When I first started teaching, I used to think I could and had to do it all. I would arrive to school early and stay late just so that I could accomplish everything. I would never think to ask for help and certainly never accepted it when offered as I thought it was a sign of weakness. I was an island unto myself and I liked it that way. Little did I know how harmful it was to me and my teaching. By not talking to other colleagues and bouncing ideas around with them or asking for help, my teaching became very stagnant very quickly. I figured that everything I did was great as I had no one to say otherwise, and so I kept doing the same thing year after year. Then, I worked with a co-teacher and everything changed. I realized that I was far from perfect and needed to change my approach in the classroom. So, I did. I grew and became a better teacher because I had someone who could provide me with feedback and offer help and support at every turn. My first co-teacher became one of my best friends as we worked so closely together. I offered her suggestions on her teaching and life and she did the same for me. We both grew and became effective educators because of this collaboration. Working with someone else who can offer me advice, feedback, support, and help is one of the greatest things that has happened to me in my professional life.
Today’s STEM class provided me with yet another prime example of how vital and important a co-teacher can truly be. My students are in the midst of a project that will allow them to understand where they stand mathematically, Are they ready for seventh grade math? If not, what gaps still exist in their learning that need to be filled? Are they ready for pre-algebra or algebra I? This project is all about helping them figure out what they need to do over the summer to prepare for the math course that they would like to be in next year. In class today, the students were working on filling in their learning gaps by watching videos, working with a peer, or asking the teachers questions. It also meant that I needed to be available to provide them with practice problems and worksheets. As I was busy setting the students up with practice activities, my co-teacher fielded questions the boys had and monitored their work habits to be sure they were focused and working to prepare for Thursday’s final placement exam. We worked together like a well-oiled machine. It was phenomenal. The boys were all on track learning new skills and reviewing old ones. While there was a lot going on in the classroom, it was very controlled and focused.
Today’s class went so smoothly because my co-teacher was in the room providing support and help to the students while I was busy creating their practice assignments. If she wasn’t there to help, chaos would have ensued very quickly. The students would have been yelling and screaming for help and perhaps even swinging from the lights. Our STEM class works so smoothly on days like today because of our co-teaching model. We support one another and the students very well. It’s great. I can’t imagine trying to do what I did today without her support. It would have been nightmarish. Having extra help in the classroom, a person to provide you with feedback, and a creative sounding board are just some of the amazing benefits of working with a co-teacher. While I realize that it’s just not feasible for every classroom or teacher to have a co-teacher with whom to work, when complex projects are being worked on, it is hugely helpful for both the teachers and the students to have a co-teacher in the classroom.