I’ve really been into one of the ways my team has been collaborating this year. I think this mode of collaborative teaching has come a bit from necessity (only so many hours in a week to plan together), a bit from a desire to make the most of our different strengths, and also a bit because we just really like each other and are excited about each other’s ideas.
My direct team is made up of 3 Grade 2 classroom teachers, 3 Teaching Assistants (1 per homeroom), an ELL teacher (she works in both Grade 1 and Grade 2), a Literacy Specialist and a Math Specialist (they each work across the entire Primary School). We rarely sit down to plan together as a whole group. It is just not possible. We meet much more often in different smaller combinations. We are excited about each other’s ideas and we all share a view that the students in Grade 2 belong in some way to all of us as our students. I consider myself so lucky to work with this team.
At the end of last school year, one of our teammates said quite plainly, “Look, we are not going to all have time to sit down and plan with each other as much as we wish. It just is not going to happen.” She proposed that we rethink how we make the best use of our time together to plan. The basic proposal was that we can do much more than the traditional model of co-teaching (two teachers sit down, plan a lesson, then facilitate this lesson together). By the way, there is nothing wrong with this model. I love it. There are just more options. The proposal was also based on the wise old words that we, as teachers, do not have to reinvent the wheel each time we prepare to teach. If someone has something good, take it! Use it! Accept the gift!
Here are some of the models we use:
I teach, you watch, you teach to others / We teach, you watch, you teach to others
I plan a lesson based on a particular idea or strength of mine. You watch, then teach the same lesson in another classroom or to another group of students at a different time. Or, two teachers plan and teach while a third watches with the intent to lead this same lesson in another classroom. One planning session can lead to 2 or 3 great lessons shared.
I teach, you cover, I teach…
I plan a lesson based on a particular idea or strength of mine. I teach it to one group of students. A teammate then covers for me while I teach the same lesson in other classrooms or to other groups of students. Sometimes it just makes more sense for me to lead this lesson each time. If I am teaching, it frees another teammate to cover for me.
As you can see the “I’s” “you’s” and “we’s” can be changed out to varying degrees. Sometimes 3 Teaching Assistants are watching while another teammate leads one lesson. They can then lead the lesson in three different classrooms after. Teachers or teaching assistants can come from other grade levels to watch a lesson and bring that lesson back to their team.
I just love how much bang we are getting for the planning time put in. Two heads together can spread out to 3 or 4 lessons taught to many kids from one planning session. If I wasn’t involved in a certain planning session I can still benefit from the great ideas shared. I also think these models acknowledge that we love each other’s ideas, want to watch each other teach, and want to try out what we see. And last, but most definitely not least, as I mentioned before, this is an absolute gift. If a teammate says to me, “I can teach a cool lesson on how to introduce the revision process to your class. I just saw this lesson taught by our teaching partner.” I say, “Yes, please!” My students get access to great teaching, I am able to watch a great model, and I have one less session to plan for.
A final thought…
I have worked at schools in the past where my teaching team was much smaller. We had no teaching assistants, one ELL teacher who worked across two schools and literacy and math specialist who worked throughout all the schools in the district! I am keenly aware that the models my team use will get more complicated and cumbersome with fewer team members. I’m not really sure what to say to this. I remember the bad feelings that come from lack of support. I am however keen to see what is possible in tighter team structures when I do return to such a teaching environment. Does the librarian want to be a part of this? How can I be more proactive in accessing the specialists we do have? Would these other teachers be on board to try some of these teaching models as well?
What collaborative models do you use? What opportunities am I missing out on? I’d love to hear.