Collaborative Teaching

Goochland County Public Schools

Month: September 2016

Teaching Styles

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher

It’s 4:30 AM and I’m up to grade papers and prepare for the science lab I will teach today. I listen to the coffee drip with eager anticipation and hope that my own two children will at least give me 30 minutes of uninterrupted work time before they wake up requesting breakfast. The busy demands of my collaborative teaching position in 5th grade at GES have me stressed in such a way that I am both growing and fulfilled; it is a good stress.

My 4-year-old heard me and just woke up… Thank goodness for Caillou. Let me get to the point… Three things I would like to reflect on since my last entry: teaching styles, pre-test/post-test data, and co-planning:

Teaching Styles:

Joe and I have a lot in common – we both believe in the power of music for teaching, the importance of relationships with students and families, and imperativeness of student engagement. However, we are still two different individuals with unique backgrounds and experiences. Perhaps our starkest contrasts are that Joe is a male who has taught only general education, and I am a female (mother) who has taught only special education. If I’m not careful, my nurturing qualities might neglect to maximize the potential of every learner. But there is great value when our personalities come together, especially because we are both open to communication with one another.

Joe and I respect one another. This allows us to pull one another aside if we think that either ourselves, or the other person, could have handled a situation with a student better. We reflect with an open mind. We are willing to seek first to understand and then to be understood. I believe this may be one of our greatest strengths as a teaching team. 

Pre-Test/Post-Test Data:

We started using pre-test/post-test comparisons for math this week. The growth, for all students, was thrilling. We are so excited to continue with this practice!

Co-Planning:

Yesterday afternoon, Joe and I quickly reflected on what needed to be done before school the next day. (And quite frankly if I don’t stop writing soon, it won’t be done!) But what I loved about this exchange was that I felt like we were volleying a ping-pong ball:

I’ll take grading the math quiz.

         -Great. I’ll make sure the science data gets entered.

         -OK. Reading groups are almost set. I’ll finalize that.

         -Awesome. I need to prepare for the lab.

         Etc…

We both know what’s going on. We’re willing to help each other, and we both want to be able to step in for the other person at any time. We collaboratively “own” this classroom. No responsibility rests solely on one individual’s plate, and if it does, the other person is eager to learn the role and support the teacher who must fulfill the responsibility.

Now back to work! Looking forward to another great day!

It’s a Family, Not a Classroom!

Joe Beasley, General Education Teacher

In the past two weeks of our Collaborative Classroom, I have learned and seen a lot of growth within our students. We start out everyday with a handshake and a greeting.We tell our students that we are so happy to see them and we mean it! We want our students to know that we care for them. I am also a stickler about manners. Manners bring respect and understanding to the classroom. I can’t think of a time that I have had to raise my voice or call a student out on his or her behavior because our classroom expectations are clear. Through these expectations and manners, students feel comfortable to speak to their classmates, take chances, and learn from their mistakes. We do make a lot of mistakes in our class and we love it because we learn!

We tell our students that they are doing a great job every single day and we make sure that everyone is included! On the first day of school, we told our students that they were “handpicked” for this class because they were the best students in the school. Whether or not our students were truly the best students in the school, it gave them a sense of confidence. Those students who constantly struggled year in and year out had a giant smile on their faces. It was as almost someone had lit a fire in their seats because they were ready to be the best! Our class motto is 20% Brain and 80% Heart. In our class it doesn’t matter how smart you are, it’s all about how hard you work to achieve your goals. I have already seen our students struggle in class, but never give up, until they reach the solution. It is amazing!

Two Teachers, Not a Teacher and a SPED Teacher

Working with Amanda has been an eye opening experience. Amanda is one of the very best teachers in our school and she has excellent insight about working with students with special needs. As a classroom teacher, I am used to having my classroom set up according to me. However, it is now the classroom set up according to “we.” This has been challenging. Having an open line of communication is key in creating a “we” classroom. Both teachers have to make sure that they are both on the same page while teaching, planning, and communicating to parents.

Most importantly, we always make sure to back each other up. Even though we have only been teaching for two weeks, we have both hit tough obstacles with parents and planning. Both of us are so passionate about our students and we want to make sure we have great parental support from the start. Parents want the best for for kids and will do whatever it takes to help their child be successful. Unfortunately, most parents are apprehensive when their child enters a new school year because it means new teachers and new expectations. Amanda and I have tried our very best to start the year off with a positive vibe with our parents. However, we have to understand the parent’s concerns and expectations as well.

Planning has been another difficult obstacle. It has been hard for us to stay on the same page when creating lessons. Emailing plans back and forth only became more complicated. Thankfully, we found planbook.com and it has changed how we communicate while planning. Now we can plan on our own time and share our plans online. It makes it so easy to change or add lessons in real time.  It is worth the investment.

Overall, I know that I am learning just like my students when it comes to creating a Collaborative Classroom. It’s ok to make mistakes, become frustrated, and want to pull your hair out because in the end Amanda and I are going through this together. Most importantly, we are growing as educators and creating a positive environment for our students.