Co-teaching...how do you make it work?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by orangetea, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    We have received tentative classes for next year, and I think I will be co-teaching an elementary algebra class with a special educator who is licensed in middle school math. This class is for students who aren't ready for CP Algebra 1. It's a very basic middle school level algebra class.
    I'm a little nervous about this. I don't want her to be sitting in the back of the room doing nothing. We probably won't have time to plan together often.
    Is she supposed to pull special education students aside? (But I believe most of the class is special ed students) How is this supposed to work in a math class that is mostly lecture-based? If we are sharing the lecturing (I demonstrate one topic and she demonstrates another), how is this actually beneficial to the students? This is my main question and concern. This is part of the reason why I don't agree with co-teaching. I think it would be more helpful to have a pull out period, like there is for some of my current students.
    I think I'll talk to the other teacher who teaches elementary algebra too. I already know the lady I'll be co-teaching with. She's very nice and professional. She also has decent math knowledge (enough to help teach the class at least) because she's certified to teach middle school.
     
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  3. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    We don't make it work. It's horrible! But others can share their positive experience and advice, I am sure. :)
     
  4. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Yikes! What are the major problems? Is it usually a personality clash or just the fact that the co-teaching model doesn't work?
     
  5. AZMrs.S

    AZMrs.S Cohort

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    I've been interested to learn how this teAching arrangement works too, hopefully others will have some helpful advice :)
     
  6. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Not a personality clash, for sure.

    Co-teaching requires planning, yet my "co-teacher" has never once came to a curriculum planning meeting, never comes to our team's daily planning period, misses half or more of faculty meetings for sports, has never contributed a lesson idea much less taught a lesson, has never modified an assignment and only maybe five times has provided accomodations (yeah, lovely...right?), has never scored assignments, has never written up a student... It's horrible.
     
  7. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    I am in a co-teaching situation in high school (I'm the regular education teacher), and I frankly don't know how its SUPPOSED to work, but I don't like the way it IS working. I feel like the special education teacher is reduced to the role of a glorified aide, which I don't like because she is a fully certified and qualified teacher. BUT... she is NOT qualified in my subject area, and so whenever I lecture, she just keeps kids on task, and walks around a but. But she doesn't actually co-teach the course with me.... not for lack of desire, but it's not her area.

    She pulls kids out for tests and review, and on days when we work on assignments she will spend time with individual kids around the room. This is great... but I don't feel like that's what co-teaching is supposed to be. We get along great, but we don't have shared planning time either, so the whole situation is... not ideal.

    Frankly, I don't think either one of us are happy with the situation. I'll leave things at that for now, but perhaps she will chime in here and comment too (she also periodically reads this forum).
     
  8. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I don't have the problem of her not knowing the content, because she is certified so she should know it.
    However, I do think I would probably be better at teaching the content than she would. She has never taught math before; she is usually an English special educator. She got certified a while ago, so I think it's been some time since she's seen the material.
    I'm just not sure how this will work out.
     
  9. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    Ideally, you would plan together the best way to make the content accessible for students with special needs. Lecture-based will probably not work - you will need more hands-on, individualized work. But you should plan it together.

    There are SO many models of co-teaching: parallel (where you each teach the same skill to a group of students but in different manners) is very effective.

    As for the daily planning that some teams do, special educators work with several grade levels and usually do not have the time to meet with each team every day. At my school, they meet once per week with each teacher they co-teach with.
     
  10. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I'm not really sure how to teach math without making it "lecture" based.
    I usually explain a concept, show them how to do a problem, and give them one to try on their own or with a partner while I walk around helping students. So I guess lecture isn't the right word. They are actively solving problems in class. Is there a better way to do it in a co-teaching situation? And I really don't know how to make work individualized. The students in this class are all at the same level and are expected to mostly complete the same work.
     
  11. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Co-teaching can work! And when it does it is amazing! It takes time to build that relationship though.

    You might want to start by spending some time just talking with each other and learning each other's methods and philosophies of education.

    In my math classes, students work in small groups on different concepts. I might teach a small lessons while my partner is working with the rest of the students on a concept that they are struggling with. Then I might teach a lesson to that half of the class while my partner works on exploring the concept with the other group of students. Sometimes we have three or four groups going at a time. Sometimes it's just one group but we provide more small group instruction by breaking the groups up.
     
  12. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Thanks, I'll talk to her about this as the time gets closer. I like the idea of breaking up the class if some of them are struggling with a concept.
    Do those students end up behind though? Because we'll need them to be taking the same test on the same day.
     
  13. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Co-teaching looks different depending upon how the teachers want to set it up. I have very positive relationships with my Geometry and Algebra co-teachers. I don't get up in front of the class. I just don't feel compelled to do so. Both the math teachers I work with have their own system and I like to let them control the classes. But, I never feel like I'm sitting around with nothing do to! I walk around during independent work and group work and tutor all the students. I pull my students for the big tests. And, I teach a separate Math Tutorial to my students to reinforce what they learn in class.
     
