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.