Like many schools across America, my school year is complete and summer vacation has commenced (yay!). Every year, I like to reflect on the successes and failures of the school year and this year is no different. However, I want to focus this post on my experiences co-teaching the past 3 years and what I’ve learned from them. I feel as though my experience co- teaching have really helped define me as a teacher.
For this unfamiliar with the concept, essentially in the past couple decades, the need for additional support for teachers serving students with disabilities, special needs and English language learners have warranted the need for two (or more) teachers in the classroom. My first two years of teaching I had a mixture of general education setting and an integrated co-teaching (ICT) setting. This past year I only had an ICT setting. Every year taught me something different and yet invaluable about myself as a teacher and as a person.
Within my past 3 years of teaching I’ve had two different co-teachers and with that, two vastly different experiences. Yet even with that, there seems to be a universal truth about co-teaching – it is a marriage and a test of collaboration. As strange as it may sound, co-teaching requires all of the necessary components needed to make a marriage work, if you want it to be successful that is.
Successful co-teaching requires communication, trust, flexibility and both partners dedicated to making it work or else it just won’t work. The students will undoubtedly pick up if it doesn’t work and they’re the ones who most need stability and security. In my experiences with co-teachers I’ve had great joys and hard truths happen of when co-teaching worked and when it just didn’t. When it did not work it was a hard pill to swallow but showed (and is showing) me how even I can become a better person from it.
It’s also funny considering co-teaching as a marriage even now in comparison to myself as a newlywed in real life (my 1st anniversary is coming up by the way 😁) and seeing what works in my marriage that could and should be translated to my professional life. The art of co-teaching ultimately depends on both partners and while there are tons of articles and research into the nature of effective co-teaching, that can’t be stated enough. As educators we are here for the students first and foremost, and while personalities, teaching methods, and workloads might cloud views of this; it is always worth it to step back and acknowledge this fact.
I received my assignment for next year which will for once have me teaching all by myself. While I will miss having another adult, or two or three, my experiences these past three years have been beneficial in shaping how I envision myself in the classroom and how best I want to teach my students. The same skills transfer over from my past experiences into my upcoming new one and even though I won’t have a co-teacher physically with me, I’ll of course still collaborate with other colleagues and professionals. I hope my new role reflects the fruits of what I’ve learned in the past.