Team Teaching – Part 1

A great deal of teaching is done ‘in isolation’ – a teacher is assigned classes, preparation is done, and the classroom door is closed. Many schools encourage teachers to work together – many schools do not. Teachers can work against the isolation by reaching out to colleagues and sharing practice – then everyone’s practice can improve through reflection. I have had the good luck to have been in three schools where teaching teams and sharing practice was encouraged. Two of them were intentional in this regard, and one, not so intentional, still managed to have teachers come together to shape curriculum and share practice. I want to write about these times in the next few entries.
The first team I worked with was in Minnesota – a group of special education teachers that worked in a public middle school. Each of the teams that I will write about had their own positives and negatives, and I do not mean to rank them – just simply describe my experiences with them. Our Minnesota group was responsible for teaching and mainstreaming (as much as possible) our students into the regular curriculum in the middle school. If we were not able to do that, then we assumed the teaching responsibilities for students and taught them individually or in small groups.
Our team consisted of three people on site – two teachers and a psychologist/program manager. There were two other people on that team – a school psychologist and a program supervisor. My four colleagues were fantastic to work with – each one placed the welfare and education of each student front and center when we made decisions about their schooling. This group consisted of some of the finest teaching professionals that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. We were often tasked with involving the middle school faculty in plans for our students and the staff there responded well (for the most part) to our suggestions and comments. We would occasionally enter their classrooms and team teach with them or act as tutors for the special education students that were assigned to their classes. Our students were often diagnosed with behavioral difficulties (some severe) and it was good that the middle school staff trusted our suggestions and our comments.
When the five of us would hold team meetings (weekly – more often as needed) we could become heated in our opinions. Each member really thought of themselves as a student advocate and wanted to be sure that all points were considered. This was, for me, one of the strengths of the team. Another aspect that I believe contributes to team strength and unity is if the team is composed of a good blend of ethnicity, gender, and teaching experience. This blending must be intentional – perhaps one of the reasons why more team teaching is not part of schools. I have worked in many schools where the administration’ talks the talk’ of staff diversity but does not make honest efforts to implement it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s