Co-Teaching 101: Working With Your Co-Teacher

By Justine Katzenbach, Director of Special Education Strategy

Wouldn’t you rather have two teachers in the classroom than one? Co-teaching is a commonly used educational practice in which two certified teachers collaborate to jointly support a group of students receiving general, special, and/or English language educational services.

But wait, not so fast! Just because you have two teachers in a room, does not always mean that students learn more. A bad co-teaching relationship is one in which co-teachers are disrespectful, non-communicative, or simply underprepared for collaborative teaching. Even co-teachers with the best intentions can let their relationship go sour without careful consideration. Here are 3 tips to guarantee a successful co-teaching relationship this school year.

#1: Establish Rapport: 

Be deliberate about getting to know your co-teacher using this co-teaching collaboration template. You and your co-teacher will answer questions individually. Then meet to discuss your answers and learn more about each other. This is a great format to anticipate and plan for tricky co-teaching situations before they happen.

#2: Communicate Early and Often

Time is precious in schools. Successful co-teaching teams identify a time to connect each week. This could be during a common planning, a working lunch, or after school. Use this co-planning meeting agenda to help guide your meetings and increase their effectiveness. Not able to meet in-person every week? Make sure to have a back-up form of communication such as an email or a weekly phone call.

#3: Consider Various Co-Teaching Models

Consider the various co-teaching models described in this guide. Identify which method(s) may be best for your shared co-teaching space and how to launch them successfully through careful planning. Remember that you don’t have to pick just one model that you are using all year long. Different lessons call for different co-teaching models. This guide will help teachers think about how to maximize the strengths of both adults in the classroom.

Co-teaching can lead to successful outcomes for kids and teachers when it is done in a deliberate way with careful planning. Remember that little shifts can have a big impact on a shared classroom vision. Are both teachers’ names on the board? Do both teachers call on students? Do both teachers have an area in the classroom to put their materials?

Successful co-teachers model positive, respectful, and collaborative adult relationships. Start your co-teaching relationship right by following these 3 simple tips: Establish rapport, communicate early and often, and consider various co-teaching models. Using some of these helpful strategies may increase shared ownership and unity in the classroom while also positively impacting student achievement.

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