224. Co-Teaching and Team Teaching

When two or more teachers get together to combine their skills and energy, great things can happen. Children have diverse learning styles and personal styles, and can benefit from some diversity in teaching style. Teachers can focus their energy a little more on their strengths, knowing that other teachers with different strengths can complement their work. Ideally, there’s some mutual mentoring, and all teachers involved end up with more skills than they started with. That sets a good example for children.
But it takes organization and humility. If teachers want to work together, they have to know what they plan to do. Spontaneity can be exciting, but when two or more people collaborate, spontaneity can be difficult. During my final few years as a teacher, I started getting organized enough to do some co-teaching, but it wasn’t easy for me. It meant I sometimes had to put brainstorms on the back burner. There are teachers whose brains have mild breezes, but not so many storms. That works better when other teachers are involved.
As for humility, I know people who do that well. But as wonderful as I am, I’ve never quite mastered humility. As I’ve had insights about children and learning, I’ve behaved as if they were such unique insights that it would take too much time and energy to share them with other teachers, who, I thought, could not possibly have ever had these insights. And they certainly couldn’t have any valuable insights I hadn’t already had. This messianic mindset made it awfully hard to work with me.
Now, as a volunteer, I finally get to practice humility, and it’s funny how well it works. Since I’m not employed as a teacher, I take what I can get. Teachers who are more as I was don’t want me around as much. As hard as I try to blend in to different approaches, I do add another style to the teaching effort, and teachers who can’t deal with that assign me to specific tasks that keep me out of the way.
And teachers who are good at teaming include me in their planning, ask for my input, give me suggestions, and make me forget that I’m a volunteer – an outsider. Their humility is inspiring. It’s not that they are less skilled than other teachers, or think they are. It’s that they are confident enough in their own teaching to allow other approaches to mix with their own.
This new humility I’ve got is fun to use. My latest project is working to believe that the teachers who don’t want me to spend much time in their classrooms can still be good teachers.
I think I’m making some progress toward that goal. Working with other teachers – even flexible, creative intelligent, humble teachers such as yours truly, can be a challenge.

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