Thursday, January 13, 2011

Putting the teach in team teaching

Friends, I am having a rough year.

Those of you who followed my exploits last year -- or, for Pete's sake, since I began teaching three years ago -- may be throwing your hands up and thinking, "Seriously, Miss Brave, again?"  Last year, alone in a classroom full of maniacs, all I wanted was for another adult to join forces with me to stop the madness.  That's why I was so eager to teach in a CTT classroom at my new school.  Now I'm...not alone in a classroom full of maniacs, and all I want is for my co-teacher to disappear.

I haven't blogged about it because I'm still not quite clear on when it all started to go downhill.  I know that I come from a school where, by necessity, we ran a pretty tight ship on time management of our lessons.  Because we had many push-in teachers for various subjects, if math was supposed to end at 9:37, math had to end at 9:37.  I got a little frustrated with Ms. Halpert when it was 9:37 and she was still working with one student instead of transitioning to our next activity.  But I never said anything to her about it, and that was my mistake.
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The year progressed.  I started to leave school a little earlier at the end of each day, and Ms. Halpert (who is a first-year teacher) continued to stay late.  As it turns out, she was becoming more and more resentful of the fact that I wasn't there with her.  But she never said anything to me about it, and that was her mistake.

Meanwhile, both of us became increasingly fed up with trying to plan with each other; I tend to over-estimate students' capabilities, and Ms. Halpert tends to want to over-scaffold them.  But neither of us said anything to each other about it...and that was our mistake.

It all came to a head during a grade-wide writing planning session in which Ms. Halpert sat with her back to me (not very "turn and talk to your partner"-like behavior) and an extremely tense and awkward vibe seethed in the air.  The next day, our principal asked to speak with us individually; Ms. Halpert went first.  I don't know exactly what was said at that meeting, but it was alarming enough that my principal told me he thought he might have to take one of us out of our classroom mid-year.

Eventually we agreed we would salvage our partnership through the end of the year.  (We also privately agreed that we did not want to work together again next year.)  But that decision has opened up a whole new world of work for both of us.  In the process of transforming the layout of our classroom (again -- having 28 students and two meeting areas makes for an extremely cramped classroom space), I got whacked in the ankle with a heavy table leg.  It hurt.  We've been asked to work with the literacy coach and the math coach, which naturally makes us feel scrutinized.  To add insult to injury, the literacy coach (who has never watched either of us teach a lesson) has been bringing us to other classrooms to observe the "structure of the mini lesson," which is something we both know we can recite in our sleep.  Ms. Halpert was a student at Teachers College; I was a reading teacher for a full year.  Both of us know how to teach a mini lesson; what we don't know is how to navigate each other.

We agreed to try to do it, but it's a long, hard slog through the bleak, dark days of January, and what awaits us now doesn't seem all that rewarding.  Some days it makes me question my commitment to teaching altogether.  Other days, I just want to make it all the way to June.

15 comments:

Ashley said...

Hang in there! I can't imagine having another teacher in my classroom. My best friend teaches 1st grade and is trying to get me to come to her school next year to join forces. I fear that we wouldn't be able to work together.

At least you gave it a shot, and maybe this situation could work out well with another teacher who is more similar to you.

Sarah said...

I know I couldn't team teach either! Having someone else in the room all day long would drive me insane. And then trying to plan everything together? Nope. How do you divide up the teaching? Is one person more responsible for a subject?

Linda said...

I had a teaching partner who was awful. She criticized me to the kids and vied to be the favorite of the students. The list of the selfish things she did was long. (I'm sure her list of the irritating things I did was equally long.) Finally, we both realized that we had no choice but to work together and that our own behavior and responses were making us miserable. I went to her and said, "Let's agree not to have another year like this one." We didn't discuss what the problems were- we knew. The next year we got along. She didn't stop doing all of the things that made me crazy, but she did stop the worst ones. I chose not to talk about them endlessly at home, not to gripe about her to my friends, and not to think about anything she did that bothered me for more than a fleeting moment. It was a good year and then I moved out of state. I still don't respect many things about her and I would never want to work with her again, but you can choose not to be driven crazy by someone. Your colleagues and supervisor will respect you for finding a way to make this work.

mcaitlin said...

bummer, sorry to hear about this, hope things get better.

coffee break said...

I co-teach pretty much all day. At first it was an adjustment getting used to playing off of someone else, but I think the most important thing is to try and keep the line of communication open. I'm sorry to hear you've had a hard time so far this year!

Anonymous said...

It's not too late to set some ground rules for communication and stuff like time management, is it? Because it seems like that's where the core of the issues lies.

