Co-teaching is such a valuable teaching model, but unfortunately it often isn’t done correctly. This leads to so much unnecessary frustration for teachers and a lack of results from students. But, if you implement my 7 tips for co-teaching and inclusion, you will see growth and success from all of your students – whether they are special ed, or not!
Inclusion. Co-Teaching. Two little words that can cause even the most experienced teachers panic. It doesn’t matter if you are a special ed teacher or a general education teacher, if you’ve ever worked in an inclusion model you know that co-teaching and inclusion can either be the absolute best thing to happen to you and your students, or the worst.
I’ve seen it from both sides – I’ve been a gen ed teacher that had a special education co-teacher, and I’ve been the special ed teacher.
So, regardless of which side of the coin you are on, I wanted to share with you some quick tips for co-teaching and inclusion, so that every student in the room can be successful.
Tip #1: Pick a Co-Teaching Style
Did you know, there are 6 different types of co-teaching? Not every lesson will require the same style – team teaching might be more appropriate in some situations, and the next day it might be better to parallel teach. When planning, have a quick ‘cheat sheet’ of each style nearby and decide what technique you will use during each part of the lesson.
Tip # 2: Everyone is the “Real Teacher” & Inclusion means everyone is YOUR student
This is a super big problem that a lot of special ed teachers face. Special ed teachers hold the same, and sometimes more, certification than general education teachers. It’s important that other staff members and students see special ed teachers as ‘real’ teachers. If you are the gen ed teacher, set the tone from the first day to your students that they are a teacher who is no more or less important than any other teacher they work with.
And, while we are talking about it. If you are co-teaching and if you use the inclusion model, every student is your student. If you are the special ed teacher, just because they don’t have an IEP doesn’t mean you can’t help and support them. So many students don’t qualify for special education services, but that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from extra support. And, on the flip side, if you are the gen ed teacher just because they have an IEP doesn’t mean you have no responsibilities to that student. When I push-in to a classroom, I don’t want any student to think I’m only there for certain people. I want every student to feel like they can come to me for help and guidance.
Tip #3: Be Consistent
All staff members should have the same policies and rules. If the rule is students must sign out before leaving the room, it shouldn’t matter which adult is the lead teacher during the lesson. Rules and procedures should be set with both the special ed and general ed teacher in the room and should be agreed upon by both teachers.
Tip #4: Be Flexible
Things happen. Schedules change. People get pulled. Math class gets moved back by 5 minutes. Or 50. It happens! Everyone should assume the best, and be willing to make changes as they occur. A special ed teacher walking in to a room annoyed because the teacher isn’t ready to start math isn’t a good way to start the class period. Neither is a gen ed teacher frustrated that the special ed teacher got hung up in the previous class for a few minutes.
Tip #5: Co-Teaching Means Being Open to New Ideas
My favorite part about co-teaching was learning new things. (Yes, I know, it’s cliche.) But seriously. I learned new classroom management techniques, new programs, new strategies for teaching skills. And, I’d like to think that my co-teachers learned some ideas from me!
Tip #6: Communication is Key
Honestly, if you ignore the other tips on this list. Please, follow this one. If things are going well – tell them! If things aren’t going well – tell them! No one can fix something if they don’t know about it. When there is consistent open communication, most big problems are avoided all together. And when there is a big problem, it’s so much easier to tackle because the rapport is already built.
Tip #7: Planning with your Co-Teacher
This is a pet peeve of mine. If you are going to co-teach, that means you should co-plan. While maybe you don’t have time every day to sit and plan for an hour you should check in regularly – even if it just means via e-mail. Co-teaching means everyone shares the responsibility of teaching and that can’t happen authentically if one person writes the plans and another reads them as they go through the class. If you absolutely positively can not contribute to the lesson planning ahead of time, take time to look at the lessons when they are finished. This will give you time to get comfortable with them and make any changes that you think are necessary.
Wrapping it Up:
Co-teaching and inclusion can be one of the best things to happen to every learner in the room. Having collaboration with fellow teachers is a great way to learn new ideas and see things in a different way. When done correctly, co-teaching can have enormous impact on student success. Leave me a comment and let me know, which of these tips for co-teaching and inclusion can you implement?