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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!

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Speds rock's picture

I have been co-teaching as the special education teacher for 5 years now. I'm working this year in my 4th classroom with my 3rd general education teacher. I taught for 2 years with a gen. ed teacher, 1 year with another gen ed teacher at a different grade elvel, then moved with her to another grade and now I'm new to another grade with a new co-teacher. I feel like I'm always learning a new curriculum and when I finally get comfortable working with someone, I get moved and have to start all over again. The hardest part of co-teaching is planning together, addressing concerns over classroom management and staying on the same page with parents, discipline etc. No one wants to be the "bad cop" but sometimes one teacher has to take the reigns to keep the students following classroom expectations. I am with a very laid back teacher this year who does not have much structure, rules, or boundaries and my special ed. students are floundering. They are constantly stimming, wandering around, or distracted with all the free time. I can't work with any other students because I have to be constantly on top of them to keep them busy because my co-teacher wants to be everyone's best friend.....I need my own classroom NOW!

Janice Blaber's picture

I am a teacher in Hawaii. My co-teacher and I just jumped into the sped inclsion model for the first time this school year. It has been quite a learning experience for me. We teach 10th grade English (the year of the state standardized test). Two major questions I have are: do you give different summative assessments for SPED students than Reg Ed students? Is vocabulary different for Sped students than Reg Ed students? So far, as a co-teaching team, we have been giving the same summative to all of our students, however allowing for more time for SPED students to complete (and more opportunities to pass and testig in smaller groups). Also, we have been giving all of our students same vocabulary words (grade 10 level). I would appreciate feedback from all of you more experienced SPED inclusion teachers. Mahalo.

Dan Burritt's picture
Dan Burritt
retired special education teacher K-12, FIE Trainer from Eureka,ca.

I have had two experiences with inclusion. 1. RST K-6 a pull out ptogram and inclusion into 2 upper grade classroom. 2. RST 8th 1/2 day program. Former successful the later a nightmare.

1. RST K-6 - i went into 2 different upper grade classroom for q hour each 2-3 days a week. The number of days only limited by the security of the regular ed. teachers. I still pulled out the RST students 5 days a week in addition to the inclusion. I used Reueven Feurstein's program MLE & FIE Level 1&II. I took primary responsibility for the FIE LEssons each day with the entire class -regular ed & spec. ed. The reg. ed. supported or observed. This allowed the teacher to witness Feuerstein's Instruemental enrichment and how to apply MLE -Mediated Learning Experience - to classroom curriculum. THe lessons formed the basis for collaboration with the teacher in implementing the IEPs, instructing in MLE & FIE theory, bridging MLE & FIE to curriculum, and how RST students learning to learn paralleled regualr ed. students. It was highly successful and productive as I took the burden of teaching to allow the teacher to relax an to observe. Control of who does what was not an issue as the teacher was happy to cede to the RST taking responsibility and control of class management.
2. RST 8th - nightmare - as adm. wanted inclusion but not fund position beyond 1/2 day - 2 pullout periods 1 prep period. I shared classroom with another RST - 6th & 7th grades. I shared spec. ed. aise who went into my regular ed classrooms ( had 15 students). The aide supported rst students ( 4-50 IN math. The other subjects on IEPs were not supported. The adm. & Spec. ed. director resisted another aide as cost issue - content that no parent would contest lack of inclusion. The same adm. & Spec. Ed. wanted us both to go into the classrooms full time but not explain how was possible. Also not support additional aide nor RST periods to facilitate - as a result -total frustration. I lasted 1 1/2 years and retired - other rst not rehired. So - one case of success - other failure.

Explorator's picture

I wish I had something positive to say. For most, Co-teaching is a huge inconvenience and intrusion and is met with resistance from the ge teacher. This is my 4th year of inclusion. I couple of the teachers new to the school are easier to work with because they want a permanent contract. The others are difficult to work with. Some of the worst were involuntarily moved to other schools. It's tiring and without reward. I'm ready to become a reading teacher and move to middle school, high school or community college. In a perfect world, it might be good for the students, but I've yet to have much success with it. I'm the step-child. The whole thing is budget driven, and has nothing to do with what's best for kids.

Explorator's picture

I'm in my 2nd year with a "laid-back" teacher. Her classroom is a free for all. Last year most students scores went down. The good news the same group of students are doing much better with their 5th grade teacher who is much more structured. I don't know how teachers get away with this, but imho, this is what gives teachers a bad reputation and why we are in the middle of reform. It would help if the principal or ap would deal with it, but they turn a blind eye. The teacher misses a lot of days, and frankly, I think she plans to keep her job until she's fired or laid off. I don't get the impression she really cares. In the meantime, I feel powerless. In general, I think the whole co-teaching, inclusion model is ineffective.

Dan Burritt's picture
Dan Burritt
retired special education teacher K-12, FIE Trainer from Eureka,ca.

It is unfortunate that this the case. It positive that you witness the teaching that is occurring with the 5th grade teacher and you have deduced that structure is critical with the causal factor of the coteaching situation. The principal not doing his/her job is the issue. All too often a principal is too weak or ineffectual to provide the leadership or management required. There are classrooms where coteaching is effective but requires a clear definition of roles, collaboration time (daily), structured classroom, agreement on management philosophy, and shared goals. MLE/FIE - Mediated Learning Expereince/Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment (icelp.org & iri.org -sources of information) formed tghe foundation of the coteaching experiences for 4-6th classrooms in Eureka. RST teacher with regular ed teacher coteaching.

Sped Man's picture
Sped Man
Special Education Teacher in Chicago.

I like your advice. I work in Chicago. Chicago has transitioned into co-teaching. The problem is every school seems to be doing it their way. Some schools have me co-teaching with 2 grades (4 teachers) and at other schools they have me co-teaching with the entire staff. Don't laugh I am serious ;-) I will use your advice when I finally find a school that doesn't have me collaborating with every gen ed teacher. Keep up the great advice!

Sped Man's picture
Sped Man
Special Education Teacher in Chicago.

These schools sound like to me to be writing the IEP to meet the situation the students find themselves in not to meet the needs of the student. In this case, a good lawyer could rectify this situation. IDEA requires a continuum of services. Their placement has to be based on their needs. Some require special classes to grow other don't. We are suppose to be advocates for our students. Inform the parents of their rights. Can you imagine what the drop out rate will be in 8 years? It is currently 33% in Chicago. In 8 years with co-teaching it will be 50%. In Chicago, there are schools where the sped teacher has to co-teach with 6 different grades that can add up to co-teaching with 6-8 teachers with no common planning time.

MJ Willard's picture

I am currently enrolled in a Masters of Arts in Teaching class at University of Maryland University College. I have an assignment to do a brief virtual interview with two teachers who co-teach. They do not have to co-teach with each other so singletons can volunteer. Can anyone help me by answering a few questions on email, or over the phone? Please? My deadline for completion is this Saturday morning.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Hi MJ! I don't Co-Teach, but I passed your request along to Teri Young, the woman who runs the Co-Teaching program at AUNE. You can reach her at tyoung1@antioch.edu.

Good luck!

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