Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Value of Team Teaching

Teaching is generally a solitary process. We work on our own and develop strategies that work for us but we rarely get to see what other teachers do in their classrooms. After the experience I had with team teaching this fall, I would highly recommend taking some time to watch another teacher in action or if you can to find a way to teach, even if it's just one lesson, with another teacher.

This fall I had a large grade 9 applied level class. The administration decided to split the class. In the time between the decision to split the class and the actual split a number of students decided that the course was too difficult and they switched out. By the time the second teacher was assigned to the class there were only 26 students left on the list. We decided that we would try team teaching the course. In the past when I have heard talk about team teaching it was always two or more teachers who were teaching the same course. The team teaching meant that the they would plan together and do the same work in their respective classes. That's not what we had in mind. We had a small number of students so we decided that we would keep them in one room and teach them as one class with two teachers. We essentially created a math class with two teachers. What more could a math student ask for?

Throughout our time together I was often amazed at how much I was learning just by watching my teaching partner. He has a wide variety of classroom management techniques. It was great to see those techniques in action. I wouldn't say that my classroom management is weak but like most things in life I think I have room for improvement. Throughout the semester I was able to observe a bunch of techniques that I was familiar with, but for whatever reason wasn't using. I think in some cases I had heard about the techniques but had never seen them in action. Seeing how they actually work in practice made a huge difference. I'm hoping that some of those techniques become part of my regular routine.

As a side note, since midterm we've had a number of students who have not been performing well in the class. They don't have the work habits to be successful and aren't putting forth a solid effort.  We tried working with these students for a few weeks to help put them in a situation where they could pass the course. Many of them chose not put forth the effort. We decided a short time ago to offer the students who were failing an opportunity to get a credit at a lower level (a locally developed credit). We have now split the class in two and we could possibly have every one of those students getting a grade 9 math credit. This could potentially be an interesting model for student success.

If you get a chance, give true team teaching a try.