Over the last few years, one of the key buzzwords in education has been “Cooperative Teaching.” Being a secondary math teacher, my classes have been the target of experimentation for this concept. For those of you who aren’t familiar with cooperative teaching, it is basically a regular education teacher and a special education teacher in the same classroom with students of multiple abilities. Ideally, when a person walks into your classroom, they should not be able to distinguish the difference between the regular ed and the special ed teachers. Both teachers work with all students equally.
Being a young teacher when my school began implementing this, I was unfortunately the guinea pig teacher thrown into multiple roles with multiple teachers. Only one time I was I even remotely trained, and that was a workshop that showed videos of, obviously staged but being passed as true, scenarios in which teachers got along perfectly and finished each other’s sentences. A scenario of the most perfect lesson in which the special ed. teacher and the regular ed. teacher moved through lessons feeding off of one another as if they’d worked together for years and had rehearsed the lesson numerous times.
The first year that I was given the opportunity to fill the shoes of “Cooperative Teacher Extraordinaire,” I was simply told at the beginning of the year that one of the classes I was teaching was a 9th grade remedial Algebra class.Interesting enough, I was told I would also have a “cooperative teacher.” The cooperative teacher was a second year teacher who had gotten her degree in music education, was relieved of her assistant band director duties, had taken and passed her math test, and was given the role of Title I math teacher for the building. Basically, neither one of us knew how we were suppose to go about the whole “Cooperative Teaching” concept. I taught, she assisted. The next year, I didn’t have a cooperative teacher and they moved my former co-teacher to be in with an eighth grade math teacher for the whole day. My administrator thought that if one math teacher in the classroom worked a little, then surely two math teachers in the same class would be amazing. Yes, you guessed it. He put me (a fairly new and energetic teacher) with a math teacher that was counting down the seconds she was to retire, however didn’t want to give up any control of her classroom. As much as I liked the teacher, it was honestly the worst year of teaching I have ever had. I felt completely worthless. For the next two years, they moved me to seventh grade. I had a Title I teacher in my class one class period a day. For the most part, he would pull students out of my class every day and work with them in his classroom. Again…..not cooperative teaching.
I then moved to a new school district that hadn’t quite embraced the cooperative teaching concept yet. My third year of teaching in this new district, the news came from above that each grade level and team had to have at least one co-taught class. Again, we had no training at all. It took me and my co-teacher a couple of months to get used to each other and for her to understand my way of teaching. We began the routine that she would go over the bell work and the homework assignment. I would explain the lesson or head the activity while she walked around the class. My classes are mostly games and cooperative learning activities. Having that extra set of eyes and helping hands made the class much smoother. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond our control, they moved her this year to co-teach in other classes. It is my honest opinion, that if we had another year of teaching together, our class would have been unstoppable.
I’m not sure how cooperative teaching could work smoothly. I teach the same thing four times a day. I have students with disabilities as well as regular education students in three of those classes, and above average students in one class. It doesn’t make sense to have one of those classes have two teachers and expect the class to be ran differently. I try to teach all of my classes so that all students learn anyway.
The end to my post is this…….is it important to do something just for the sake of being able to say that our classes are “Co-Taught?” or is it more important to do the best for the students and the teachers. I often feel that in education, administration is too caught up in things that look good on paper, but not really logical. When I make the claim that I don’t really feel like co-teaching is such a good idea, I’m often told, “You might as well get used to it, because it’s not going away for a while.” I’m curious to know, what do you think about cooperative teaching?