A place for teachers and other providers of special education services to support each other, share information, and discuss topics, including assessment.

Co-Teaching

Erika Saunders 6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Hey everyone! I wanted to get people's experiences with co-teaching. My school went to an inclusion model last year. Prior to that, I had my own classroom of 6-8th graders with IEP's. I taught them Literacy and Math - they went out of my classroom for Social Studies and Science.

When we went to inclusion, I now was co-teaching with the Math and Literacy teachers for 6th - 8th grades. There was virtually no training - I started the year with no schedule! I would LOVE to say that things went smoothly but that was not the case. I was treated anywhere from a good "aid" to a somewhat competent "student teacher" to a complete intruder. Ugh!

It's getting better this year but at a very slow pace. I really feel for all of the students - not just those with IEPs - who could benefit if we embraced the idea of co-teaching more fully and the classroom teachers utilized my expertise in accessing the curriculum.

I'd love to hear your stories! The good, the bad, and the ugly! I'd especially like to hear how people have made it work - converted the "non-believers"

Thanks!

Comments (34)

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Special Education: K-6 Inclusion Resource Teacher from Phoenix, Arizona

Inclusion/Co-Teaching

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Hi Erica, Your story about inclusion sounds like what I hear from a lot of my teacher friends. The school I'm at has been working in an inclusion model since 1991. That was the first year. It was preceded by two years of consensus planning by general and special ed teachers. I'm proud to say that I was part of the team that developed our model. It was very rocky the first 2 years. Even today, school wide teams continue to develop ways to modify our existing inclusion model, despite changes in school financing, students' SES changes and the evolving development of family systems. It has been an exciting venture that sometimes has seemed overwhelming, yet, at the same time, always has been rewarding. I think it's the buy-in by regular teachers that made the difference.

During consensus, teachers said they needed three important components in order to service our IEP students effectively in their classroom. They needed extra materials, instructional assistance, and time to consistently collaborate with the sp ed teacher. Fortunately, we were a growing district and times were more financially plentiful than they are now. The ideal that we started with is now suplimented with modifications. We still remain with 42 IA's on our campus, of which 15 are inclusion based. We train both teachers and IA through staff development to work with differing special education populations on our campus.

The first 12 years of the inclusion model, I co-taught with regular ed teachers. It was pretty rocky at first because I was seen as the intruder and the teachers were very defensive and closed to new ideas. They saw me as a threat to their way of teaching. It took a year before the first teacher agreed to plan a literature study,for the whole class, with me. Initially, until she learned that I was knowledgeable and really didn't want to take over her classroom, I only modeled her instructional examples for students. I would run the overhead while she explain the information. During the times I would monitor students in a worktime, I would model how to present questions, and would make simple accommodations to help them demonstrate their abilities during lessons. I also showed her how to parallel her instruction to the level where my students were. I did many social studies and science, math, and reading testing accommodations and made master tests for her to use with classes that followed. We ended up being great friends and modeled for other teachers how to co-teach. We showed them many co-teaching approaches;team teaching/One Teaching-One observing/One Teaching-One Drifting/Parallel Teaching, etc..

That beginning step led to my teaching in a rotation of lit. studies for 6, 6th grade teachers. I would be 5 or 6 weeks with them for each co-teaching rotation. The most important thing I remember was that initially, I had to not say too much until I learned how to help. I shared a lot of my own materials with her and slowly she let me take small groups of students. I modeled a lot of teaching strategies in those groups and she observed. Eventually, she began to ask questions when she saw value in my approaches, and was no longer threatened by my presence. When she realized that I could be of assistance to her and that I was willing, she let me in, so to speak. I understand when you say you have felt like an aide. That's what I felt like initally. I also collaborated with other special ed teachers and eventually established a consistent monthly time to collaborate with her. Today, I collaborate monthly with 13 teachers not just about my inclusion students, but about materials, other students, and sometimes teaching styles. There are times we just vent about school, district or state issues. Either way, I feel it is always productive.

Over the years, Our special ed dept on campus has established a checkout system where gen. ed. teachers checkout materials for one or two students or for their entire class.

I want to add that the above is just an example of a past experience, I have worked with many, many other teachers who were welcoming and open from day one.

Teacher

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I have been working in a co-teaching classroom for two years now. But like so many other teachers, I was not trained at all and neither was the SPED teacher I work with. As a result, we have often had to make things up as we go and create our own strategies. We had the opportunity to meet with Ms. Friend, and that helped to some extent to fine-tune our approach to co-teaching, but it is not perfect by any means and we continue to learn as we go. Luckily, we get along well and our teaching styles blend well.

One of the issues we have this year is that teachers in the previous grade have hand picked other at-risk students to assign to our classroom with the assurance to parents that this will give their children the additional help they need, since there are two teachers in the classroom. So on top of a 25% SPED population, we have many students who did not pass their reading and/or math achievement tests and have a wide range of learning problems. On top of that, we have no gifted children at all. So the whole idea of a heterogeneous grouping of children is not applicable in our classroom. This makes our job difficult to say the least. We feel that, through no fault of our own, we are destined for failure. It is frustrating, especially in light of the fact that we did very well last year.

The lesson here is that particular care must be taken to create co-teaching classrooms which are conducive to learning. By its very definition, that requires a more heterogeneous grouping of children.

