Co-teaching: Modeling a Collaborative Mindset
Modeling teamwork for the students is one of the most important aspects of co-teaching. The challenge is creating a shared identity while keeping one’s own. As teachers, we usually have our own classroom, with full control of it – letting go can be hard. French and English teachers are from different backgrounds, different countries, with different educational models. How do we make it work?
Shared bilingual projects and coordination of curricula are part of co-teaching, but collaboration starts with a shared mindset. A teacher at FISW doesn’t talk about my class but OUR class. We try to make many decisions jointly, as much as possible, while respecting separate decisions. We also make sure that communication is always open, that we discuss and consider each other’s perspectives and needs. We pay attention to who leads and who follows to make sure that it is balanced. And of course, at times we agree to disagree. In one word: we learn to trust each other.
This mindset is a great model for our students that carries important benefits. They see that we have different strengths, interests, and personalities. We don’t contribute exactly the same things, and we are stronger because of it. Our students put this in action when they worked in committees to plan a library rededication ceremony. They specialized into teams that worked on programs, speeches, and decorations. Two boys drew on their own passion for food to invent a refreshments team. Everyone found a way to contribute. Not a single student argued that they should be the one solely in charge of the event.
Not only do our students get used to seeing us model different ways to be successful in a team, they see us relying on each other and asking for help. All co-teaching projects have both French and English elements. We define these ahead of time and figure out how to support each other. We don’t duplicate the work; we find ways to make our efforts complimentary. For example, when the students wrote a play that was going to be performed in front of an audience that included both French and English speakers, we decided that they should alternate scenes between the two languages. They took it a step further and wrote introductions for each scene in the opposite language, so that everyone in the audience could understand the plot. We stay humble, ask each other for help, and are proud to see our students put these co-teaching principles into action for themselves.
- Yvan Tabellion and Rachel Martin, Fifth Grade Teachers