By Elizabeth Jorgensen
Because creative writing accommodates students with a variety of special needs, administrators assigned a special education teacher to one of my sections. But what did this mean?
At a summer, morning-long meeting, my co-teacher Heidi and I learned about co-teaching models. School administrators said, “Co-teaching is when one classroom has two teachers: one general education teacher and one special education teacher. Both are in a single classroom and both provide inclusive instruction to students of all needs.”
At the meeting, Heidi and I defined our roles and discussed our classroom goals. We read articles and gained tips for effective co-teaching. We discussed our experiences and our students. Then, we reviewed what we learned and created lesson plans and a strategy for the year.
Throughout the next three years, Heidi and I collaborated and instructed (and laughed and met for breakfast and attended athletic events together). Administrators have told us we are a model for successful co-teaching. But why? What do we do?
- We developed a relationship with each other. Heidi and I talked about our significant others, about our weekend plans, about our goals for our students and about our successes and failures. Heidi and I developed trust and rapport—and this made collaborating easy.
- We communicated and collaborated. Once every two weeks, we spent an afternoon creating lesson plans. (Our administrators provided substitutes for this planning time.) We collaborated on activities, worksheets, assignments and assessments. We analyzed previous assignments and activities and made modifications for future semesters. We discussed our roles and our classroom timeline. And we created and shared a Google spreadsheet. This kept us organized and on-task and allowed for constant communication.
- We provided support for all students. We discussed particular students, their needs and potential solutions. We made plans for interventions and assistance. We contacted parents and provided accommodations and commendations. In the classroom, Heidi and I supported all students regardless of their special needs.
- We were equals. Heidi and I shared duties equally, instructing, assessing and grading assignments. We didn’t want the students to identify the “English teacher” or the “special education teacher.” And we learned from each other (Heidi taught me more about differentiation and how to insert movement in my classroom; she also provided innovation and encouragement).
Heidi and I are not perfect, but we are open to discussing our mistakes and making improvements. We have fun and we aim to engage all students and to make our classroom better every day.
This semester, I didn’t have enough students with special needs to warrant a co-teacher, but I’m already looking forward to next semester when Heidi re-joins creative writing.
Looking for more resources?
Brown, N.B., Howerter, C.S., & Morgan, J. J. (2013). Tools and strategies for making co-teaching work.
Intervention in School and Clinic, 49(2), 84-91.
Graziano, K.J., & Navarrete, L. A. (2012). Coteaching in a teacher education classroom: Collaboration,
compromise, and creativity. Issues in Teacher Education, 21(1), 109-126.
Mastropieri, M.A., & Scruggs, T.E., (2006). The inclusive classroom: Strategies for effective instruction (3rd
ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Murawski, W. W., & Dieker, L. (2008). 50 ways to keep your co-teacher: Strategies for before, during, and after
co-teaching. Teaching Exceptional Children, 40(4), 40-48.