Launching Co-Teaching By: Bianca Nunes (ELL Teacher, American School of Brasilia)
How many times have we heard that “two heads are better than one?” True or not, there is a reason why this proverb is still alive. Co-teaching is now best practice in education and is starting to gain momentum across international schools.
At the American School of Brasilia, teachers are working together to solidify and implement co-teach- ing models and strategies at various school levels and thus addressing student needs simultaneously.
In the Lower School, developing co-teaching partnerships and implementing co-teaching models to help all learners attain successful academic language and success is an expectation. The general classroom teacher focuses on content and the language teacher enhances the academic language of not only the English Language Learners (ELL) but of all students. In other words, co-teaching “draws on the strengths of both the general educator, who understands the structure, content, and pacing of the general education curriculum, and the [specialist], who can identify unique learning needs of individual students and enhance curriculum and instruction to match these needs” (Hanover Research, 2012).
Changing the “i-Culture”. Establishing co-teaching models and practices begins to blur the individualism in education, the “I” and call for a culture of “we;” where the classroom teacher is not the sole adult responsible for students, instruction and assessment. It now becomes a collaborative culture of our classroom, our students, our planning and instruction, our efforts to maximize student learning. Essentially, “each teacher brings important knowledge and skills to the classroom, and they learn from each other without trying to be interchangeable” (Friend, 2016).
If schools now follow the inclusive model of education, doesn’t it make sense that our teachers and specialists are also included in everyday instruction in mainstream classrooms to target students’ various needs at once?
Realistic? In theory, it sounds easy and sensible. However, realistically, co-teaching does take time and e ort in order to co-plan before co-teaching. t is simply a matter of collaborating and setting expectations for all teachers. Some teachers may argue that co-teaching is another “to-do” in our already long list of duties. However, using two heads to plan will speed up the planning process and generate innovative and engaging lessons for students targeting different learners. So, two heads are better than one, and why not use it then to our advantage?
Reflections. In my second year co-teaching, have seen how challenging it is to make it work, but recognize how effective and powerful it actually is when implemented. Ultimately, the secret is to persist. Through trial and error, I have come to the realization that co-teaching can address the needs of all students at the same time, given the specific roles and areas of expertise of the teachers in either content or language, which are pre-established before the lessons.
There were many times throughout the early stages of co-teaching, that our lessons did not turn out as expected. And, that is when our team reaction really played an important role. In the beginning, reflecting became part of our weekly meetings since we were still trying to get to know our teaching styles and how we could best work together to meet the day’s objective and reach all students. As weeks went by, we slowly began to understand and respect the different views and styles, and combined the strengths each teacher brought to the classroom.
According to research, teachers who have adopted co-teaching have reported a significant improvement in “classroom management skills, collaboration with other adults, more teaching time, deeper understanding of the curriculum, and more opportunities for self-reflection” (St. loud State University).
Start Small, Achieve Big. Co-teaching does not happen overnight, but baby steps can be made to start planting the co-teaching seed in the school. 1………….Set a time (at least once a week) to meet with your team (general educator and specialist).
2…………. Co- Plan: figure content and language targets for the lesson week. Choose a co-teaching model and explicitly divide the roles for instruction delivery. Co-teaching can occur during one block or multiple blocks a day. Start in content areas other than literacy, since literacy tends to already provide personalized and differentiated individualized instruction.
3………….Co-Teach: deliver the lesson. 4…………. Reflect: What worked well? What did not work well? How can we improve next time? 5………….Try again. 6…………..Try again. 7…………..Try again.
In the co-teaching marriage, there is no recipe for success, but the willingness to try, make mistakes, learn, and presence the end-result of maximizing student learning with specific needs in the classroom. No wonder it is now considered best practice in education! From these basic steps, other ideas can emerge and this routine of co-planning and co-teaching will begin to fall into place and maximize your time as teachers as well.
Launching co-teaching in schools is a challenging, yet rewarding and effective learning process that enhances instructional delivery and student learning in the classroom.
Therefore, this best practice in education and from experience does confirm that two heads are in fact better than one.