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Co-Teaching: Bolstering Benefits & Avoiding Potential Perils

Co-teaching is like any good marriage in that communication is key. Adhering to that, with a partner who has the same goal as you (and hopefully some chemistry between you), co-teaching can be a wonderful experience. And have some pretty career-affirming benefits.

When co-teaching clicks, students get a richer classroom experience. They’re able to benefit from learning through multiple lenses. Having partnered teachers creates a more engaging atmosphere, breaks up monotony and allows for more spontaneity, enrichment and differentiation. Teachers benefit from being able to share administrative functions and are able to achieve more through collaboration. This unique relationship can offer tremendous professional development opportunities as well as provide more time to get to know students and better understand their needs. All of which, can greatly improve the classroom dynamic. 

However, when co-teaching creates discord it’s not only painful for the teachers involved, the students can suffer as well. The following tips can help you keep your co-teaching copacetic—and help you avoid common pitfalls:

  • Always put your students and their growth first. After all, they’re your top priority. 
  • Treat the relationship like a marriage. Both teaching partners should be 100% involved and committed to the process. 
  • Know when to compromise. Learn how (and when) to serve up constructive criticism so your partner can hear it—and learn how to accept it in return.
  • Don’t think of it as splitting up the role of teacher. It’s about both of you bringing you’re A game every day and being involved in every aspect, not just dividing up responsibilities.
  • Take the necessary (regularly scheduled) time to plan together. It’s the single greatest way to ensure you’re also teaching together. This is not a “let’s just wing it” situation.
  • Keep communication open about the developing dynamic between you and your fellow educator. Be honest about what’s working and what’s not. Be committed to resolving it.
  • Set aside time to address students’ needs amongst yourselves. Use your observations, unique perspectives and experience to find better ways to reach each of them and find solutions to tackling challenging concepts.
  • Decide on how certain things will be handled before the year even starts. This includes classroom management styles and philosophies, priorities, discipline, grading, communication with parents, etc.
  • Consider how things are presented to your class. Use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ to help better establish the two of you as a united front. 
  • Play off each teachers’ strengths to provide the best possible learning experience for your students. 
  • Make sure your students feel like both teachers are their teachers.
  • Don’t contradict one another or argue in front of students. This undermines your authority and can set up a good-cop/bad-cop dynamic.

Many of the impactful career-affirming benefits as well as the potential enthusiasm-zapping challenges of co-teaching boil down to the strength of both educators’ communication. Focusing on keeping that open, honest and (above all) constant can go a long way in helping everyone involved benefit from the experience.