Saturday, November 03, 2007

Working Together

Recently the idea of Co-Teaching seems to be under scrutiny in our school. I question where this is coming from. Rather than "trusting" administrators we should trust each other. And if we have doubts we should visit each other's classes. From what I heard in the past, and experienced myself, some of the most effective classes have been co-taught classes.

Eg. 1 SCART. Science and ART. When I first came to QHST Varriale and Fox shared the products and the accolades of the co-taught science and art class from the year past. I was impressed with the outcomes and the freedom teachers had. I was also impressed with the level of respect each teacher had for each other. It seemed that using the time in an effective manner was an appropriate use.

Eg. 2 Current Events. Swetten and I co-taught a three period elective on current events. Woolsey and O'Malley observed this and can both testify as to how effective this class was. Students were asked to present each week and deep philosophical issues guised in the veil of current events were being discussed each class. We infused technology. Each teacher worked to the best of their abilities and the result was something the seniors who were freshmen at the time still talk about today.

Admittedly this doesn't always work as smoothly. Teachers need time to plan. We don't always get stuck in an elevator together. Yet despite the common planning time the "Journal" class being created with Bachinsin and Mayo looks simply amazing. Students are given an opportunity to express themselves through art and written expression.

Conversely teaching one period electives to students who have hole in their program can be a nightmare. I'll never forget the various "PROJECT LEARN" classes. I still to this day have a one period elective named "Research and Technology". Admittedly its quite hard for me to remain motivated for this class even though its probably the one topic I hold dear to my heart. Students don't want to be there, its early and seniors are aware we are just filling holes. Hopefully in the future we could at least consider a schedule that allows for real electives. Hopefully re-considering past proposed schedules is on the horizon.


Anonymous said...

I love that we have electives. I don't understand why electives arent able to be chosen from a catalog by students. What happened to choice?

W Brown said...

I agree.. Our current schedule doesn't afford this to be possible. There was another option on the table at the end of last year that got voted down.

However the recent concern is not electives as much as the value of co-teaching.

I think the co-teaching model by SCART was simply amazing and to ignore that as a valuable learning opportunity, and to make uniformed assumptions about current classes seems malicious.

What has happened?

Anonymous said...

Co-teaching, when properly executed, is a wonderful experience. However, there's a big difference between co-teaching an elective (which does require a lot of planning on behalf of both teachers) and telling a teacher to just join another colleague's class and "help out" (which means that someone can, if they so choose, sit in the back of the room and read the NY Times all period while the other teacher does all the work).

W Brown said...

Wow... you have summed up the problem with groupwork.

Collaboration is often a delicate balance. Each team member should be expected to contribute to the best of their abilities.

If the class runs three periods a week and the co-teacher only joins the class once a week obviously this becomes a struggle with who should take the lead. The three period teacher needs to be the perceived leader of the class.

When I know I am going to have extra adults in the room I know I plan to take more risks. Know that when students begin working they will need more adult facilitation.

As for reading the NY Times, unless the lesson calls for that I would think that is unacceptable. But this isn't a co-teaching problem...its sounds more like a work ethic problem of the individual teacher.

Anonymous said...

I began this year scheduled to co-teach with a teacher new to the school. Well, I must have done something right, because she and I taught seamlessly together from day 1. My Seniors were actually excited to see a true co-teaching model in place. Even though we (my partner in crime) and I barely had any common time, we made it work.
Unfortunately, that lasted about a month. For justifable reasons, her program was changed and now it is just me.
My students (who are true jems) took the news better than me. I, however, am still suffering through withdrawal. I could deal with giving up smoking, but co-teaching is so much more fulfilling.
Oh well... Maybe next year.....


Anonymous said...

I meant "gems" not "jems". I am a great speller...really.


Lori said...

First, I want to give credit for the info on keeping a creative journal to Christine Brody; she is teaching a one period class based on a couple of books she recommended to me, and Brian and I took her idea and ran with it. Again, a case of collaboration.

Second, if the people who are unhappy with the way our schedule turned out can make suggestions about how to change it, let's hear them. We are still finding our way, and came up with a way to try to make it work. I love being with another teacher in the classroom (whether that's Brian or Carmela), and I wish I had another teacher in each of my classes.

That said, I was thinking about trying to figure out what teachers were co-teaching on what periods, and maybe having those teachers staff the kind of writing center that I've been wanting to get started. It could be open to students with free periods and teachers could also send kids down to work on particular writing assignmens.

Again, the problem would arise about how many times a teacher might sit in that room without kids. BUT...I think the good in us outweighs the bad AND if the number of Montessori teachers giving up their lunch in order to work with kids is any indicator of our work ethic, I think we may just need to trust one another a bit more. I can't even imagine having the time to think about other teacher's schedules and how many periods we each teach.

Ms. Barrett said...

Hi Lori-

I love your idea about the writing center... just wondering if you were thinking about this just for Montessori teachers/students or if it would be cross community. If the opportunity presented itself next year, I would love to do this!