It's no secret that I'm pretty competitive. I also love logic games. Brain teasers are my fave. When I heard about escape rooms, I was so pumped. WHAT IS AN ESCAPE ROOM?An escape room is an activity where participants are put through a search and find like challenge that include puzzles and locks. There is usually a given scenario to help engage participants such as: you are the survivors of a zombie apocolypse but you've all been contaminated. You are locked in a laboratory where they were creating an antidote. Find the antidote within an hour and save yourselves!....You can see how decorating and creating a story helps engage you in the game! Clues can be out in the open or hard to find (invisible ink, random numbers on the wall, etc.). Participants "win" if they can unlock all of the boxes - usually one is containing whatever you are trying to find (example: the antidote). When you find that box, you win!
There are a lot of scenarios where I would use an escape room! This blog explores a couple of times that I used (or would suggest using) an escape room!
THE FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL Day one - I introduced myself and did a welcome activity.
Day two - I showed the syllabus and the classroom rules/expectations.
Day three - I gave a pretest (yuck)
Day four - BREAKOUT EDU!!!!!
First of all, pretests are not fun but for my class, they are necessary. Because we are on a three track system, it helps me to be sure students are in the right class and allows me to gauge the right starting point for the following week. After three days, they know a little bit about me and my classroom but now I want to know about them. Other than their academic work, I want to know their personalities - enter Breakout Edu.
Breakout Edu has a lot of team building pre-made escape rooms. I had ordered their breakout box (you can also make your own!), picked a scenario, and set up my room. That first Friday, students came into the room and I simply introduced them to the scenario (you need to unlock the box within 40 minutes in order to get the prize!), and started the timer. There were a million questions. But that was my plan all along! I answered some basic structure questions but didn't answer anything that would help them solve the puzzles included with the escape room. I was looking for
As I've said in previous posts, I ask students to choose a project that shows they know the material. They have to present (or in this case facilitate) the project for the class. My Geometry class loved creating escape rooms for their congruent triangles unit. Even more helpful, it ended up creating a couple of days of review for my students before the unit test! They loved watching their classmates struggle through problems and they loved being sneaky about creating it. I definitely saw more engagement for this project choice than any other I've done so far!
Lucky for us, Breakout Edu provides a template for teachers to create their own escape rooms. It walks you through the process so nicely that of course my students can figure it out!
I highly encourage you to have your students create escape rooms. Something I will be trying during my next unit will be splitting the class into two groups and having them create escape rooms for each other to try. That should amp up the competition! :)
THE NEW BREAKOUT EDU OR
"CAN'T I JUST MAKE MY OWN?"Breakout Edu has recently changed their website/cost. It is now a subscription service. When I first began doing escape rooms, I definitely thought the cost was worth it. Now that I have the hang of it as well as the template for myself and students to use, I'm not sure how much I will go back to the site for more game scenarios. It really depends on your experience and how much work you are wanting to put into it. Getting the scenario from Breakout Edu takes almost no work. They have everything completed for you (including a Youtube video that walks you through the story and how to set up the room!). If you are willing to put in some more time (or give your students time to work on it!) you may be just fine creating your own!
Either way, you should definitely try an escape classroom! Competition, team building, content review and more can be gained from it! AND IT'S SO MUCH FUN!!!!!
I spent the past Thursday and Friday at an Educational Technology conference in Springfield, Illinois and it was amazing.
So many times when signing up for a conference, especially when it means missing instructional time, I hesitate. Will it be worth missing the time? Writing the sub plans? The cost of registration, travel, and stay?
The Illinois Education And Technology conference this year was worth it all several times over. You will probably see me reference something from this conference for weeks and months to come! And I LOVE when this happens! So often when we hear “professional development” it feels like a bad thing so I love love love when I can share about a great experience. IETC, you guys are doing it right! 👍🏼
There were several sessions I went to that I felt were worth the full amount of money and time spent, but one seems so fitting for this time of year.
