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Co-Teaching Series - Session Four
As we reach the mid-way point of Ecolint’s co-teaching training, we embark upon a reflection of our own experiences of collaboration and lean into the ideals and realities of co-planning.
We began the session with an invitation to identify our best experience of collaboration and to assess what strengths we brought to the table. The former sparked tales of satisfying exchanges but the latter needed further thought. Did our colleagues perceive the same strengths as we identified? Was a strength for someone a hindrance for their peers? With a short time to think about collaborative endeavours, we moved on to explore co-planning – our theme for the afternoon.
As a reminder for anyone new to this concept, Ochan Kusuma-Powell and Kristen Pelletier describe co-planning as: ‘two or more professionals working together to create differentiated learning opportunities for access to content and skills’ which in turn requires ‘agreements and shared thinking’.
The first breakout room brought together teachers from Campus des Nations and La Grande Boissière and though from different campuses, we were united in our initial thoughts for co-teaching. We agreed that ‘daring’ was a prerequisite for co-teaching. To try new approaches and new teaching ideas requires a feeling of security and trust. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it occurs as if by osmosis, other times, the relationship needs more time, nurturing, and dialogue. Bryk and Schneider (2003) identified four key elements of trust: respect, personal regard, competency and personal integrity. Recognition of these components favour positive social exchange.
The teachers who generously and willingly shared their challenges of working with another adult in the room evoked the pervasive sentiment of feeling vulnerable and that trust can be challenging, especially when we need to relinquish the need to control aspects of our class. We all agreed that sharing a classroom was not without its challenges, which raised the question: how can we ‘plan’ together if we sometimes find it hard to ‘live’ together?
In spite of the challenges, we also recognised the gift of co-teaching. Having someone to share your students’ accomplishments with is immeasurably satisfying (as is your students’ woes). There is a beauty in accepting the other as being both your equal and your opposite. Having a partner to bounce ideas with stimulates creativity and builds rapport. Co-teaching allows us to engage in ongoing professional development to co-construct a classroom culture for learning that embraces inclusion designed from multiple teaching perspectives. And whilst it is true that knowing your students and their needs are essential elements to effective co-planning, so is knowing your co-teacher (and indeed any of the collaborators who enter the classroom).
When planning, Costa and Garmston (2016) identified the following five-step process for effective planning conversations:
- Clarify goals
- Specify success factors
- Anticipate approaches
- Establish Personal Learning Focus
- Reflect on the coaching process
Our discussion group agreed, however, that without the bidirectional influences of kindness, compassion, care and co-equal status in the design and implementation of the teaching, the five-step process remains but a perfunctory task which does not necessarily enhance the co-teaching experience.
There are multiple ways in which we can acknowledge the other. By listening with heart and mind, pausing, paraphrasing, posing questions and paying attention to verbal and nonverbal clues, we each contribute to a purposeful, effective and reflective teaching design.
- Bryk, A. & Schneider, B. (2003). Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for School Reform. Creating Caring Schools (written in italics), Vol 60, No. 6, pp. 40-45, March 2003
- Costa, A. L., & Garmston, R. J. (2016). Cognitive Coaching: Developing self-directed leaders and learners (written in italics), 3rd edition. Rowan and Littlefield.