Read About Best Practices in Team teaching
In this session you will learn about developing strong team teaching relationships with the teachers you coach, including building trust, selecting from the various teaming models available, and finding time to plan, carry out lessons, and debrief.
As an instructional coach, you wear many hats in your learning community. Primarily, you work as a teacher of both students and adults. Just as students learn most when provided with direct instruction, modeling, and guided practice, teachers have comparable learning needs:
Guided practice, however, must include real classroom experience supported by an instructional coach, mentor, or knowledgeable, effective colleague. Team teaching is the answer!
The Focus on Exceptional Children newsletter defines team teaching as two or more professionals delivering substantive instruction to a group of students with diverse learning needs. This approach increases instructional options, improves educational programs . . . and provides support to the professionals involved . . . Teachers and related service professionals who are flexible and have good judgment are likely to be successful in this role. Co-teachers need preparation, administrative support, and opportunities to nurture their collaborative relationships . . . Deliberate and ongoing communication among everyone involved is essential . . . (Vol. 28  1995).
The concept of team teaching became prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s, mainly as a middle school alternative to traditionally isolated content instruction as teachers paired or worked in groups to pool resources and draw upon the combined strength of professional colleagues. Team teaching in elementary schools has since evolved, usually for one of three purposes:
Although teachers in these situations may or may not exhibit the characteristics of coach-teacher pairings discussed in this session, they still share many common concerns.
As coaches enter into a team teaching relationship for the purpose of mentoring and supporting a less-experienced or struggling colleague, the teachers attitude is pivotal to the outcome. Some teachers wish to remain safely fixed in their methods and lack the courage or motivation to take instructional risks. In these cases, coaches must work extra hard to expose them to research-based strategies, take them on field trips to innovative schools with similar populations, and generally create a sense of need to grow and learn.
If the arrangement is assigned by an administrator and the teacher isnt interested in improving his practice, the experience will be challenging from the outset. In order to avoid these contentious situations, communicate with your administrator about ways in which team teaching relationships can be initiated and built. As you know from your daily coaching experiences, teacher support is necessary for success.
As a team teaching partnership is being formed, the coach and teacher must clarify the following three issues:
How long will the team teaching last?
Some team teaching arrangements involve only one lesson to help a teacher gain a level of comfort with a new strategy, but others may go on for six weeks or longer. The boundaries are established in the beginning with the understanding that periodic reviews may result in a quicker ending date or a continued commitment. Sometimes your schedule will have to be drastically rearranged in order to accommodate team teaching needs, so administrators and other teachers must be willing to set aside some of their own demands on your time in order to allow the team to proceed.
When will co-planning and debriefing occur?
One of the biggest factors in the success or failure of a team teaching relationship is whether the teacher and coach have ample time to communicate about:
If you and the teacher do not have a common planning period, the administrator can often reallocate other school support staff to help create a time for you to collaborate. If this isnt possible, determine whether to meet briefly before or after school or to communicate in another way, such as e-mailing.
How will the team teaching lesson be structured?
Choose from the following options:
Clear communication about these questions helps ensure a productive and successful team arrangement. Willingness to be flexible and motivation for the relationship to succeed also helps ease the team through disagreements or scheduling conflicts that may arise.
If a team arrangement is mandated due to a teachers lack of performance or lack of interest in professional development, he or she may challenge your attempt to form a relationship. Ideally, voluntary participation should be one of the criteria for establishing a team teaching arrangement, but it is likely that teams will sometimes be formed in imperfect circumstances. Following are ways to foster teacher buy-in regardless of the circumstances:
As we have seen, time spent together is a high priority when building a working relationship. Without a joint objective, teaching plan, follow-up, and reflection, the process will not work. However, colleagues who stretch beyond the boundaries of the team teaching content who demonstrate concern for each other, laugh together, and overcome challenges together have a far better chance of maintaining a healthy team teaching relationship. The old saying is true . . . They dont care how much you know until they know how much you care.
You and the teacher will both feel comfortable only if you establish the objectives and expected outcomes up front. If the teacher has enlisted your support to help improve an aspect of the classroom writing program, thoroughly discuss the perceived problem, set a goal, and determine how you will know if it has been met. Another part of this early processing is role clarification. Discuss the four models of team teaching mentioned in the previous section and decide which one will meet your needs for the lesson youll be doing together. For example, if you have most of the expertise and the teacher wants to support students and watch their responses to a new method, the first option is best. If both of you are experimenting with a small-group strategy, try the third.
Sadly, its sometimes necessary to address expected professional behavior during modeled lessons or team teaching. Teachers have been known to grade papers, visit with fellow teachers, make phone calls, or even leave the room to run errands. To prevent this, make sure the teacher will be busy the entire time you are in her room, either taking notes on a form you provide or actively participating in the lesson.
One additional factor that directly impacts team teaching is the climate for adult learners in your school. Do teachers eagerly discuss new strategies theyve tried? Do they question new initiatives based on research about student learning styles or content strategies? Do you and the administrators model lifelong learning by attending study groups, conducting action research, and reading professional materials on your own? Its difficult to expect movement toward innovative, informed teaching when the overall faculty culture is apathetic. Likewise, when inquiry and learning are modeled and expected, reluctant teachers are much more likely to follow suit.
While team teaching may be your ultimate goal in working with a teacher or group, this may come as a result of weeks of behind-the-scenes work in building trust with your staff. Team planning, modeling, and constant dialogue about both school business and personal interests will move you toward that end and help to multiply the effects of the team teaching once it occurs.