I’m drained. My co-blogger has had a couple of really rough weeks in a row. I’m feeling a bit run down and discouraged myself. Neither one of us is one to start complaining hard about kids or school but it sure helps to have at least one of you in a good spot during one of those low points. Lately for us, that hasn’t been the case. My conference time started off that way. I drove about 30 minutes towards the conference before realizing I’d left my luggage at home and needed to go back for it. When I checked in, they let me know there’d been an error and my room was booked for the following two nights. They were able to get a room for me, but it was quite the process. I checked in and thought, “what a great start this is”.
But that didn’t matter because when you attend conferences like this, you are surrounded by teachers who love their jobs and want to be life long learners! That energy and attitude is contagious!
My favorite session(s) from day one were led by Joe Sanfelippo, a superintendent from Wisconsin. You may recognize him from some of his videos on his district's facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FallCreekSchoolDistrict/)
This guy was so awesome that I attended his morning session, heard him as the lunch keynote, and then went back for his afternoon session. I felt so energized and ready to role after all of it that I knew ole Joe would get his own honorary blog post (I'm in the Joe Sanfelippo fan club now! Go Crickets!) Below are some of the takeaways from attending his sessions.
The first session I attended was titled "Hacking Leadership", titled the same as his book (which I bought and have already read because wow).
He focused on a cyclical model for healthy and productive schools revolving around being intentional, opening doors, and building staff.
So often I feel bogged down by trying to make a change by contributing to a positive culture but Joe mentioned that upon entering a school building that had had 4 principals in 5 years, he was determined to change the culture 30 seconds at a time. 30 seconds at a time...now that I can do. I think I need to do some huge thing that in the end is too overwhelming to actually happen. Instead, I can commit to smile at people in the hallway, converse with co-workers and students, and making positive calls home.
As a group, we came up with these other ways to be intentional
TELL YOUR STORY At lunch Joe spoke more about his specific experience at his K-12 school of 800. He spoke about the importance of sharing your positive school story. The negative talk seems to be a lot louder and said a lot more often. We need to drown that out with all of the truly terrific things happening in our schools. Even the people making most of our decisions (the school board) only ever get to hear about the three B's: beans, busses, and balls (food, transportation, and sports). If we want the real story to be told, we have to do it!
He started broadcasting all of the important things happening at his school on instagram, twitter, facebook, and through podcasts. While school newsletters are useful for some, we need to meet our community where they are at. After surveying the community, Joe found the majority of our student's parents are more likely to read from facebook because they already spend a few hours there daily.
If we want to communicate with our community, we need to find out where they are and GO TO THEM! They can't only hear from us when we need something. They should be hearing from us all the time! Find the best way to start and then do it! Tell the story of your school and why you show up to work and others will want to be a part of the story!
BE A SOCIAL MEDIA SUPERSTARSchools are scared to use social media. What if someone sues us for posting a picture of their kid? What if someone posts or comments something horrible?
Joe spoke about overcoming both of these issues but more importantly, he tied it back to telling a story and loving what we do. People don't know why we became teachers. They don't know what the day to day looks like inside a classroom. And a lot of those people are not reading that newsletter you send home once a month or quarter by mail. We ask ourselves, "How do we share with people what is going on and how incredible these kids and teachers are?". We already know the answer: social media. But there are so many!!! How will we ever have time to spend on all of the social media? We won't have time to do our own jobs! Well you don't need to learn ALL of the social media outlets, just find where your community lives. Most commonly the kids are on instagram, the parents are on facebook, and the alumni are on twitter. Lucky for us, instagram allows you to post to all three with one click which means it is no longer about managing a million apps. Just start documenting all of those amazing things that are already happening!
