Sometimes, we get so busy thinking about how to make co-teaching successful that we forget that any co-teaching, or any teaching of any kind, begins with planning, or, in this case, co-planning. If teachers cannot successfully co-plan, then they cannot realistically prepare a classroom experience in which they are able to co-teach.
Plenty of people more experienced I have identified the groundwork that they consider essential for successful co-teaching. Perhaps it is foolish of me to think that I have anything to add, but, as this blog is often an opportunity for me to thoughtfully process my experiences, it seems important for me to codify some of my experiences from the inside of a formal, co-teaching experience in the role of the Special Education teacher.
As a General Education math teacher, I did significant co-planning with the other General Education math teacher so that our practices were closely aligned across teachers. We worked hard to build a functional professional relationship, focusing on turning our very different personalities into strengths rather than points of conflict. I rarely had time to formally co-plan with my Special Education teacher and never with my paraprofessional, so I worked hard to make sure that the materials I asked them to implement were clear, comprehensible, and complete. We also met frequently “in passing” to share information about student concerns and progress.
This year, as the Special Education teacher in the co-teaching relationship, my days look very different. And, as I wrote earlier, many people have written about co-teaching, so I add only the following questions for self-reflection:
1. When we meet to formally co-plan, do we have a clear-but-flexible idea of what we need to discuss together? Do we share our ideas and co-construct the agenda?
2. When we co-plan, do we each follow through on agreements or the plan (or planning), such as offering to create a document (and doing so in a timely manner) or leading the class (in the way that was described)?
3. When we make a plan or share information about schedules, do we demonstrate respect for each other by taking notes and not expecting the other person to repeat him/herself as plans change?
4. When we make a plan or share scheduling information, do we demonstrate respect for each other by keeping each other informed in a timely manner as plans change in the moment?