Collaborative Teaching

Goochland County Public Schools

SMILE BIGGER

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher (also, mom)

This morning was no different than any other hurried school day morning: My husband, two daughters, and I raced around the house tripping over each other to get ready and get out the door. Our four-year-old was particularly demanding, I couldn’t find my keys, and our six-year-old wanted so badly to wear her favorite dress that desperately needed to be ironed.

By 6:50 AM we had all made it to the driveway and my husband pulled out in his car with our youngest daughter. I blew them a kiss, smiled, and waved as they drove away.

And then I caught a glimpse of myself reflected in my car window. Oh my! I did not look happy. Even though I felt like I was smiling and waving at them as they drove off, my reflection spoke otherwise.

I tell my students that if they smile when working on a challenging problem, it will be easier. I learned this when I was in high school, going to week-long summer dance camps where I had to learn multiple routines in a short period of time. Smile, our coaches advised. You’ll learn more. 

There are so  many reasons to smile bigger.  Whether you want to appear more approachable, show someone you care, or simply allow yourself the grace of learning more, I urge you to smile bigger today…. (even if it feels a little awkward at first.)

 

 

 

The Power of a Good Handshake!

Never underestimate the power of a handshake. Often it’s the first thing we do when we are introduced to new people. It delivers first impressions. A good handshake can start conversations and promote trust between two people.  Researchers from the University of Illinois Beckman Institute found that a good handshake promotes confidence and trustworthiness. The study found that a good, firm handshake actually leads to positive feelings.

Do you teach confidence and trust in your classroom?

In our classroom, our 5th graders greet us with a handshake every morning. It’s a great way to start the day and gives us the opportunity to teach our students how to respectfully greet someone. During the first week of implementation, our students found it a little awkward and students were apprehensive. Over time, students understood the importance of greeting their teachers each morning. In fact, they enjoyed it and often looked forward to the handshake. Our morning greeting became a ritual. Students felt comfortable starting conversations and they opened up to us. The handshake laid the framework for trust and confidence between us and our students. Now when guests walk into our classroom, our students are not afraid to greet them. Our guests feel more welcome and open to talking to our students. The handshake breaks the first barrier of communication and allows the conversation to flourish.

Recently, I saw a video of a teacher that hand a personalized handshake for every student he taught. I thought this was a brilliant idea. This teacher found a way to build relationships with his students through a handshake. I am confident that this teacher has a strong bond of trust with his students.

Build trust and confidence with your students. Start the morning with a good handshake.

Research Article:

https://beckman.illinois.edu/news/2012/10/dolcoshandshake

Benefits of Collaborative Teaching

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher

The movement toward fully inclusive education is gaining momentum. Part of the reason for this goes beyond parental and administrative requests: teachers and students are enjoying its benefits. If you know me, you know that I am loving my first year in the collaborative classroom. But my fulfillment is supported by research, too.

Zou, Kim and Kerekes (2011) explored the benefits of collaborative teaching at the college level specifically for pre-service teachers. Imagine, exposing pre-service teachers to collaborative practices as students before they become collaborative teachers themselves. This makes so much sense, and yet, it was neither my experience nor that of anyone else I know.

The article itself, Collaborative Teaching in an Integrated Methods Course, concluded that currently there is just not enough research to support greater benefits with this model of preparing pre-service teachers, but just like the growth of collaborative teaching in K-12 education, I’m sure further research may increase this practice, as well.

What I did takeaway from this article were the several benefits of collaborative teaching cited by its authors for both students and instructors.

Benefits of Collaborative Teaching

Benefits to Students

  • Interest and enthusiasm
  • Improved achievement
  • Enhanced ability to work in teams
  • Increased interdisciplinary learning

Benefits to Teachers:

  • Increased growth from professional discussions
  • Increased learning from one another’s experiences
  • Increased learning from one another’s teaching styles
  • Increased opportunity for curriculum integration/real world experiences

The authors also cited Hinton & Downing (1998) when explaining “collaborative teaching is most beneficial when it promotes diversity by including teaching members from different disciplinary areas in addition to different ethnic and cultural backgrounds”. I could not agree with this more. Any time we can use our collaborative teaching practice to model treating each other with humanity, everyone wins. In my own practice, I believe that the simple juxtaposition of Mr. Beasley and I (male and female) in addition to being SPED and general education counter-parts, is valuable: We just bring different things to the table.

In future posts we can address challenges, but today’s focus highlighted benefits. Do you teach collaboratively? What do you consider the greatest benefits to your students and team?

 

References

Hinton, S. & Downing, J.E. (1998). Team teaching a college core foundation course; Instructors’ and students’ assessments. Richmond, KY: Eastern Kentucky  University. ERIC Document No. ED 429469.

Kerekes, J., Jinyoung, K., & Zhou, G. (2011). Collaborative teaching of an integrated   methods course.     International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education. 3(2). 123-138.

While You Were Out: A Letter to My Co-Teacher

Dear Joe,

While you were out, the kids were great. They shook my hand and said good morning, they offered creative ideas, and they helped one another when faced with challenges.

But I wasn’t great.

I know you always tell me to believe in myself, and I do! That’s why I thought I would be great…

I thought that without you there, I would take everything you’ve taught me about relationships, engaging instruction, technology, and that I would ‘wow’ the students with my Teacher Power. (I may have even told them I was going to teach like Lady Gaga…to the response of a few concerned head tilts.)