But what about kids who don't want their pictures taken?!?! Joe operates on an opt-out clause meaning students have to sign a sheet of paper in order to say that they don't want to be in pictures the school may post. For the few who do sign it, Joe contacts them personally to talk about why they want to be able to share the story and include the students. More often than not the parents didn't read the paper and just signed all of the papers sent home the first week of school...which doesn't speak so great for that process either but that's not what we're talking about this week. :) For the families who truly don't want the picture and aren't able to connect through e-mail or social media the school sends a paper newsletter. The goal to communicate with parents is prioritized.
What about when someone comments something nasty?!? Now that's on our facebook page!!!!
True. Joe suggests replying to it with something like, "I'm sorry you feel that way. If you would like to talk more my number is ___________. This is not the place to have that conversation but I would be more than happy to speak on the phone or in person."....then he runs around and takes 8-10 pictures of the amazing things happening in classrooms and posts them so that the ugly comment gets buried in all of the great things happening.
It's all about the story we're telling. It's too important of a story to not tell because we're scared of a couple of people who are going to complain no matter what. So often the negative comments are the ones heard the most. Change the culture by drowning them out with all of the incredible students and teachers and staff that make up your school building!
There is a reason why many schools hire someone specifically to run their communications and social media: it's important.
I LOVE JOE! GO CRICKETS!I listened to Joe for about 3 hours. I could have listened and talked to this guy for days. Lucky for me (and you!) he has his own website with tons of resources. I know I will be checking it regularly!
Lastly, please please please feel free to ask me if I've written my notes for the day and how I'm telling my story. It is way too easy to go to these conferences and feel the mountain top experience for a couple of days and then....
But culture change doesn't happen that way. It happens consistently....30 seconds at a time.
Teaching is really, really hard. When you take your college classes and visit classrooms for observations, you really don’t appreciate how difficult it really is. Then you start your teaching career and assume the responsibility of applying all of your knowledge from college as well as worrying about how to make the lives of students better while trying teach them your content. Reality sets in and you realize how hard it is to balance everything that comes with your job.
Every teacher is going to have a rough week. Some years, you may have more rough weeks than easy ones. I am personally coming off one of those rough weeks. I have obsessed over the events and struggled with it to the point where I didn’t want to see my students. How do we come back from those types of weeks and keep our love for teaching and students? I can’t speak for everyone, but these are the things that I need to do when I have a week like this past one.
I have been teaching 10 years and the process of taking care of myself so that I can be the best I possibly can be at my job is something I am continuously working on. I don’t know anyone that is perfect at finding a balance between being a good teacher and being a person. It is something that I will continue to strive for. So far doing some combination of the things above have helped me come back year after year to teaching and allow me to gives kids a fresh start every week. I don’t wish any of these rough weeks on anyone, but the reality is that we all have them and it is nice to have a plan of attack for those days, weeks, months, or years. Hopefully some of these strategies are helpful to you when you go through those times, too. And for me, writing about all of it was one more release!
What ways do you intentionally de-stress after a long week? I am open to any suggestions!
I hope you have a fantastic week! And if you don’t, try a few of these steps and don’t forget that you get a fresh start next week.
For teachers, conferences are both something to look forward to and something that we dread. They are necessary so that we can talk to parents about their students progress in class. They are difficult because those conversations can be hard, awkward, and sometimes confrontational. At the secondary level it is also a struggle to get parents to come to parent-teacher conferences at all. It can start to feel like a waste of time when there can be so much preparation involved.
Both of us (Danielle and Becca) have conferences this week and we assume that they are fast approaching for others as well. Maybe you are a first time teacher or maybe you just continue to be on the struggle bus with conferences. Either way, here are our thoughts and ideas about have successful parent teacher conferences.
To start, many schools are different in their opinion of how to structure conferences. Some schools want students to be there and have student-led conferences and some would say it should be just parents and teachers present for conferences. Is it open house style or do you need to schedule times with specific parents? What materials do you need to have ready for parents who do attend?
