Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

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
Gloria Lodato Wilson and Joan Blednick
"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:
  1. Any journey starts with the first step, and in this case the administration and faculty admitted that there was a problem and understood that they had to be part of the solution. The school district served a diversity of students whose socioeconomic, educational, and ethnic differences were extensive. Finding blame with families, economics, and the education system would have been easy. The teachers and administrators in this middle school, while acknowledging the challenges, took on the responsibility of change.
  2. The administration and faculty formed a committee to investigate the best ways to meet student needs. Although the administrators in this case were strong and had particular ideas, they valued partnerships and teachers' input.
  3. The school was allocated funds to support change, and together the administration and faculty decided on a long-term approach they felt would have the best chance of sustained success.
  4. Coteaching consultants were hired to run workshops, visit cotaught classes, and coach the coteachers. The consultants were in this middle school for one week a month over a two-year period.
  5. The coteaching consultants conducted workshops to help participants understand the power of coteachers; learn ways to directly address problems; and create an awareness of student needs, the complexities of curriculum, and proficiency in strategies that work. The building administrators attended these workshops with the coteachers, which showed the importance they placed on the process and learning how to support the coteachers when the consultants were not in the building.
  6. Through the workshops, class visitations, and coaching sessions, the consultants and the coteachers formed a partnership within an atmosphere of mutual respect, with a shared vision and a common goal.
  7. Through discussions with coteachers, the administration recognized the importance of coplanning and reformatted the master schedule to provide common planning time for the coteaching pairs, insisting that the time be used for coplanning.
  8. Coteachers were expected to use the learning strategies and various coteaching models in their classes. The general education teachers started using the strategies that they saw working in their cotaught classes in their solo-taught classrooms.
  9. The entire faculty felt responsible for all the students as a subtle transition from "your" students and "my" students changed to "our" students, and the faculty saw the real effects of their efforts reflected in student achievement.
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.

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