She calls me her “Work Wife.”
Yes, and sometimes, just sometimes, I question if that is a good thing. Now, there is some truth on this statement. We spend most of our day together sharing a tremendous amount of responsibilities, and we definitely have to be on the same page in front of our children!
There is lots of literature, websites and PDs focused on the co-teaching relationship, but I had found it kind of awkward pulling a check-list or a questioner to figure things out with a co-teacher.
Over the years, I had experienced many different co-teaching situations, and I had also had the opportunity to assist and coach colleagues on their relationships with their co-teachers. I collaborated, consulted and co-taught for part of the day, different subjects, and different grade levels. I also worked coaching other teachers in similar situations.
Now, I must admit, I have the best of the situations. I share the classroom with my co-teacher all day long, both of our names are at the door, we have planning time together, have lunch together and take our students to recess together…. Yes, on occasions we have dinner together too.
It was not the ideal circumstances from day one; on our first year working together, I joined the class after the end of the first nine weeks. At this point, the students and now my co-teacher had had a Special Education Teacher in the classroom for a couple of weeks, and then a series of substitute teachers. It was clear who the classroom teacher was, and the classroom community already had a set dynamic. Even so, there were specific actions on each of out parts that created an atmosphere of cooperation.
These are some of what I believe, made our relationship work:
- We don’t believe that there are two different set of students in the classroom. They are all our students, we both work with all of them and plan with all of them in mind.
- Although I started late, she made me feel welcome and even before I started, she sent me an e-mail I will never forget. She stated something along the lines “this is our classroom, not my classroom, so feel free to re-arrange or do anything you think is best.” The best thing is that she meant it.
- I respected what she had going on when I joined in. I followed her expectations for the students and her routines. Yes, I introduced some changes, but I did it gradually, never contradicted her expectations, and I always checked with her to be sure she was OK with the changes.
- We defined our roles and responsibilities. For us, it came organically, but this is one thing that can easily be discussed. Although we both collaborate and plan together, each of us takes the lead on different responsibilities. She does most of the instructional planning as far as following a scope and sequence; I do the progress monitoring and IEP writing. We discuss details, share ideas, analyze the data together, but then, we divide and conquer.
- We don’t compete but work on complementing each other. Each of us has a teaching style, different experiences, and background knowledge. We both welcome each other’s contributions during instruction.
As I wrap up this posting, I am thinking about how many nuances there are on this subject. I don’t mean at all to simplify a matter for which there are so much research and literature. This is my reflection on one experience, and I plan on reflecting and sharing more about the subject, but as per now, just share your experience with us. Let’s talk shop!