Different Types of Co-teaching

I just finished co-teaching a class with a colleague of mine.  I’ve been a co-teacher five times now with four different teachers. I consider myself blessed to work in a school that values co-teaching and invests the time and money needed to make it happen. Being able to work collaboratively with another professional, to play off my strengths and get help with my weaknesses, to work more closely with a smaller group of students, and assess different areas of the same project has wonderful. But not everyone has the same experience.

Here are the different positions a co-teacher may find themselves in based on personal experience and stories I’ve heard from other teachers in my graduate courses:

The Proxy

The ingredients: An administrator trying to motivate a lousy, belligerent teacher; A lousy, belligerent teacher who doesn’t want or need any help; A rookie who has no idea what he’s getting into.

How it works: Realizing that the administration is trying to send him a message, the lousy teacher decides to send one back by undermining and humiliating the rookie at every opportunity.  The rookie desperately tries to keep his head down and survive the course with a modicum of dignity intact.

Pros: Administrator doesn’t have to directly confront the lousy, belligerent teacher.

Cons: Kill two teaching careers in half the time.

The Scapegoat

The ingredients: A teacher who decides that co-teaching is an opportunity for an extra planning period; Another teacher who will receive none of the credit for a job well-done but all of the blame for any problems.

How it works: The teacher who’s name appears on the course list bails out of the course at the first opportunity because the other teacher can handle it.  The other teacher teaches the course alone.

Pros: One teacher gets some more planning time.

Cons: Not an effective use of the co-teaching opportunity.

The Auditor

The ingredients: A veteran teacher who developed the course, has taught it for years, and isn’t looking for any help; A younger teacher eager to help out.

How it works: You know how you can audit a course in college?  You attend all the classes but you don’t do any work and don’t receive credit. It’s like that.  The veteran teaches the course exactly as he would if the younger teacher weren’t there.  Eager to help, the younger teacher does things like turn the lights off and on and work the VCR.  Eventually the younger teacher stops coming to class.

Pros: None

Cons: Hard to think of a less effective use of one teacher’s time.

The Student Teacher

The ingredients: A veteran teacher who isn’t quite into the whole co-teaching thing but is willing to give it a try; Another teacher eager to help out.

How it works: The veteran teacher reluctantly hands over portions of the course to the other teacher under careful supervision.  He’s pleasantly surprised that everything went okay.

Pros: Both teachers (and the students) may benefit somewhat from the co-teaching situation.

Cons: Not an effective use of the co-teaching opportunity.

The Part Timer

The ingredients: Two teachers who have no idea how to make the co-teaching thing work, so they simply split up the teaching load.

How it works: Teacher 1 teaches the first unit, Teacher 2 teaches the second, and so on.  The off teacher sometimes sticks around to help the other teacher out but otherwise isn’t there.

Pros: Teachers teach what they’re best at.  It’s clear who’s responsible for what.  Extra planning time for the off teacher.

Cons: Not an effective use of the co-teaching opportunity.

The Collaborator

The ingredients: Two teachers who want to work together and want what’s best for their students.

How it works: The two teachers collaborate in planning, teaching, and assessing.  They maximize their time by sharing the load, playing to each other’s strengths, and helping out with weaknesses.  They break the class into smaller groups.  They aren’t afraid to challenge or compliment each other when appropriate.  They ask for and expect honest feedback.  They have clearly defined plans and roles each class period.  They each do whatever it takes for the students to get a good education.

Pros: Students receive more personalized attention, a deeper education, and a good model of collaboration.

Cons: Collaborating takes a lot of work.

I’m happy to say that I was very much in the collaborator role this year.  Thank you Mrs. Z for a great first term; I learned a lot from you. (I’m on my own from here on out.)

Have you ever been in a co-teaching situation?  What category did I miss?


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