If you’ve ever been in a team teaching partnership, you know exactly what I mean. Team teaching can be an incredibly rewarding experience, or the exact opposite.
If you think about it, in the course of a week, our colleagues likely see us more than our family members do. Team teaching is this, but more. In a team teaching relationship, you spend the better part of seven hours together inside a space of less than 900 square feet and full of about 25 other people looking to you to be at your best – all day, every day.
Sounds dreamy, right?
For some it is, and for others, not so much. Not to worry, if you are currently in this setting and unsure about it, or if you ever wind up getting placed in one, I’ve got some tips to help you make it the rewarding experience it should be.
Team teaching isn’t for everyone. It involves a lot of flexibility and open mindedness. And there is sharing. Soooo much sharing. You aren’t just sharing your space with this other person, you are sharing so much more. You’re sharing teaching styles, lesson planning, ideas, your breaks during the day and all of your moods in between – just to name a few. This includes all the good, bad and ugly along the way. The not-so-fantastic mood you brought to school because you were frantically running late all morning? Your team teacher gets to be on the receiving end of that. The morning you get to school and just want 20 minutes of quiet time alone to mentally get yourself ready for the day? Not likely to happen. If you are someone who likes alone time, this probably isn’t your dream job.
On the other hand, all of this cozy close togetherness and sharing has an incredible upside too; if you let it. Having an amazing day, feeling on top of the world and want to shout all of this amazingness from the rooftops? You always have someone! Have a killer idea that will change the face of teaching and you can’t wait to tell someone about it? You’ve got your person! That moment one of your students who’s been struggling, then has a breakthrough moment and everything just seemed to click?
Your team teacher is not only there, but is the only other person who understands and gets just how awesome that is for your student! Not to mention the benefit of having someone to share in lesson planning, prepping and just overall management of a classroom and all that goes with it!
I have had many team teaching relationships over the years, some ok, some not, but then I hit the team teaching jackpot. My co-teacher and I were placed together and it was like a lightbulb finally got turned on, and I thought, “THIS!! This is how it’s supposed to work!” I finally got to see how the team teaching machine should run and be a part of an amazing partnership. When this happens, it just gets better with each year. Because when you have two people in the team teaching partnership who are willing and able to make it work- it will work- and the benefits for everyone involved are immeasurable.
The key word there is WILLING. When this happens, teachers are able to grow together and learn from one another and students have the amazing benefit of having two dedicated teachers – working cohesively together at all times. Really, everyone wins.
Through all of the different partnerships I have been in, especially my most recent, I learned a lot. Here are my biggest tips on how to make your team teaching “marriage” stay alive.
1. Have an open mind!
I cannot stress this enough. You are getting a partner and need to be open and ready to accept them for everything they are, for better, for worse. You need to be open to their style of teaching, classroom management, planning, communication style and every other aspect of their personality. Without an open mind, things can go terribly wrong pretty quickly. If you are lucky enough to be placed in a team teaching setting, be open to all the good that can come with that. Your students will benefit and you will have an amazing opportunity to learn and grow yourself! Be open to the good that can come from working this closely with a colleague and it will be a much more enjoyable experience for you both.
2. Don’t judge
Judgement. It can be a death sentence for any relationship. Relationships are two sided. If one person is judging the other and feeling like they are better than the other in any way, this will not work. You are a team and working together in every way, just like in a marriage, You need to respect, trust and help one another and know the other person supports you. It’s just that simple.
3.Communication is KEY
Ok, I know this won’t always be easy, but it’s so important. It will ultimately make your partnership stronger. Communicate all the time and about everything. The positive feelings are usually pretty easy to share: they may feel more natural to communicate. Sharing ideas while collaborating, bouncing ideas off of one another and making suggestions are all good things to do. In these situations, though, it can be more difficult to be 100% sincere with your thoughts and emotions. So, in those cases when it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, it is even more important to be open and honest. This likely won’t happen very often, but when it does remember to do your best to just be yourself and share openly. Share the hard things, because when things get left unsaid, they can lead to resentment and just overall negative feelings. If something happens and it didn’t sit quite right with you or maybe you weren’t feeling heard yourself, share that! Keeping things open and honest will help your partnership stay strong and moving in a positive, healthy direction.
4. Have FUN!
Team teaching is FUN! You know what your day looks like as a teacher, so having someone there with you day in and day out to teach alongside, laugh with in those inevitable hilarious moments, vent to during the stressful times and learn with along the way is priceless. Embrace it for all that it is, its ups and downs and everything in between. It can really be a wonderful experience so enjoy the ride!
– Meghan Smerillo