This is the first in a series on Team Teaching; what makes it work at our school. I’m hoping to write about the things that make it or break it, as we’re discovering along the way.
CEO to Partners
Every teacher who runs their own traditional classroom recognises pretty quickly that once you close that door at the start of the day, you are the cleaner, the shop assistant, the store-room manager, the receptionist and the CEO of your own little business. Apart from having teacher aides (learning assistants) and the odd parent help, every decision to be made is very much up to you. In my first year teaching I was literally the only one in my class older than 9 – for the entire year!
And, as we all recognise, this has its downside (you can become quite a ‘lone ranger’, which may be why many of us sprint for the staffroom for some adult interaction!) but it also has the upside of giving you the space to make ALL the decisions. Of course we have to plan and teach within our government and school guidelines but, on the whole, we can run our little ‘non profit organisation’ as we see fit. I decide where to put the resources, how to setup my classroom furniture, where to seat michael and Sarah and even whether I want seats at all!
If I want to swap maths and reading times around – I do that! If I want to create a massive chicken wire covered with material tree in the middle of the room – I do that! (True story) And what’s even better, it’s that I can do all of these things on a whim if I want. I can dream it on my way back from the staffroom and have these changes in place before lunchtime. Because I’m the boss! I run our little enterprise and if I want the scissors tray to be labelled in Te Reo only then that’s exactly what happens!
BUT – when we’re team teaching, it’s very obvious that things have changed. Now you have another CEO to deal with. One with precisely the same convictions about how the scissor tray should be labelled and in our experience we have realised that those convictions can be very different from your own. Now you have a teacher in your rooms who has equal say over how the rooms are set out, how the day will run and what are the best approaches to help students learn in your room. In effect, you have a business partner!
So – what are you going to do when you don’t agree on things? Or, even worse, when that disagreement happens in front of your class? Here are some things we’re learning that makes for a successful Teaching Team
1. Learn to be flexible – you have to accept that the benefits of TTing far outweigh the loss of control and that your opinion or preference isn’t the law of the land anymore.
2. Learn to ‘Park it’ – we found out very quickly that having an ‘out clause’ or saying that gave us time and space to think through issues was crucial, especially when little eyes and ears are watching. Having a strategy that leaves conflicting issues till later gives us a strategy we can work with.
3. Have a shared understanding of teaching beliefs and practices – we call this our ‘Team Tikanga’ and we have a document that describes what our workshops will look like, how homework will happen and everything in between. If we want to change or discuss things we write our ideas in a table headed ‘For discussion’ and we talk about this at our next catch up.
4. Think of the Flow on Effect – everything I do impacts on my TTer. If I want to go over time in a reading workshop then that impacts on what’s happening next door with the rest of my class, and my TT. It takes time to retrain our thinking to include the needs of another teacher and this is so important.
Next Team Teaching Post: #2 Why on Earth would you do that? Benefits of Team Teaching