The best conferences I (Danielle) have ever participated in were the conferences my building did when I taught middle school. I taught at a true middle school where we had two 6th grade teams. Every teacher had a homeroom/advisory class. When it came to conferences we would schedule conferences with the parents of our homeroom class. The school scheduled one day after school for conferences and then on the next day the students did not have school and we were there until 4 but we were open all day for conferencing appointments. We scheduled an appointment with those 20-25 parents of students in our homeroom. Then my 6th grade team would meet and discuss which conferences we wanted to have as a team. If there was a student that really struggled or had specific behavior issues, we would all block out that time slot to have a team conference with that parent and student which was student-led.
In the weeks leading up to conferences, we would take time in homeroom to organize a portfolio of work from each class and the students would write reflections on their work that they would go over with their parents during the conference. I would discuss any issues that had been brought to my attention by the other teachers and answer any questions I could. If the parent wanted to talk to a specific teacher, then they could also schedule time for that during conferences as well but the main responsibility was for the homeroom teachers and meeting a different teacher was more of a special case. When we did it this way, I felt really supported since I had my team and a lot of preparation ahead of time. The responsibility was really on the students because they were leading the conference and they knew what issues they were going to have to talk about with their parents.
I (Becca) have not had experience with scheduling conferences, though that sounds like it may make it more worth the time! I try to have some candy available as well as a folder for each student containing student work and some student reflection. As parents arrive, I offer candy, ask them to sign in, and show them student work along with their grade. Most of the time the student is not with them. I explain how the grade is calculated, how their student behaves and performs in class, and how they could get better. I express any concerns I may have and check for questions. With any time left (many times the parent is trying to get around the building to see 6 other teachers and may be in a hurry), I make sure they understand our LMS so that they can have as much information about their student’s grades and attendance as possible!
The few times that the student is with them, I always include the student in the conversation. I have found that students are much more likely to say what they may need to be successful while sitting one on one with a parent present. While many would not pull you aside in class and tell you then need help being reminded what to do or would like more examples, they might in a conference setting! I have seen many students take some responsibility when I can tell both them and their parents what I think their strengths are. If their grades are not correlating well with their ability, they more often than not will take responsibility for their part. I would much rather have that conversation than just talk to a parent about what their student communicates to them versus what they communicate to me. Again, those are rare occasions for me, to have students present.
When it comes to conferences and if your district is considering any changes to your conference procedure, I would suggest the following:
If you don’t have control over your structure of conferences, try to find ways to work within your system.
HOW TO: HAVE A SUCCESSFUL CURRICULUM MEETING12/4/2017
Our first day back from Thanksgiving break and I had a sub. No, I wasn’t sick, I was at a curriculum meeting. It’s at this point must of us are rolling our eyes and thinking, was that really necessary? Could we have met for an hour or just used email and Google Apps to communicate? I’m right there with you. I hate missing a school day unless I can be sure that what I have learned or accomplished will positively and directly impact students.last Monday was one of those days and I think there were some really important components necessary for any department who wants to have quality curriculum that result in tangible accomplishments.
Have a clear goal.
We were trying to find a better way to place kids in the correct class as freshmen. We had way too many students who were moving to a lower track and a few moving to a higher track of math during the first semester of school. When almost 20% of your freshmen class are changing tracks, something is wrong with the placement method. We all knew that it was an issue and needed to find a better way to help transition students into the correct high school math course.
Include all the key players AND be sure they have a voice.
How many of us have been given notes from a meeting we weren’t present for containing some sort of directive or decision that directly impacted us? I’m sure there are some out there that are totally fine with this but I’d argue that making real change means all parties involved in implementing the change need to be present and in agreement about the changes made. How can we be 100% clear and in agreement, ready to implement or enforce something when we weren’t there?
This particular curriculum meeting was great because all of the freshmen math teachers were there as well as the 8th grade math teachers from each feeder middle school. Even better, we were trusted to get the goal accomplished, which brings me to the next point-
Remember, it isn't an admin meeting.
