Can educators really be expected to survive a "co-teaching marriage" if nearly half of real marriages end in divorce? It's not easy. But with the right approach and hard work, I have found the answer is yes! Real synergy can be created where each co-teacher can feed off of the positive energy and ideas that they get from the other. This collegiality can be another major way teachers can enjoy their career, in addition to the satisfaction of seeing their students succeed. Here's how to have a successful co-teaching experience:
KEEP THE GOAL IN MIND
You can survive, and even thrive, in a co-teaching marriage if you make sure that you and your co-teacher are clear on the educational goals. As long as both of you can agree on the learning standards that need to be met, and the content and skills that need to be covered in a project, then all decisions should be measured by how well the plans for the class/project meet those goals.
DEALING WITH DISAGREEMENTS
If the educational goals are clear upfront, then disagreements don't have to be personal -- you can focus on which approach is the best to meet the goals. When both teachers feel comfortable saying something like, "I wonder if approach A is better than approach B because approach A meets the standards better in this specific way," it becomes much easier to challenge each other. I like when my co-teachers do this, because we all want to accomplish the educational goals and meet our students' needs in the best way possible.
When planning and executing projects, what do you do when there are different, valid ways to get to the same goal? What if there is no objective best solution, or the way of getting there is somewhat subjective? In a word, compromise. Of course, that means that each of you gives up some part of your approach, and each of you gets to keep some part of your approach to meet in the middle. If that is not possible/practical, then you can take turns on getting your way. You could say: "We'll do it your way this time, and the next time that we have a subjective disagreement, could we do it my way?"
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR CO-TEACHER
No surprise here, just like any good marriage, strengthening a co-teaching marriage requires great communication. It is important to agree on (through good communication, of course) all of the most important aspects of teaching:
1. Why did we choose our goals?
2. What is the best way to achieve our goals?
3. How are you going to accomplish those goals and how much time will it take?
4. Who is going to do what in the planning and the execution of the project?
5. When is everything going to happen throughout the project (roughly)?
6. Where is the best setting to execute the parts of the project?
Watch Co-Teaching in action at New Tech Network:
In a nutshell, seek first to understand each of these aspects of teaching. Take turns listening to each other. In my experience, the best partnerships are based on equality. People usually feel equal when they are listened to, respected for what they say, treated fairly (so they trust each other), and share equally in responsibilities. If co-teachers support each other in these ways, a teaching marriage can be greater than the sum of its parts.