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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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Shirley McKinney's picture
Shirley McKinney
Special Education: K-6 Inclusion Resource Teacher from Phoenix, Arizona

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 World's picture

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.

Shirley McKinney's picture
Shirley McKinney
Special Education: K-6 Inclusion Resource Teacher from Phoenix, Arizona

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.

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.

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

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!

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