I have nothing against administrators. I would love to be an administrator one day! In fact, great administrators helped this meeting happen! Most would admit however that admin meetings have a reputation for being a lot of talk and jumping through the hoops states put on public schools. This meeting wasn't like that. We started by talking about how each of us grade and what students need to know before they enter our classes in order to be successful. We used Google docs and collaborated. There was one goal and that was to understand the expectations for enterering high school math classes and to create a placement test and criteria for placing students correctly. We had an entire day to complete the task and our administrators simply poked their head in every now and then to see if we needed anything. We weren't given additional tasks. No one walked in and said they would have to check with another higher up before we'd have an official answer. We had the autonomy to make final decisions and simply report back how the day went!
Give mutual respect and desire open communication.
During the first hour of the meeting, we were trying to sort out how best to spend the day and accomplish the goal. We began to discuss the gaps we were seeing at the high school. Kids didn't know the difference between slope and plotting an ordered pair or they were lacking number sense, etc. It would have been really easy for for the 8th grade teachers to take it personally and shut down but they didn't. We were not attacking them and they trusted that. We knew they had pressure to teach the standards and push kids the same way that we did and we were determined to respect and work together to do what was best for our students.
Make decisions with kids in mind.
Again, near the beginning of the morning we were talking about the standards assigned to each of our courses and the amount of pressure we felt to speed through it in order to "cover" everything. I know we are not alone in this feeling and the fact that none of the schools were accountable to each other by being in the same district could have made the conversation worse. Instead, we were able to communicate respectfully and come to the conclusion that we were professionals who could take responsibility for specific standards and be accountable to each other. We didn't work in the same town or within the same district but we served the same kids. In the end, what was best for them was for us to trust that the person coming next would do what they said they would do. For example, I will teach students how to solve multi-step equations. The 8th grade teachers who have the students who will enter my track would then be sure that the students have become masters of solving one step equations and using the order of operations. Rather than pushing those kids through solving different equations, they would leave that to me and spend the time being sure they had the prerequisite skills mastered. No more rushing kids through standards. They need to become masters of the material and that doesn't happen by reviewing fractions for one week every year. As hard as it is to make these decisions, they have to be made because it is what is best for kids.
Communication doesn't end after the meeting does.
Finally, one of the most important steps to a curriculum meeting is that the discussion that began does not end. After completing our goal for the day and creating a placement test that we agreed on, we discussed what we needed to do as a follow up.
When would it be given? How would students review? How would it be graded consistently across three different middle schools? How will they be sure their prerequisite standards would be mastered before students got to 8th grade?
We set a date to meet again after the test would be given so that we could grade it all together and agree. The 8th grade teachers said they planned on speaking with the lower grades to have similar meetings about mastering standards.
The key here is that it wasn't over. We didn't pat ourselves on the back and move on. We gave each other high fives for the day and planned to meet again and email in between meetings.
WHY DO WE EVEN NEED A CURRICULUM MEETING?Curriculum is the plan for what we will teach kids. If we don't discuss it and work to make it the very best it can be, what are we doing? We owe it to our profession and to our students and community to talk to each other. We need to be willing to have the hard conversations about what we are doing and whether or not it is the best for our students. We may feel like we have kids all the time but in reality, that 45 minutes that I see students 5 times a week and 9 months of the year flies by.
BUILDING FUNDAMENTALS: BEING A GREAT MENTOR8/28/2017
Teaching is a hard profession to enter. No one can deny that. Teachers tend to have a burn out rate of 5 years. One of the best ways to help get past this is having a support system in your school. This usually starts with a mentor in the building. Most districts have a new teacher program that pairs new teachers with a mentor in their building. This mentor is the first line of defense and support for a new teacher and is an incredibility important relationship.
The quality of the mentors used in a school seem to have a direct relationship to new teachers staying in the profession and staying in that specific district.
What makes a good mentor? What qualities do mentors need to have to be what they need to be for new teachers?
