When looking through my students’ IEPs, nothing increases my anxiety more than seeing the word “co-teaching.” Behavior plans, transition difficulties, and problems listening to adults do not faze me. However, when I see that my students require co-teaching, I begin to feel a slight panic.
I know some teachers really enjoy co-teaching, but I have to admit, it is not one of my favorite things. Don’t get me wrong: I want to do what is best for my students, and if co-teaching is what they need, then that is what I will do. I have taken the classes, attended the PDs, and watched the videos about “ideal” co-teaching. But it is still something I am not very comfortable with.
This year, I am so lucky to be co-teaching with a wonderful colleague (and she is probably reading this right now, too!). Having a general education teacher who is willing to accept you into her classroom is really one of the most important things when it comes to successful co-teaching. I know that some teachers like to be left alone in their own classrooms, but come on! Having two teachers at once is better for all of the students.
I think that some of my discomfort with co-teaching comes from feeling like an outsider in the general education classroom. I’m only there for one class a day, and sometimes it’s inconsistent due to schedule changes. Also, 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. So this year, I am really making an effort to make sure I know what lessons will be happening and to give suggestions for accommodations.
As I was working out my schedule this year, I was able to arrange to cover some of my students’ co-teaching minutes during their science and social studies classes. When I mentioned to their teacher that I would be with her during the last class of the day, she was so excited. We began talking about the activities that would be covered during the first weeks and some other ideas to make things more beneficial for all of the students. We’ve kept our collaboration casual—which is working well! We often talk for a couple minutes here and there throughout the day, and we’re able to share all the information that we need to.
After the first week of school, this general education teacher asked how I felt about taking the lead for some of the lessons. I said that I would be more than willing to do so, but that I didn’t feel quite confident with science simply because I haven’t taught it before. So we agreed that I would take social studies while she covered science.
We just finished the first week with this new arrangement. The students were very excited about me taking the lead for social studies. My teaching style is similar to that of their general education teacher; we both like to use our laptops, LCD projector, and document camera to make things more engaging.
What excited me the most is that the general education teacher began working with the students who need a little more assistance (both students with IEPs and those without) while I focused on the whole class—a role reversal of sorts.
I think it’s great for the students to see that I am in the classroom to help everyone, not just those who come to my class earlier in the day. So while I’m sure that there will be some hiccups along the way, I am happy to say that my co-teaching is off to a great start this year!