Special Education: K-6 Inclusion Resource Teacher from Phoenix, Arizona

TEACHER: WOW,you really are

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TEACHER:
WOW,you really are in a dilemma. Sound's like more of a resource room population with all the sp.ed. and low kids. I don't think you are destined for failure though. You can't do inclusion if you don't have an inclusive environment, and it sounds like you don't. I think you are a success in that you are aware of the population you are teaching and are developing strategies as you go further into this situation. Sounds like you will be developing a new model. There is a site online with great videos of a teacher named Tim Bedley. I don't know if you can link here, but you can cut and paste this onto your computer.
http://www.rockinthestandards.com/tim/pages/streaming-video.php

On either side of the frame of the videos there are arrows. If you click on them they advance the video or bring you to a new video. Some of the lessons are pretty good, but most of all, I think some of the strategies he uses would be very helpful whether you had a heterogeneous group or not, or if you were teaching jr. high or high school they could be adapted. Worth a look, even if they aren't what you need. They just might spark a helpful idea.

He actually has a video where he teaches adults how to incorporate more interesting ways to teach Sunday School classes and uses some great, and what seem like effective, strategies for teaching.

Good luck with your class. You have quite a challenge it seems.

6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Shirley - sounds like there's hope yet!

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Thanks so much for your story! It helps me know that there is hope out there. How you began sounds a lot like what I'm going through. I'll continue to be patient, make suggestions where there's an opportunity, build the trust in our relationship, and be available to all students as much as I can.

Hopefully with some time, the co-teaching model will continue to evolve!

Special Education: K-6 Inclusion Resource Teacher from Phoenix, Arizona

Erika, Click on Video in the

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Erika,
Click on Video in the menu on the home page of Edutopia. Search for Successful Team Teaching. There's a great video for Middle School teachers. Below the video are articles that are related. You might pick up some good ideas, not just for team teaching, but for room and seating arrangements, teaching styles, equipment, etc.
I was browsing through this morning and came upon it. Hope it will be helpful for you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Shirley

6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

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[quote]Erika,

Click on Video in the menu on the home page of Edutopia. Search for Successful Team Teaching. There's a great video for Middle School teachers. Below the video are articles that are related. You might pick up some good ideas, not just for team teaching, but for room and seating arrangements, teaching styles, equipment, etc.

I was browsing through this morning and came upon it. Hope it will be helpful for you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Shirley[/quote]

Thanks, Shirley! I've actually seen that one and really like their approach. Now, all I have to do is get everyone else on board!

Grade 6 Middle School Special Education teacher from South Jersey

Co-teaching in a full-day inclusive classroom.

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Thank you for posting on such an important topic.
My personal experience has given validation to what I have always suspected. When the two teachers involved are given the choice of whom they will work with, students benefit and scores rise on state testing. As a full-day grade 6 Sp. Ed. inclusion teacher, my experience has been good, bad, and ugly during the fifteen years of co-teaching.Often, my ideas, strategies and talents have been over looked. A partial solution to an unhappy and ineffective in-class-support setting may be additional professional development for all teachers.

Special Education teacher K-12 specialization LD

I want to thank you so much,

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I want to thank you so much, for posting something about co-teaching. I have got to be honest, I'm a little intimidated by what I am about to jump into. I am pro when it comes to the pull out model, but know very little or even experience with the inclusion model. I have recently accpeted a job, where inclusion is the number one priority. Why? Because I love working with students with special needs and I was told that learning how to work inclusively would come easy enough. From what I have read in this group, there are a lot of challenges that I will face ahead. Could anyone give me any type of advice or anything regarding HOW to interact effectively with the classroom teacher/s? I don't really know how each classroom is set up yet, but can anyone describe to me almost walking me through what a day is like for a special educator in the inclusion model? For example, when I first enter into the classroom... I believe that I will be working with the students with special needs in a group separate from the rest of the class. So, I guess what I am asking is "An Hour in the life of an inclusive special eductor". I love the videos on this site, and the links. I have gotten a lot of good information, but I would love to hear first hand what I can expect. Thank you so much... anything would be great.

Fourth Grade Inclusion Teacher

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Hello,
I am so glad that I have more inclusion friends out there! I live in Pittsburgh, Pensylvania and it seems that not many school districts have gone to inclusion. I feel your pain with feeling like an aide sometimes. I have been an inclusion teacher for four years. My first year was the worst. I was coming from another school, and I felt as though I was thrown in to the position with no training as well. I don't think that the regular teachers knew what to do with me either. The best thing that happened to me was teachers getting switched around in our school. I now work with a group of teachers that are wonderful. However, I will say that the grade levels in my building seem to view inclusion differently. Some provide more of a pull-out program. Collaboration with my team seems to work the best for us. I feel like they view me as a teacher when we sit down to plan and share ideas. I also tell them to let me do some of the planning, and share in the workload. Most of them are able to give up some of that control. We do have two new coaches this year for math and literacy. They seem to want to push training for the whole school. I think this would help greatly. I think the biggest hurdle is for the regular education teachers to view us as teachers as well. I hope this helps!!

Grade 6 Middle School Special Education teacher from South Jersey

Co-teaching in an in-class-support setting

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Some advice.....
1-Stand your ground before school begins, if possible---let the gen ed teacher know that YOU are the EXPERT of the Special Ed curriculum and they are the expert of the gen ed curriculum.
2-Let the gen ed teacher know that you will need a copy of their lesson plans by Thurs. of each week, along with any tests they will be given...It is the responsibility of the Spec. Ed. teacher to make modifications and/or accomodations to his or her lesson plans and tests...even assignments that require modifying to the classied students' IEPs.
3-Though by theory, all of the students' education is both of your responsibilty, leave the discipline of the gen ed students up to the gen ed teacher...this will prevent problems with parents down the road.
4-Before "back to school night" call the parents of the spec. ed. students, to invite them. Explain that you are available by phone and e-mail. Stay connected to parents every marking period at least once, unless of course, you need to touch base more often.
Those are merely the basics of In-Class-Support.
Your position as a professional is extremely important. if you begin feeling like an aide, another talk may be necessary with the gen ed teacher and boundaries may need to be re-enforced or renegotiated.

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