Wednesday, January 11, 2012
A Great Model of Successful Co-Teaching
Educators Gloria Wilson and Joan Blednick go through the steps of how to create a successful coteaching program to help support students with learning disabilities. Unfortunately, co-teaching is not always a priority in schools. I have worked with my wonderful co-teacher for four years, and the increasing demands she has for her caseload as a Special Educator make it difficult for us to do the stellar co-teaching we used to.
I am always inspired by true stories of co-teachers who overcome odds and work to the full benefit of students, so read on:
Teaching in Tandem
One School's Success Through Coteaching
"We just don't know" was the response to the question "What can we expect from this child?" The question was posed in 1972 to a doctor holding a young child with special needs during the exposé of the infamous institution of Willowbrook in New York State. How did anyone know the capabilities of children who were not exposed to any typical conditions of life? Today, with 40 years of federal and state legislation, research, and the devoted practices and advocacy of educators and families, life for a child with a disability can be quite different.
Although we still answer "We don't know" to the question,"What can we expect from this child?," expectations of students, educators, and parents have risen exponentially since the 1970s. The practice of coteaching, the pairing of general- and special-education teachers in inclusive classrooms that comprise a wide diversity of learners, is becoming common practice in today's schools. We've seen it work. We've seen typically achieving students and students with disabilities thrive in classes where coteachers create amazing opportunities for learning.
The stakes are high. Learning doesn't automatically happen by putting two teachers in a room and, when done poorly, instead of getting more intensive instruction, increased opportunities to learn, and reduced stigma, students with disabilities can get just the opposite. Having seen many successful cotaught classes, we are committed to supporting those coteachers striving and struggling to succeed.
One of many success stories is of educators in a middle school in New York State whose combined efforts changed their school from one designated as being in need of improvement to one that worked. The process was complex, but there were some essential elements that surely contributed to their success:
Coteaching is difficult, complex, and dependent on a host of interwoven conditions, but success in cotaught, inclusive classes for many students with disabilities is eminently possible. Coteaching takes on various forms; we've only briefly described the process here that evolved through administrative and faculty commitment to ensure that coteaching was effective and supported real changes in the classrooms.