  14. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Usually the students who need extra help, don't need extra help on every single concept. Some they will understand. However, I always have some more complex work for the students who are ready for the test, but we still have some catch up for the students who need reteaching. The more advanced students may work on solving equations with decimals and fractions instead of whole number, they might work on graphing decimals and fractions, they may dive into integers, they may work on problem solving, etc. There are also some games that can go along with the more advanced learners as well.
     
  15. midwestteacher

    midwestteacher Cohort

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    Wow, I can't believe you got your schedules for next year already. Last year, we got ours about 2 weeks before school started. On the first day of school, another teacher walked into my classroom and informed me we would be teaching that class together - surprise. At least you have time to prepare.
     
  16. greendream

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    My co-teaching experience has been very rocky. You would think that two qualified teachers in a room would be better than one, but in my opinion, students work better when their attention is focused on one teacher rather than two.

    I get along great with my co-teacher, but no matter how we dress it up, the fact remains that I'm the primary teacher. I'm the one who makes the plans and has the content knowledge and does the grading. There are times when he's out of the room the whole day dealing with special ed meetings, but I'm always there.
     
  17. Croissant

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    That's been my experience as well. And my co-teacher also co-teaches a few other classes. We never really get to plan together, and I usually spend bellringer time quickly filling her in on what we're doing for the day. We try to split the teaching, though I do the majority of it as she usually isn't prepared to teach the content because we never get to plan together. We've talked several times about how beneficial it could be to plan simultaneous activities and lessons and rotate groups between independent work, her lesson, and my lesson, but that takes extensive organization, and we don't have the time together to do it. Usually while one of us teaches, the other one becomes a babysitter. As a teacher with 7 periods a day, I can't make my lesson plans based on the fact that I have one co-teach class. I make assignment modifications and do a lot more guided practice etc, but as far as the actual lesson or activity goes, it sometimes needs to be different, but I don't have the time to do that. I thought a co-teacher would be an excellent resource in helping to plan that kind of stuff, but we're both so busy with other obligations....It's sad, really. I can see it definitely working in an elementary school, where the teachers spend all day together, have pe/recess time etc. to plan, but in a middle school for just one 45 minute period a day...I don't think it works.
     
  18. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    We didn't get schedules, just a tentative list of classes we will teach. The students signed up for classes last week, so we have the numbers. But it is nice to be informed. Your situation was just unacceptable.
     
  19. greendream

    greendream Cohort

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    Very true. I would love to be able to plan with my co-teacher, but unless we became best friends outside of work, there's just no time for it.
     
  20. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    I just found out what I'll be teaching next year. Literature of the American Renaissance (Honors), Philosophy, a senior writing class, a sophomore writing class, an independent senior elective thing (a dozen students - we meet in small groups weekly), and a course in 17th-19th century British Lit. (That's over two semesters.)

    On the co-teaching thing, our school tried this about twenty years ago with an English course for Sped and less capable non-Sped kids. I was the teacher. The Sped person stopped coming to class after a few weeks. She said there just wasn't that much for her to do. I don't remember that there were any hard feelings at all: that's just what happened. I guess those were simpler times. I suppose some phalanx of bureaucrats would have to march over from the district office if something like that happened nowadays.

    I do have Sped aides now from time to time, and there seems often to be little for them to do as well. We get along fine, and they're certainly welcome to do as they wish. Maybe I'm one of those sucks-all-the-air-out-of-the-room people. I suppose I'll have to think about that.
     
  21. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    It doesn't really work in elementary either. My district is pushing this big time right now. I currently do all pull-out which my school supports, but I don't know how much longer they can hold out against what the district wants. I cannot even fathom how they think this is going to work. I've seen it done before, but that was in much bigger schools who had a sped teacher for every grade or every 2 grades. How on earth am I supposed to co-teach with every teacher in k-5? Even if they start putting all of the sped kids into the same class within the grade level (this is a big no-no in the district also), I'd still be trying to work with 6 different teachers. At the absolute most I could make it to a reading block once a week per grade level. How is that helping my kids at all?

    In the school I student taught at I was in 3rd grade and they had a sped teacher for the grade level with all the kids split between two regular ed teachers. I think if all of the people would have been willing to really work on it, co-teaching could have worked in that situation. One gen ed teacher didn't want to give up control of her classroom, and wouldn't really let the sped teacher do anything but walk around and be an aide. From what I can tell, the sped teacher was more than happy to do a job that required no planning, so she didn't push this at all. In the other gen ed classroom, the focus was so much on direct instruction that there was literally just nothing for the sped teacher to do- there were no rotations or guided groups or anything like that ever going on. Had the personalities and teaching styles meshed more, I think three teachers in that situation could make something great of it. They had common planning time daily but never planned together.
     