But the truth is, I wasn’t great because I couldn’t be both of us.

When you’re here, the pacing is like that of competitive runner – deliberate, strong, confident. My pacing feels more like being caught in a snow storm, trudging desperately through deep snow to return home safely.

Also, when you’re not here, I don’t get to play ‘good cop’. Selfishly, I missed that! Our discipline styles complement each other so well. Together, we use positive reinforcement paired with high expectations. While I believe in high expectations, I am quite frankly better at providing positive reinforcement.

While you were out, one student cried because she failed her math exam. At the same time, 3 students argued about the way their group work was progressing, and another student stopped talking to his friends to their concern. I couldn’t help them all and keep the pacing. As a result, they didn’t get the attention I would have liked to have given them.

Oh yeah, and I had an IEP meeting.

I leave you this note to say thank you. Every day that we teach together, I learn from you. But it’s more than that. Every day that we teach together, you respect and let me shine in my own role and talents. Working with you is synergy at its finest.

Can you tell the other general education teachers how much I appreciate them, too? The vast majority of teachers don’t have what we have: two teachers in one room. The vast majority of teachers come in every day, hoping to do their best, but even with the best class in the world, having little confirmation that they have succeeded. We have the privilege of supporting each other every day.

I hope you are feeling better, and please never feel guilty about being out, but please also know how I blessed I feel to be a part of this team.

Best,

Amanda

 

Top 10 Teaching Moments of 2016

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher

Over the past semester, we have experienced so much learning. While on the one hand, I want this school year to slow down because I can not imagine a better group of students, parents, or colleagues, I am also already excited for next fall. The framework for collaboratively teaching with Joe has been created: We know what we want to do better when we revisit this past semester’s lessons in the future, and we also recognize the exponential potential for differentiation when a general education teacher and special education teacher truly collaborate. It is beyond your average ‘win-win’.

So as a joyful celebration of 2016, these are my top 10 collaborative teaching moments of 2016:

1. “I like reading now.” Joe and I shared a special moment with a student who had done particularly well on a reading assessment. We wanted him to know how proud we were of the efforts he was making, because it truly reflected in his understanding. He had made unbelievable growth in reading and were so proud of him. He told us with tears in his eyes that he didn’t like to read before this year. He has had wonderful teachers, so I know they all contributed to him getting to this point, but I will forever be inspired by that moment

2. Mural! This past year we met with an incredible artist, Shaylen Brougton, and asked her what it would take to have a mural painted on our classroom wall. She contacted Altria and found a way for the mural to be donated at zero cost to the school. We cannot wait for March when she will breathe new life into our classroom!

3. Into the Woods Thanks to a grant from the Goochland Education Foundation, we were able to take our students on two trips to Powhatan State Park this past fall. Students with diverse needs all paddled down the James River in canoes. We experienced geocaching and reading in the wild. I will always treasure the organic beauty of these experiences and hope our students will, as well.

4. Debates Everyone knows that politics were fierce in 2016. The election was possibly one of the most controversial,to date, with strong opinions on both sides. Our students raised questions, stood to speak to one another, and debated on both sides of the political spectrum to gain a better understanding of different opinions. The dignity with which they treated one another  was beyond that which we saw in the media.

5. If you can’t, we can! On a whim, we decided to enter the Michael & Sons Jingle Contest. The students created a video and the winner was chosen based on the greatest number of votes. Although our students represented the county with the smallest population, their dedication to getting people to vote allowed us to finish in the number one spot, earning $5000 for Goochland Elementary School.

6. MUSIC I grew up in a home where my dad was a musician; I made it to high school on time because I wanted to be there for show choir practice; In college, I sang in the shows at Kings Dominion for work. And yet, I did not truly understand the value of music in education until spending a semester teaching with Joe Beasley. Kids need movement, visuals, passion… all the things that I need to get me motivated! This deserves a post in and of itself, but in the mean time, click here to go to Joe’s TeachersPayTeachers site and download/use all of his songs in your classroom.

7. Morning Handshakes Every classroom should do this. A handshake, paired with eye contact and “Good morning, Mrs. Steeley” really sets the tone for the day. It’s a great way to show mutual respect between student and teacher, and it is an invaluable life skill. I feel fortunate to have been exposed to this practice. (As a special education teacher, I know that this might ‘look’ different for different students, and that’s ok, too; it’s starting the day with a greeting that I think is of great value.)

8. Football at Recess Yes, I now know what the ‘no fly zone’ is and how to catch a football. Boy have I missed these games over winter break!

9. Language Arts Block Joe and I have worked on our language arts block like sculptors chiseling rock. It was only with the support of outside resources, including our reading specialists Mrs. Case and Mrs. Dickerson, and consistently revisiting the ‘drawing board’ that we came up with a language arts block that we believe to be best for our students. I’m sure it will all change again, but in the mean time, it’s exciting to have found our rhythm in this subject area.

10. Building Relationships with Families Joe and I are teachers because we love building relationships. We both recognize the correlation between relationships and student growth, and we are both enhanced as educators by these relationships. We have been committed to communication with families this year and we look forward to doing more in 2017.

What were your best teaching moments of 2016? We would love for you to share them here!

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