Teaching Partners


Could a teaching partner be the answer to your prayers or your worse nightmare?  The simple answer is that they could be either depending on how much thought and work you put into the process.  My advice to you would be to get a teaching partner.  Education has become too complex for you to do it on your own.  A lot of people wonder if the primary grades can handle teaching partners.  My answer for them is always "Absolutely, just keep the students in mind when making choices".  I have had a few teaching partners over the years and have learned that if you follow a few guidelines your teaching partner may be the answer to your prayers.

First you have to decide which collaboration will work best for your students and teaching situation.  Here are two models for a general education classroom: 
Co-Teaching:  Two teachers work together to teach in one classroom.  All academic areas are supported by both teachers simultaneously.
Departmentalize: Two teachers work separately to teach different subjects to the same students.

There are a a lot of variations that could go into either of those models.  Both models can be very beneficial.  Co-Teaching a subject like shared reading could alleviate stress of planning, allow for better grouping of students and allow students to have two different teaching perspectives.  I have worked with another teacher where we brought both of our classes together for shared reading.  We would take turns on being the lead teacher for the lesson.  After the whole group portion of the lesson students would be separated into groups for group work.  This can be a very supportive environment that decreases stress from presenting each lesson.  This is also the best way to find out if you like working with partners.

Departmentalizing could allow each teacher their own space to teach in while focusing on less subjects.  I have departmentalized with students switching out of my classroom and with me switching out of their classrooms.  The choice of who would switch was always based on the needs of that class.  Some classes do not fair well with change while others enjoy a change.  This way of teaching is most beneficial in giving you the autonomy of the classroom that you may desire.  If neither of these models will work for your school environment I encourage you to research other models

Here are some tips for making a partnership work:
1.  Let it go.  If my students are happy and being well educated, I don't dwell on what ever may bother me.  Don't sit and stew over the fact that your partner left her stuff in your area.  Who cares? Just clean it up and go on.
2.  Nurture your relationship.  I like to leave notes for my family and my teaching partner.  Quick little pick me ups reminding them of how much I love them.  It only takes a minute for you to tell someone that they are awesome on a sticky note.
3.  Get over yourself.  It takes billions of teachers to educate our world.  Your way is not better than someone else's way.  Use your partnership as a learning tool and be receptive to new ideas.
4.  Don't waste time on hashing out tasks.  When I come in to my classroom I look at the list of things to do.  I do as many as possible as quickly as possible.  If forms need to be filled out I do it for myself and my partner.  She does the same thing for me.  This divide and conquer of tasks benefits the students and cuts down on work.  Doing the tasks immediately also insures that I don't get behind on work to complete.  (Except for grading,  I haven't conquered that beast yet!!!)
5.  Make sure to look into the future a year or two before you sign on with a partner.  If they are newly married and planning on starting a family, you may not want to sign on there.  However, maybe that is where you are in life and a partner with those dreams would be a perfect fit for you.
6.  Assess your teaching goals and styles with someone before you sign on with them.  If they are OCD and you are a "hippy" go lucky teacher, you don't fit together.  You don't have to be the same, but you don't want someone driving your crazy because you are just too different.
7.  If the partnership goes south don't make the students suffer.  If you sign on to have a partner you have one school year to get through.  You need to make it work perfectly for the students no matter what.  If you want to end the partnership during the summer, so be it.

My hope for you is that you have a teaching partner as wonderful as mine.  My teaching partner is caring and always puts others firsts.  She has a no non-sense attitude that fits perfectly with mine.  I'm very lucky to have her. 

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