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Dear Julia: Trouble with Team Teaching

Dear Julia: Trouble with Team Teaching

This week’s question for Julia was posed by a teacher having trouble team teaching. Even if you aren’t team teaching, she offers great advice on how to work with another teacher- even when you don’t agree.

Dear Julia-

I’ve just started team teaching this year. My cooperative teacher is about twice my age, and seems like a great teacher. Our class is wonderful! However, there are a few unique children. One in particular is especially eccentric. The other teacher would like to have her “evaluated” by our school psychologist, but I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t know how I’ll back her up if she goes to the student’s parents about this. I want to present a united front as team teachers, but on this, I don’t think we can agree. I just think the child is different, but I love her since she’s not afraid to be different. What do you think I should do?

In this question, there are really two issues that all teachers have to face on a regular basis throughout a school year: when to seek more support for a child and the difficulties of teacher teamwork.

How to successfully manage the diverse needs of a classroom of children is one of our greatest challenges as educators. Having a positive and accepting attitude towards students is a great place to start! As teachers, though, the more we know about our students the better. If the child is evaluated by the school psychologist and that test determines that your view of her is correct -that she is a child who is not afraid to be different, then you can continue to support her in that way. If, however, the psychologist finds that there is a learning disability or some other issue that needs a different kind of support, think of the opportunity you would have missed to help this child. I think you should side with your cooperating teacher and seek additional information about your student.

The second issue in this question involves teacher teamwork. As educators, we have to work closely with a variety of other professionals throughout our school days. Some of these people will be more pleasant and much easier to work with than others. Working with a person who is very different from you -older, more experienced, maybe less accepting of children’s differences – can be a challenge, but it can also offer great rewards to both of you as well as to your students.

What I have found in my own experience as well as from working with many teacher teams is that the first step in collaboration is to decide on the nuts and bolts issues that are needed to run your team: common classroom procedures, policies, and rules. The next step is one that you and your partner may need to focus on now that school is underway: the deeper philosophical issues that affect your students. One of these issues should be when and how to intervene in issues that may appear insignificant to one teacher, but important to another. Others issues can include assessment philosophies, the types of relationships you want to cultivate with parents, and how to teach material in an interdisciplinary approach.

Another concern that I believe all teacher partners should openly discuss is the strengths that each teacher brings to the team and how using those strengths can make the team cohesive in support of each child’s learning. Focusing on the strengths of each team member will make it easier for you both to treat each other with professional courtesy in stressful times. When you focus on a partner’s strengths instead of weaknesses, then you will find that it is easier to work with that person in a united effort. When teachers unite for the common goal of reaching every child every day, every one wins.


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