  22. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    Well, I know it's very un-PC of me, but I think pull out and resource classes are the better choice. I have kids in my co-teach class who will probably be AP students in high school who get so frustrated with the pace of the lower kids. I try to differentiate, and I expect to get a lot better at that as I get more experience, but this is like mixing the highest of the high with the lowest of the low. In my opinion that creates a near impossible task for me as the teacher. I realize that's something that should be helped with having another teacher in the room, but....

    I'm sure there are some instances where it works perfectly, but in my case, I feel it hurts everyone involved more than it helps. The low kids can't ever catch up because we have to keep moving (it is after all a general ed class), the high kids don't learn because they're sitting through lessons they don't need, and the teachers grow frustrated because they know they don't have the time or resources to meet everyone's needs. Plus, I don't know how many times kids have asked me why that/this class has two teachers and the others don't. I think it draws more attention to special ed kids than simply pulling them out would.
     
  23. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    Agreed on every point. I know tracking seems to be a dirty word, and inclusion is all the rage these days... but it just doesn't seem to work at the secondary level. My inclusion class is a mess for the reasons you just stated. It's a high school geography class, and the low kids cannot tell me what a peninsula is, while I have other kids in there explaining to me the impact the Chernobyl disaster had on the Ukrainian environment.
     
  24. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Yep.
     
  25. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Honestly, I would never expect a gen ed teacher to slow down their pacing just for my students. Is that the way it really works in other schools????????

    The gen ed teachers I co-teach with do not have to slow their pacing for my students. That's why I'm there! If my students are not getting something, I sit with them, help them move forward, highlight their notes, etc. And then I pull them out or re-teach later in a tutorial or after school.

    My caseload of students really values being in gen ed classes. They don't want to spend their high school days tucked away in special ed classrooms. Most would rather get a D in a gen ed class than an A in a sped class. So, I try to help create schedules for them that make time for tutorials, I pull them out for testing and give them opportunities to succeed. I ask their gen ed teachers to consider student effort when grading and we come up with fair solutions.
     
  26. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    At my school, yes. Sadly.

    We have no tutorial or pullout time. If the SpEd teacher cannot help in the room, that exact period, then no help occurs. Some have a resource, but with a different teacher usually.
     
  27. greendream

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    Let me be even more un-PC then. I think "inclusion" is one of the dumbest ideas going in education today. It's truly a lose-lose situation for the reasons you described. My class has to grind to a halt for low-level kids. High-level kids are bored. If we plow ahead and regular pace, I've got assistant principals waving failing grades in my face telling me to do something about them.
     
  28. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    Yep. They have pullout/tutorial for math, but I'm it for English. And about 2/3 of the class has a 504 or IEP. There are a couple who were not at all ready for grade-level content, even with accomodation. It's impossible for either of us to individually monitor, assist, reteach, etc. every student who needs it during a lesson, so we usually end up spending another day on it, which puts us a day behind the other classes.
     
  29. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Yep.
     
  30. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    :agreed:
    This is how things work at my school.
     
  31. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    I definitely don't agree that kids in special ed should never be in gen ed classes (for the most part), but as a special ed teacher I do agree that push-in interventions aren't very effective. I only have one student who I think really doesn't benefit from gen ed at all. She's identified with MR and absolutely everything in her class is just ions above her level- and we're not allowed to modify so she has to do all of the regular assignments. It took me months to teach her that something plus 0 was still the same number, and her class is now working on division. She's the only one on my caseload that I feel is really just sitting there biding time in gen ed. The problem in my district is that our self-contained classes are for students with really, really severe needs, and most aren't doing any academics whatsoever. It's all life skills like eating, toileting, etc. Since this student is capable of doing academic skills on a lower level, of course I wouldn't want her in a class like that so keeping her in gen ed with pull out is the better of two bad choices. Although my other students are obviously behind, I definitely don't think they need a self-contained class or that they're not benefiting from gen ed. With our "rigorous curriculum" the teachers certainly can't slow down what they're teaching. I wish I was allowed to modify, but I can't. Most students have a reading and a math pull out lesson with me every day so I know they're at least learning a lot from that. I can't imagine not pulling them out- I think it's just such a better and more effective intervention. They need this time to work on skills on their own level. Without pull-out, if they aren't on grade level I don't see how they're ever going to catch up since there is no time to go back and fill "gaps." I could see a combination of push-in and pull-out being okay, IF the school had enough special ed teachers to really make it effective. If I only had one grade level instead of 6, I would definitely be able to do some of both. I would probably set it up so that I was co-teaching (actually co-teaching, not being an aide) with the regular ed teacher for a portion of the lesson and then pulling my students out to reteach the same topic so they were getting a double dose. Then I could also pull out the kids who were really behind and needed basic skills lessons during non-core lessons in other parts of the day.
     
