This evening I was following the #asiaED chat on Twitter and the topic was co-teaching and co-planning. The theme centered around the positives and challenges of working in this type of education model.
This, of course, got me to thinking about my experiences co-teaching and co-planning.
I currently work at an international school where I co-plan with a year-level team, but I do not co-teach. My class is my class and I teach it the best way I see fit. I have worked at a bilingual school in the past and co-teaching was a daily reality for me.
Co-planning is something that is quite common these days, especially when working in a collaborative environment such as an IB school.
In a nutshell, let’s look at my experiences, especially at a bilingual school I worked at, with regards to co-teaching and co-planning. Let’s look at the positives and negatives:
Two heads are better than one. You get to bounce ideas back and forth with a partner teacher.
If you and your co-teacher’s teaching philosophies and visions align, magic can happen.
If you are teaching in a foreign country and your co-teacher is from that country, they will have valuable local knowledge and cultural understanding that you do not have.
If you have many low-level English speakers in your class, that local co-teacher can support those students in their native language, ensuring more success.
Simple personality class. We don’t always get along with everyone we meet or work with. I have had some challenging professional relationships simply because I didn’t really like the person I was working with.
Opposing attitudes towards planning and behavior management. There’s nothing worse for classroom behavior than two co-teachers who are not on the same page with classroom management.
Being dismissed by a local co-teacher as simply being someone from outside the culture who cannot understand the “thinking” of the students.
Not caring an equal workload. It can happen that you are partnered with a co-teacher who simply doesn’t put in much of an effort (beyond frustrating).
Many heads in a grade level can come up with more ideas than one.
If those higher up the school food chain are not in agreement with ideas you have, solidarity in numbers can be valuable.
Various teachers have differing skill sets. You can take advantage of individual expertise within a team to make planned units better.
Emotional and professional support during challenging times of the school year.
Working with team members who are in constant disagreement with you. Very different views and education philosophies.
Working with local educators who may not have strong language skills. There can be miscommunication and at times, they tune out during group planning and then just go ahead and teach something different from the team.
You feel you have fantastic ideas, but because of the “majority rules” atmosphere, you don’t get to put them into practice and have a chance to shine.
Those who simply don’t contribute to any planning and ride on the coat tails of others.
Cultural differences can, at times, cause friction and misunderstanding.
Co-teaching and co-planning can be a complicated beast. Every year I have taught it has been a very different beast. With each country I have lived, schools I have taught at and teams I have been a member of, my experience has been very different.
Some years good…
Some years GREAT….
Simply put, there’s nothing simple about being a teacher!
About the Writer:
Kevin O’Shea is a PYP/Nature/Outdoor educator currently based in Beijing, China. He is a father, husband, and avid conservationist. Kevin is an advocate for outdoor play and nature education. He is the host of the long-running Just Japan Podcast and is currently developing the Making Better Teachers Podcast!