Our profession is very important and we should do all we can to keep quality new teachers in the profession. Having a mentor with these qualities can go a long way to helping a new teacher grow and feel welcome in their school.
So you’re a new teacher! You may be brand new to the career or maybe you’re just new to the building. Either way, you will most likely be assigned a mentor to help you settle in and learn what you need to about the school and the culture.
My advice to you in getting the most out of your mentor is to ask questions! Ask them all! They are there to help you adjust and answer questions.
For brand new teachers specifically, you may have a million questions but these are the ones I suggest you ask early!
For all teachers new to a building, you’ll want the answer to these questions!
These questions are not all encompassing. You will continue to have questions. Keep asking them! Other than those specific questions we suggest you:
We hope you have a terrific first year teaching or first year at your new building! It can be a roller coaster but having a mentor and truly using them can make even the roughest of years a great experience in the end! Stay strong! Let us know how the years goes and any other advice you have about getting the most out of your mentor!
WHETHER YOU'RE FEELING LIKE THIS......
THE BIG DAY IS APPROACHING QUICKLY!
The first day of school! I don’t know about everyone else, but that day still makes me nervous every year. In the beginning it was straight up nerves but now has shifted to more nervous excitement. A new year! What will this year be like? What will the students be like? How will all of the changes I made to my curriculum work out? There is a lot of potential on that first day of school.
There is a lot of prep work that goes into the first day of school and the beginning of a new year. There is the room set-up, curriculum, school and department meetings, and so many other details that work up to this day. I know that the first day looks different at different grade levels and I will admit that I really only familiar with the secondary set-up. Regardless some of it is the same and most classes are trying to get the same types of tasks done:
For the new teacher, the first day of school can definitely be a day that is filled with excitement and nerves.
Here are some tips/things to know about the first day of school:
The real trick to having a successful first day is to have activities where the focus is on the students and not the teacher only talking at them all day about rules and procedures. It’s an easy trap to fall in, especially in the secondary classroom, spending every class reviewing the class syllabus, rules and procedures of the class. This is boring for the teacher and the students.
I have tried many different things for the first day to keep the focus on them and not me. There are so many different ways to approach this and it really depends on what you want to accomplish on the first day. Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and other social media outlets are filled with different ideas for what to do on the first day of school.
Here are few ideas that we like!
The first day of school is a chaotic, nerve wracking, and exciting day. Take time to enjoy it whether you are a first year teacher or veteran teacher. It is a day filled with promise, new beginnings, and new opportunities!
Above are just a few ideas on how to make the most out of your first day of school. If you have any other ideas, please share them below!
An open house is typically the first chance that students and parents alike get to put a face with a name. They know that they (or their child) has been assigned to you for the year but now is you chance to put their minds at ease and give them a good idea of what to expect for the year. Depending on how well your community turns out, this may be your first impression opportunity for the majority of your students...or it may be just a few. Regardless, it is better to be prepared!
The first thing any visitor notices when they come to your open house is your classroom and you. This is not the time to be in shirts and t-shirt working on your classroom. This is your first teacher duty for the year and parents will be looking for a professional. You want your classroom to be welcoming, clean, and organized. This parent is entrusting their child to you and you want to leave them feeling confident in you. Greet them at the door and have a space designated for them to sign-in and leave contact information, any handouts you want them to give, and places for them to sit and wait in the case that you have a line.
Some handouts you may want to give:
Every grade-level and school does open house differently, some may have presentations for parents and others are more of meet and greet. If you have a large group, you may have a presentation style overview of your information ready and maybe an activity that parents/students could participate in. At the secondary level it is more of a meet and greet where we get to meet with just the parents and student which makes it a lot easier to get to know them. At this point, we like to go over the handouts. At the secondary level we talk about the syllabus. The big points for us to include are how we grade and what our rules and expectations are. Communicating this to the parents now before school really gets going will help us avoid confusion about grades and discipline later on. We also discuss the supplies they may need throughout the year. We are at one-to-one schools and complete a lot of things online but ask our students to have some organizational tools like a folder, notebook, and/or binder as well as pens and pencils. Once we have gone over the handouts, we like to check in with the parents about their understanding of the school learning management system. Most of us have an online portal where parents can see their student’s grades and attendance. I like to make sure parents know they have access to this and answer any questions they may have at this time.
