Team Teaching Works for Me

This post is the content from a conference session I presented in the early 2000s with my former teaching partner, Linda Benson. We worked as a teaching team for 6 years and Linda team taught for many years with other partners prior to our time together. Without a doubt, the time we spent working together occasioned the greatest professional learning gains and growth in my career to that point.

We often hear the term “Team Teaching” when thinking about a departmentalized school: each of the content specialists meeting as a “team” that collectively covers all content areas.

We may also encounter the term in the context of integration and interdisciplinary courses: bringing different disciplines together to create a richer learning experience for students.

What we will share with you today is a combination of the two, and, yet, neither. We are both grade 8 generalists, each with our own classroom, each with our own assigned group of students yet we are always in each others’ classrooms. Our students see us as one big group with two teachers. One group of students with two classrooms and two teachers.

We do this because we each have areas of expertise upon which we draw, we mix and match and blend and separate our students with fluidity and flexibility in order to best meet their needs. Throughout the year our students will be in and out of groupings, they will receive direct instruction from both of us, before, during, and after school. We plan our days together; sometimes they are identical, sometimes different, sometimes reflections of each other.

The benefit to the students is clear: two teachers, solid programs, expertise, and timely intervention and enrichment. The benefits to us as teachers are many: shared workload, daily dialogue, ongoing professional development, someone to discuss ideas, someone to ease the burden of prepping for a substitute. We talk daily, we plan and improve, we tweak and change. We’re always back and forth with plans and ideas.

We both teach all subjects and run parallel programs. This allows us to blend our classrooms, mix and match to meet particular student needs, and makes for seamless transitions from one class to the other. Sometimes our classes meet together in the same room, sometimes they are separate. Other times they are in mixed groups for projects.

To illustrate how this works in a more traditional model of Math instruction: we will combine the classes for large group instruction and exposure to content, work in classroom groups on engagement pieces to apply and develop skills, then, after some assessment, we will make separate work groups for enrichment, extension, or remediation. Students understand the groupings are temporary, fluid, and designed to meet their particular needs at that moment.

For inquiry projects, we can set up one room for exploration and engagement, and the second room for discussion and creating product. With the larger group students have greater choice and opportunity to collaborate with others with similar interests. (Today, with more ubiquitous access to the internet, this is much easier to achieve online).

Of course you can't force a team. We were fortunate that out personalities, while very different, complimented each other - we were able to recognize in the other the skills that would benefit students. By connecting daily we created even structured an even more engaging and productive environment by leveraging each other's strengths and skills into something far greater than we may have done on our own.

Collaborative teaching like this is now more easily possible with Web 2.0 tools. Having a teaching partner also helps to mitigate the effects of physical boundaries between classrooms. We open our practice to share with another teacher and, in doing so, begin learning again with a colleague in a more intimate way than irregular classroom visits.

How do you do teaming? What are your experiences with team teaching? What has worked and what challenges are you dealing with, and how have you overcome them?

1 Comment

  1. [...] also want to highlight how important teaming is, how talking and sharing ideas with a colleague often turns that idea into something far [...]

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