Bewildered, I cowered behind my teacher podium my first year while my new students gnashed their teeth like hungry sharks. Previously, they had successfully chased away a veteran teacher and 2 different and usually effective substitute teachers. I was freshly out of college, and believe me, I was in for the ride of my life. My first year students, although I inherited them in December, made me feel like I had aged ten years by June. An extra set of eyes would have saved me many sleepless nights and probably a ton of mental preparation. Indeed, I had one of the greatest peer teachers one could ask for, but it still did not take the place of assistance during the day.
This is where a co-teacher comes in. Although I previously wrote about the negative aspects of the co-teach model, I also believe there exists a lot of benefits. In the interest of looking at both sides of the coin, let us critically examine why the co-teach model can result in excellence for teacher and student.
1.) An Extra Set of Eyes
I am a middle school educator that, through the test of time, have developed a sixth sense as to what is going on 360 degrees around me. My panoramic vision sends shivers of fear down middle school student’s spines and can only be compared to a gecko. But the very new and the very old and wizened in the education realm have either not developed this vision or they are starting to lose this ability. A second set of eyes will catch and deter student misbehavior or other off-task atrocities from the get-go. Is Sally flirting with Robert again while the teacher is writing algebraic equations on the whiteboard? Not if another educator can use proximity and alert the student to remain focused and attentive.
2.) Playing to Each Others Strengths
I take great pride in bringing student test scores in essay writing to new heights. It is my forte and my ambition. But with this centralized focus, perhaps I start dropping the ball in other areas of my subject. Did I properly and completely cover irony as it pertains to short stories? Am I fully explaining elements of plot in Theodore Taylor’s The Cay or am I assuming students comprehend? It is foolish to believe that every teacher is created equal and educates on the same level as others. That would be like saying Maurice Jones Drew, a running back on the Jacksonville Jaguars is as good an athlete as Tiger Woods. We’re talking two different sports here; an apples to oranges comparison. But imagine, for a moment, having two equally capable teachers, both confident in different areas of the same subject, devoted to the cause of a child’s education. In this scenario, two teachers can blossom and divide the workload based on what they are most comfortable teaching.
3.) Division of Mundane Paperwork
There exists so much “behind the scenes” paperwork when one teaches. And the only way to properly understand the minutia of paperwork is to discuss it with another teacher. It is not all about grading, people! (If only that were the case). There are progress reports, report cards, parent contact documentation, parent conference notes, lesson plans, individual education plans, ESOL plans, AIP’s, RTI’s, XYZ’s… OK, that last one does not exist. But I think the point has been made. Lord knows there are others whose names currently elude me, but this is a starter list. And with many state governments and politicians breathing down public educator’s necks more with every passing week, the list will continue to swell. But lo! The paperwork can be cut down significantly with two teachers tackling it at the same time. I always wanted a secretary; a co-teacher can be the next best thing.
Teacher’s are a close-knit group in my school, but not all schools are created equally. In some, the atmosphere remains stone cold and impersonal. A new teacher is greeted with the same audacity and kindness as mildew on a shower curtain. Putting two teachers in one classroom can create harmony when personalities are taken into consideration. And two teachers enjoying each others company and appreciating their love of education will have positive benefits to a classroom setting. Besides, few careers exist in isolation of fellow peers, and working together and showing students how to do so effectively provides a hidden benefit: teaching students how to interact positively.
A couple of years ago I shared a wall with a new educator. Her classroom was next door to mine. I could hear banging. Clicking of lights. Screaming. Almost every possible noise, with the exception of a chicken. This was a teacher who needed assistance. A surgeon is not ordered to perform open heart surgery right after reading about it in a textbook. A peer teacher that is rooms away can only do so much. My wall-banging associate could have used a veteran co-teacher for so many reasons.
In the beginning, maybe it would have helped me out a bit too.