You’ve now introduced yourself, let them know rules, procedures, what to expect, and what supplies to purchase. Give them a chance to ask questions and then help them find their next stop! Maybe they have another classroom to visit or maybe they are on their way home for the evening but your last job is to guide them in that direction! You'll be exhausted after doing this over and over but you can rest easy knowing you put your best foot forward!
We hope you had a successful open house! Let us know if you tried something different that either went really well or you wish you'd never done!
Co-teaching is hard. It can take years to really perfect your flow as a pair of teachers in the same room and a lot of co-teaching partners don’t get the chance to do that. Someone moves or gets their schedule changed and it’s back to square one.
While you may not have years to perfect it, here are some tips for the here and now while you still have your co-teacher!
DIVIDE UP RESPONSIBILITIES CLEARLY AND EARLYfrom Pinterest and Co-teaching That Works
Co-teaching is somewhat like a year long group project. If you don’t know who is doing what, you are likely to get frustrated and do more (or maybe less!) work than you really should. Think about the major parts of your classroom and split up responsibilities. I use something like the chart to the side when dividing up work.
Some of these are responsibilities are pretty obvious to me about who should be doing it in my classroom and may be obvious to you. The point, however, is that a conversation is had with your co-teacher and you agree on specific responsibilities. What may be obvious to you may not be what your partner teacher is thinking.
Something else to take into consideration while splitting responsibilities would be how often you see your co-teacher. Maybe your co-teacher is already moving between multiple classrooms throughout the day! You may want them to be with you all day or want their focus more on your class. Maybe they help with a special activity or coach outside of school and one time of the year is busier than others. Talk about it and be sure to take their schedule into consideration when dividing up responsibilities.
SHARE FACETIME IN FRONT OF THE CLASS
This is just one person's opinion BUT I don't think co-teaching works well when the students see one of you as the teacher and the other as the assistant. When one person is using all of the face time in front of the class and the other is only used one-on-one, students see one teacher. And a big part of co-teaching is teaching together. While you have different specialties, you were both trained to be in the classroom. Maybe one of you delivers the notes/lecture portion but the other can explain the transition activity or homework. Maybe there is a weekly activity like What's in the Box? that they can run. Whatever it is, you need to share face time. Decide how this will happen and then don't interrupt each other unless you've discussed being ok with it. Co-teaching is sharing and all of your students are watching it happen in front of their faces! Set a good example for what sharing a classroom and being polite looks like when talking to the class. :)
COME TO AN AGREEMENT ON MODIFICATIONS AND ALL BIG ASSIGNMENTS/TESTS/PROJECTSTypically the set up is that one of you is a master of content and the other is the master of special education. You each have your specialties and there is a reason you are both in the room. It is important to talk about what types of modifications will need to be made for students and to BOTH have a good idea of what they need regularly. My co-teacher made a "students at a glance" page so that accommodations are easy to see rather than needing to reference a 504 or IEP all the time. A different co-teacher I worked with made a spreadsheet and checked off the modifications that each student needed so it was easy to see what a majority would need.
Sometimes I get really into my content and start making tests or projects that are really awesome but may be super overwhelming for some of my students who have learning disabilities or 504's. Bouncing ideas off of my co-teacher helps me think through it and chunk better or completely remove parts of a project that aren't necessary.
It is important for BOTH of you to agree on the modifications when it comes to shortening tests or projects. Just be sure to communicate! Which brings me to my last point...
BE A TEAM!