Mary said...

I co-teach with two excellent teachers, one in ELA-R and one in U.S. History. Despite the fact that we respect and like each other, I know they both wish I would vanish. I hate every moment of co-teaching. The preparation is three times as great. The modifications are essential and there is no time to refine them if the lead teacher's plans change. It's double work for them as well. I have four resource classes, 2 for 7th grade ELA-R and 2 for 8th grade ELA-R. I feel that I neglect them. I am at school from 7:30 until 6 or later and every weekend. I am certified in both fields as well as special education. However, I feel like a second rate teacher who has second rate kids in the classroom. Inclusion is important, but there has to be a better way, for teachers and for students than co-teaching. I hope this experiment goes away fast!

Anonymous said...

Mary, inclusion IS important, but I feel it is sabotaged (unintentionally) when children are put in classrooms where they need substantial modification, every day, for every subject. That is just really hard to pull off. And the results are so seldom what we claim, because if a student needs modification all day every day (or even accomodations), the diploma they get doesn't indicate mastery. I think if we led with placing children in classrooms where their modification needs were minimal, or where they did not need modification except at assessment time, we would turn an impossible task in to a doable one.

J said...

Ugh. This sounds like a really difficult situation! I do hope that you two can do a 're-start' and figure out exactly what you need from the other, and then find a little more success as the year goes on. And god, can you just ignore the idiot literacy coach? Gah.

Anon--I totally agree. A kid who needs that much modification should NOT be in a mainstream classroom! That doesn't give much opportunity for success, if they can't do it on their own.

Anonymous said...

This is my first year teaching in NYC as well. When I was hired I was told I would be the SE teacher in CTT classroom. I, too, am having a difficult time of it. Much of my dilemma is that we never plan together. It seems that she can easily teach a lesson, though there is no plan book, no communication. I ask, and thankfully when I do, I get responses. But do I have to ask every day, week? In the beginning, people said, "You're so lucky. Having another seasoned teacher in the classroom." Maybe so, but I feel that we're two ships on different oceans.

Anonymous said...

This is my third year teaching. I teach phys ed with a parter who is less than excited about the job. I have used most of my sick and personal days all three years because of sickness or parents hospitalized and my co teacher is very hurtful to me about using these days.
Even when I try to accommodate him the situation it is hurtful and negative to the point I just dont want to go back in, especially if I am still feeling ill or my family is still sick. How do I deal with this?

Anonymous said...

By the way, I forgot to add my partner is a very nice human, just not one with whom I want to share a classroom of nearly fifty students. Being an English instructor, I try to keep my politics out of most discussions and lessons, thus letting the students discover, analyze, and discuss their differences in thought. Aren't I supposed to teach students how to think and not what to think? So I thought...silly me.

Anonymous said...

I co-teach with a complete jackass. We tried the whole communication thing but when his pull out his cell phone and ignore the work I am done . he sleep during the preps, im done with him. When he refuses to read the IEPs because he's not the SE teacher, DESPITE teaching him how to log onto sesis TWICE and printing all the IEPS, im done with him. When he refuses to learn the kids names, Im done with him. WHen he throws in my face the fact im not tenured and he is (its my 3rd year)Im done with him. WHen his lessonplans that I have to modify are basic toilet paper, im done. when he ignores the crap out of me and all the push ins, im done. When I have to re-teach everything because the first time was so bad NO ONE understood, i give up. So yeah some co-teachers suck. And before anyone says well what did you do, I got to school early and tried to sit with him but he is on the phone with his wife talking about bs, Or when I modified the lesson plans and he proceeded with the unmodified lesson. I bust my rear looking up various ways to teach a subject, from experiments to worksheets and my work gets ignored what else am I suppose to do when the APs say well how open are the communication lines. Oh my favorite line was "you are not my supervisor, and if Mr. AP says im fine then I dont have to change" I pray for june 27 to arrive quick

Anonymous said...

I found this... A year late.
I have had experiences in co-teaching from both sides: gen Ed and spEd. Further, my master's program focused on inclusion. After many years, I can only say it works sometimes and other times it is a nightmare. I just finished a bad year with a sp Ed teacher who often did not come to class, did not work with the students, sat at the back on her phone, and carried tales about me to another teacher and my AP. There was nothing I could do. She smiled to my face and stabbed me in the back. In the end, she made my life hell. I never want to co-teach again because it is not adequately provided for in training and co-planning in any of the schools where I have taught. I know there are good partnerships and I have been in them. But the damage that can be done by a bad relationship is all too prevalent. I hear it over and over - from gen Ed teachers especially.

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