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Play Ball


I am so happy spring is here, and I’m energetic again. So much so that I am already looking ahead to next year. After some serious thought, I decided to stay at my current school. I really like it, and I appreciate the administrative support I receive at Arundel High School. I want to stay on the team for another season. Plus by next year our air conditioning system should be functional. Why leave as soon as the construction is complete?

I’m trying to finish my Master’s Degree program now, and have a major research paper to write on co-teaching. That is the instructional model relied upon for special education in my school district. One general education teacher, one special education teacher, working with a students with and without IEP’s. As we rely less and less on self-contained settings for special education students, the co-teaching model is used to give students required support to meet their IEP objectives.

I’ve had mixed success with this model so far, in my two short years of teaching. I’ve had a couple of great experiences, and several ineffective relationships. I’ve worked with seven different teachers. In most cases I have not shared a planning time, or an office space, with any of them. We plan through email and hallway chats. We review student progress over lunch and over the phone. It’s not an ideal situation, and it’s not easy.

But I am excited because (did I mention administrative support at my school?) the principal has committed resources to improving the co-teaching system. As of next year, teachers will be assigned to work together because they want to work together, and because they believe the co-taught setting is the best setting for specific students. Co-teachers will be teaching several classes together (instead of just one random section) and will share planning times. We’ll have a chance to bond, and become a real team. My department chairs (I have three – special ed, social studies, and English) asked me what I wanted to teach and who I wanted to teach with! My co-teacher and myself will have time this summer to meet, and talk about our teaching styles, and learn to work together as a team. We’ll become a team. Team teaching is a good name for co-teaching.

The research on co-teaching that I’ve reviewed so far identifies key factors of success. First, partner only teachers who want to be co-teachers. Second, provide common planning time. Third, avoid having multiple co-teachers for each special educator. Fourth, let teachers know far enough in advance that they have time to develop a partnership. Fifth, offer staff development/training for this instructional model. Sixth, provide genuine administrative support.

Up to now, I haven’t really experienced these six factors for success. As a result, I don’t think I’ve been as effective a special educator as I should have been. Half of my classes this year have been co-taught, and I have struggled with a feeling of inadequacy. I’ve worked longer hours and with more challenges than expected. Sometimes I’ve felt more like a bench warmer than a starting player. But with my school’s emphasis on successful co-teaching strategies next year, I am feeling confident. I will be a more effective teacher, and my students will experience greater success. We can have a winning season. I’m ready to join the team. Play ball.


Hanne, How many different classes/grades/teachers do you currently co-teach in/with? How many students (classified) do you have in each class? Without the planning time, how much in advance do you receive the gen ed plans in order to modify, etc., for your special ed kids? Just curious. Janice

I am currently teaching three co-taught classes: US History, English 9, and World Civilization - with three different co-tachers. Each class has from 25 - 30 students. I share a planning time with one teacher, so we spend 30 minutes or so before each class grading together and planning the next few days. As a special educator, I have to constantly remind the general educators to give me copies of tests, worksheets, etc. to modify for the students. They are not intentionally avoiding this, but are also pressed for time. We do the best we can! I often have to step out of class to make a copy of notes for a student, or to help a student who needs extra time to complete a test or assignment. Although we try to teach together, often I am doing something apart from the co-teacher.
I am proud of what we accomplish, though -- I do feel my co-teachers and I work hard to meet the needs of all students. We just need to be more efficient.

I have been teaching Special Education for 13 years.This school year I was assigned to be a in class support Resource Program Teacher.I feel that most general ed. teachers are not willing to embrace the co-teaching model. Most teachers want to have a perfect classroom and we don't live in a perfect world!They really don't want special needs students to be included in the general ed population.Teachers should agree to co-teach with each other because if you both don't buy into the model and believe that it can work for all students then it will not work. We must have hope for all students. You have to build a trusting relationship with the general ed teachers. I think that co-teaching can work when educators give up some of the power they think they must have to run a class.An effect teacher knows how to manage a class even with another teacher.They have to stop making us feel like we are tourist in the classroom.The reason that we are there is to help make a difference in the lives of all children. Two is always better than one. Why kill yourself to work hard when someone is there to assist you. Be patient with the process and continue to do your best. I attended a leadership conference in Boston about inclusion. If you need some resource materials please feel free to let me know. I will help you.Special Educators Do Make a difference!!! We have to take a stand.
Verna Battle

I'm currently a special ed parapro working with visually impaired and blind students. I understand to a certain extent what you mean about pairing up co-teachers. Although I'm not a teacher (yet), I do function in the classrooms not only with my particular student, but overall as a whole. Some teachers have openly embraced me as a genuine part of the team - a few have not been so generous. Since I am finishing up my degree and will certify in Special Ed, I'm looking for advice! I'm not sure whether I want to co-teach or have a self-contained classroom. Any words of wisdom???

