Monday, November 14, 2011

I don't share well

A post on how I fail at co-teaching.

My school does an awesome job of supporting students with learning disabilities by offering courses co-taught by a content teacher and a special education teacher.  This year I have 2 co-taught Geometry courses and I have the same co-teacher for both of those.  I also have an "Algebra 1" (in quotes because we're not exactly at that level) course for students with moderate to severe learning disabilities.  That course has 2 special education teachers so we've split it into 2 groups with 1 teacher (plus several paraprofessionals) in each class and me jumping between them.

The title of this post is actually true in a far more general sense than just co-teaching.  I like to do things my way, I'm quite stubborn when I get my mind set on something and most of the time I'm rather independent.  I do enjoy collaborating and I love the support of having another teacher in the room, but I'm still stuck in the mindset of considering my co-teachers support as opposed to equal level players.  

I'd love to hear some ideas on how people have found a good balance in a shared classroom.

Some issues that have come up recently:

Grades were due last week so my Geometry co-teacher offered to do some of the grading.  Problem was, I like grading those classes better than my others since they go fast (smaller class size and my other class is working on proofs- so glad I'm not an English teacher!) so I'd already graded almost everything.  She later shared that she'd really like to do some of the grading since she wants to have a better sense of how everyone is doing.  This struck me as totally obvious yet I'd never realized it - I'd been hoarding the grading since I want to see how the kids are doing, but she should get to share those insights!  So now we're going to split it so that one of us does tests and the other does test corrections, then we both get to see.  (I know, poor me, I have to give away some of my grading.)

I talked to one teacher for "Algebra 1" and shared what I thought the kids were ready to do next.  She said that she was happy to put together a worksheet since I would be working with the other group the following class.  When I talked to some people who had been in that class later she had gone and done something totally different than what we discussed.  I was really frustrated that she didn't follow the plan that we had made, but I realized that most of the time I leave her in the dark and just show up with something to do that day.  In my head I have an arc that I'm following and it all flows, but this probably isn't clear to her (especially since math isn't her area of expertise).  I'm going to really try to work on communicating my goals and hope that she will offer me the courtesy of doing the same so when changes need to be made they aren't a surprise to either of us.

A success:

I've been using dropbox with the other teacher for "Algebra 1" so she gets real time updates as I create worksheets, write to-do lists and formulate plans.  She did her practicum in middle school math and studied computer science, so she can see the underlying structures I'm putting in place when random files pop up on her computer.  (I'm also using dropbox with some of the teachers in the math department to share everything I'm doing in my current courses and some projects I've used in the past that may apply to the courses we don't have in common.  I do at least share resources well!)

I know that part of the problem I'm having is a lack of time to sit down and discuss everything with my co-teachers.  We need to make that a priority in the future.  Otherwise, I'm having a hard time not making all the decisions and monopolizing the small amount of teacher-centered time there is in my our classroom.  Advice?  Personal anecdotes?  Articles I can share to get the conversation rolling?


  1. I don't have any advice other than to say that I don't share well either :)

  2. At least I'm not alone!

    Things kinda blew up with one woman (I bet you can guess who!) the day after I wrote this, but it resulted in progress on all fronts and I now have weekly meetings with all my co-teachers which I think is going to be a major plus.


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