  32. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    I've never co-taught, so this may be an obvious question...

    Can the special ed co-teacher do "pull-outs" in the same room during the lesson? I would think that if the special ed students aren't getting it, but the rest of the class is, that one of the benefits of co-teaching would be the ability to pull a group aside and teach a lesson at their level "in the moment" instead of having to wait for the time that they go to the resource room.
     
  33. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Yes, my dad does this in his position as a sped teacher. I don't see how this would be more beneficial than taking the students to a separate room though where it would be quiet and they could focus on that lesson. I've been in my dad's class before and it gets pretty crazy when he has 8 kids in the room trying to do a re-teach lesson while the other kids who are "getting it" are trying to do something else. It's distracting and confusing for everyone, and the only reason he does his lessons in the gen ed room are so that they can say the kids are technically "fully included" (never pulled out or separated) simply because it sounds good to say that. IMO, we shouldn't be making instructional decisions on something that "sounds nice." I get what you're saying about scheduling- I agree it would be beneficial to have the kids do that particular lesson review right away. I'm fine with that- but I think it would be easier to pull them out "in the moment" then to try to teach a separate lesson in the middle of someone else's classroom.
     
  34. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    Our school gives out exit tickets after a skill has been taught and practiced. They're just 2-3 questions on that day's skill. Based on the results, each child in the room is either placed with the special educator for small-group reteach with manipulatives, etc., or with the general educator for enrichment. Usually, there ends up being special ed and general ed students in both groups.
     
  35. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I also want my co-teacher to feel welcome in the classroom, because she is the teacher in that period as well. I talked to her, and she said she isn't comfortable with teaching, but will jump in, give one-on-one instruction, and monitor and help students out. She'll pull some students for tests.
    I was thinking of just letting her have my desk for the period, because I won't be sitting anyway. Is that a good idea? I heard stories about co-teachers feeling like the room isn't theirs as well, so I want to avoid this situation.
     
  36. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    I sit in open desks near my students. I circulate during most of the class to keep my students on track (some of my students have attention and focus issues, so they have to be prompted and redirected constantly). If I have to leave my bag somewhere safe, I just put it up front near the teacher's desk. I have my own classroom, so I just bring my supply bag with me when I go to inclusion classes. If your co-teacher does not have her own classroom, then it would be nice to give her a space to stow her things while she's in your classroom.
     
  37. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    This only works in large classrooms and in situations where the teacher has the class doing lots of independent and group work. I see you teach Biology. The scenario you described works well for me in the Biology because of the nature of the class and the size of the room.

    As another poster said, re-teaching in the moment is too distracting to other students. I really depend upon tutorial classes to reteach the material.

    Example: I knew the Geometry teacher was going to be teaching Volume. So, I pre-taught it during a sped tutorial class and then re-taught it in the tutorial class.
     
  38. Rebel1

    Rebel1 Connoisseur

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    Y'all NEED to MAKE TIME TO PLAN, if you want it to work out! Write down all your concerns and talk with her. THAT is what works best with me. I like to face people and find out what is going on, before I go into any project with them. It takes away all the guessing, head aches, back biting, gossiping, bitchin', and all that stuff. You'll be surprised about how a lot of people worry so much about stuff that is not even worth worrying about.
    Good luuck,
    Rebel1
     
  39. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    We have inclusion only. I love, love, love my co-teacher. We've been together three years. She checks on "her" kids at the beginning of the period and catches up with other kids who are struggling. She sits in the back during direct instruction but is up, moving, talking, explaining when it's time for independent or group work. She'll pull small groups for anyone who is feeling lost. I email her my plans at the beginning of the week.

    We're going to try a full co-teaching situation in one class next quarter. I'm actually quite giddy... we already decided to plan together Fridays after work :love:
     
  40. NICHOLEG310

    NICHOLEG310 New Member

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    Help!

    Hi all, I know this thread is old, but I'd like to bump it. I have a co-teacher who does NOTHING but sit on her tail and talk to the students. I have to interrupt the conversations that she and the students have just for the sake of teaching! :( I would totally expect her to know that if there are like 10 special needs students in my class (in addition to the 23 gen ed students), that she REALLY should be doing her job instead of not grading, putting "grades" in the book, and again sitting on her bottom chatting with the kids. Any suggestions on nicely talking to her?? Btw I teach 9th grade Lit.
     
  41. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Can you give her specific tasks to do--"Today when you're in my class, I need you to work with Johnny and Tom on the editing of their responses, check in with Jamie to see that she's understanding the section we're reading right now, and go over the feedback I've given to Jay, Theo, Amy and Sandy."
     

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