Answering another co-teaching question

Another great question about co-teaching came my way today: How would you best explain to a teacher the benefits of co-planning, when they have already taught the course several times? I feel very equipped to explain the benefits of co-teaching and co-assessing, but selling the idea of co-planning a previously taught course is still a challenge for me.

Benefits of co-planning when you have taught the course:

 1)    First, we have to define what co-planning means. If it means re-planning everything, then that would be a misunderstanding. This would be a waste of time for both parties. So, co-planning, means coming to a common understanding (ie. Shared and consistent) about the outcomes, including what students need to know, understand and do and determining how students will demonstrate those things. Co-planning might be a discussion about the plan that has already been created. It might be one person asking the other questions for clarification and so on. It does not mean starting from scratch.

2)    Regardless of whether or not the course is new to a teacher or not, what is new in a co-teaching situation is a) the two teachers working together, and most importantly b) the students. You and I both know that no year is ever the same as the one previous, just like raising one of my daughters was nothing like raising the other. So, even the best laid, most detailed and well-considered plans have to be adapted (differentiated) year after year. The advantage of co-teaching is you have two brains, two idea-factories, two personalities to do this, which results in richer plans.

3)    Two teachers means way different opportunities for learning. A unit planned for one teacher will look very different from a unit planned for two. It will have to be adapted to avoid the old “teacher acting like an EA while the other one teaches” syndrome. This is not co-teaching.

 I think the solution is to re-imagine what co-planning can look like AND acknowledge the actual ramifications of having two teaching professionals in the room at the same time. Students need to view these people as equal instructors, supports, partners. If these people, themselves, do not plan together, then this falls apart. I speak from tons of experience. Tons! I have had this succeed and I have had it fail. Every time it failed, we didn’t spend enough time together before we ever started with the students.

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