Hanne, Are you truly 'co-teaching' or do you simply assist? I currently have a self-contained class with such a mix of abilities (my kids come to me from 3 different elementary classes and are all placed with me), I've 'taught' push-in (ended up being treated like a glorified aide), and, I co-taught with the 7th grade English teacher for one unit - loved it! I have no idea what my program will look like next year as the elementary teachers can't decide what they are going to recommend - turmoil rules! I would love to actually do consultant as a co-teacher - but I'm not willing to be a passive player and that is the expectation of some of my colleagues. Also, I have to be honest, most of the kids that come to me are still reading and writing so far below grade level they get frustrated in the mainstream (even with modifications). Okay, I know I'm off track with your thoughts - I'd just love to hear your input, suggestions, etc. Janice

Dear Hannah,
I have 20 years of experience working as a paraprofessional in various special educational settings, and now just finished my Bachelors degree and looking for a teaching position. I have experienced "co-teaching" during my student teaching. I found it to be very frustrating during my gen ed placement and watching the special ed teacher sitting in the back of the room doing other paperwork while the gen ed teacher "taught" a class that consisted of 80% 504 students and 5 other students labeled learning disabled. When I saw the grades of this class and heard the frustration of the 2 teachers that the entire class was failing I even became angry. I felt that the teaching was ineffective for those students as their reading and writing ability levels were much below the expectations and the guidance was not there or very minimal! I dont want to find that kind of situation when I finally find a job out there. I couldnt find myself in the back of the room as a professional in special education and letting this happen. But making that change is what I am all for. I feel the need to help those failing students. When I finally was able to teach that class and make time at the end of instruction to walk around and help the struggling students I felt effective but was told that I "should fill the entire hour with instruction and let them fail or get it. "It was up to the students to listen". Is this what you mean by some supportive gen ed teachers? This is not what I learned at the University either. Special ed needs more teachers like you who really care to make a difference I hope that I can be a teacher like you and put up with the gen ed attitude.

I'm a regular ed. teacher (secondary English), and I've co-taught two CWC classes a year for four years with the same special ed. partner. We have never shared plan time, and the first year together (it was my first year teaching and her second) was pretty chaotic, but we've gotten much better. We truly do work as a team at this point. We even trained a student teacher together this year :). What she does varies from year to year and depending on the class, but what really makes us work is that we have a similar philosophy and we spend time every year coming up with our personal goals for each student. And when she gets upstairs to resource, she's able to reteach my lessons as needed because she knows my curriculum and the goal; she's also able to give me feedback in terms of when the IEP students have mastered something and I can move on, or when I've completely lost them and need to slow down. This is key.

Of course, now that we have it all figured out and have a reputation for doing a great job, they're busting us up next year. I think the idea is that I can do it on my own now (they've got another think coming on that one -- no way I can be as effective). Our region is moving away from CWC due to $$.

Anyway, my "gen ed attitude" is that I think the CWC model is a good one. I don't have any perfect classrooms. My advanced placement classes have their own challenges -- they just don't include autism, hearing loss, dyslexia... oops, wait, they do contain all those things!

Oh, somebody commented that IB and AP classes follow a "paced" curriculum. We don't. AP English Lit. has no set curriculum at all; just a high stakes test at the end. How you get the kids to master the material on that test is entirely up to you.

I am a writer for Baltimore's Child and I am looking for input, positive and negative, just HONEST input about 504 plans and teacher experiences. Please email [email protected] can remain annonymous.

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Recent Comments

  • Joyce: I am a writer for Baltimore's Child and I am read more
  • Rita Chapman: I'm a regular ed. teacher (secondary English), and I've co-taught read more
  • stephanie Freiheit: Dear Hannah, I have 20 years of experience working as read more
  • Janice: Hanne, Are you truly 'co-teaching' or do you simply assist? read more
  • Kristi: I'm currently a special ed parapro working with visually impaired read more




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