full-salaried teachers to teach in the same room while sharing the responsibilities; budgets were just too tight. It wasn’t until a year ago, when the introduction of special ed teachers co-teaching in my classroom came into play and I was facing the co-teaching model in my own classroom.

In my first year of this experience, I have seen both sides of the train tracks and while on one hand, it has been a thing of beauty, on the other, it has been a complete nightmare.  In both cases, there has been little or no time for collaboration. In both cases, the special ed teachers are not experts in the classes in which they are expected to teach. In both cases, the special ed teachers have felt more overwhelmed than ever and with less time to complete their own professional duties.  In my more positive experience, the co-teacher and I have completely complimented each other, worked together succinctly and have created a harmonious atmosphere of “divide and conquer”.  In my other experience, the special ed teacher seemed to feel completely out of their element, was unable (or unwilling) to take control and/or teach, and second guessed most of what I did while making tremendous demands on my time in collaboration.

Since my first introduction to co-teaching three years ago, I have learned many things. Whatever side of the tracks you fall on when it comes to co-teaching, just be aware of the experiences of others and the possibilities that lay before you. Since people are fallible, this model has room for fallibility as well. There are, however, many experts that support co-teaching and research is on your side. In my opinion, co-teaching is a fantastic idea that can benefit the classroom greatly, but, like many things in this world, there is plenty of room for error to occur.  It can easily become the best or worst thing that could happen in your classroom.  Like many of the experts have stated, teachers must be willing to let go of the reigns and let other people into their realm, however even if you are the type of teacher that is more than willing to share your space, things can still go awry…but persevere, something good just may come out of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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