There are days when the last thing you want is another person in your room BUT there are also times when that person is the ultimate life saver! Everyone has one of those days where you need to be able to step back and let someone else take the lead and having a co-teacher means you can take a breather and get back in there rather than feeling the full weight all day. A good teammate provides that breather for you when you need it!
A good team adapts together. Maybe this is your first year co-teaching and you are used to having the run of the room with no one else to check in with. You already have your routine....but you aren't alone this year and it is no longer your classroom. Not gonna lie, I had some trouble sharing and adapting my first year co-teaching. But digging my feet into the ground with my own routine didn't help anything and I had a million times more positive experience the next year when I completely opened up my routine to change. It became our classroom and our routine rather than just mine. It was better for me. It was better for my co-teacher. Most importantly it was better for my students. Be willing to change and don't take things to personally in the process!
In fact, this person is now your work wife/husband in a lot of ways! Students will definitely treat you that way. You may have told a student they need to wait to use the restroom just a seconds before they walk over to your co-teacher to try again. Have each other's backs! Be their freaking person!
There is definitely some extra stress that comes with co-teaching (at least your first time or with a new partner). Communicate early and often, always take each other into consideration, and don't take things too personally and you'll be just fine!
And on those days when it doesn't feel "just fine" dance it out!
Just kidding...kind of.
I've witnessed some really toxic teaching partnerships that just were not going to work. If you are communicating and considering the other person in sharing your classroom and procedures but you are still frustrated, set a time for a conversation one on one.
There were a couple times in the last few years when my co-teacher and I stayed for a few minutes during lunch or after school to talk over how something one of us said came off as rude or disrespectful in front of the class. For us, it was always just a miscommunication and we were able to just apologize or laugh it off and move on. That is not the case for everyone.
If a few one on one meetings don't seem to be doing the trick, ask your co-teacher if they would be willing to sit down with an administrator to work out the problems. I really hope it doesn't come to this and some of you may be laughing thinking about two adults not being able to work things out at work but it happens. If your co-teacher is open to it, hopefully you can resolve differences or your administrator can see the relationship is not healthy for students and make a schedule change. If they don't want to speak to an administrator together, you should go alone and ask for advice. At that point, it is documented and if you work with some great administrators like I do, they'll be able to help you out one way or another. The key here is to work up the chain of command and not turn it into school gossip. We're all adults here. Be sure to act like it!
That's all for co-teaching! How long have you been co-teaching? Any words of advice to add?
Let us know by commenting below! :)
Parents. I feel that teachers have a love-hate relationship with parents. We love parents for sharing their students with us, and we love when parents are proactive and work with us to help students be successful. We hate when parents are helicopters and constantly question our decisions about our class and response to students. The reality though is that it essential for us to make parent contact and try to build solid, positive relationships with parents as much as possible.
Keeping in contact with parents can be a challenge. From phone tag, numbers that don't work, trying to keep up with emails, unreliability of letters and newsletters making it home, and social media issues, making parent contacts can be a huge stress of our job. Unfortunately I do not have some magic solution to always getting a hold of parents when I want to and make every parent contact a positive one.
Here are some tips that have been passed to me and what I have found in time teaching:
Make contact early in the school year. Many schools have a back-to-school night, so try to make the most of this time and have a conversation with parents that come and share with them some basic class information and get their contact information. If you are super organized and ambitious, you can try to make contact before this and make a parent phone call inviting them to back-to-school night and introducing yourself. This would obviously be easier for elementary teachers because they have less students that would have to called. For secondary teachers that would seem insane and I totally get it. The way this could be doable for secondary teachers would be if you have a homeroom or advisory class. Then you would have one class that you could call and make contact with personally. At my school that is what our expectation is. Within the first 2 weeks of school, we have to call all the parents in our advisory class to introduce ourselves and discuss our role as advisor.
Make the first contact a positive one if possible. If you have been working in education, you know this to be true. Parents are more apt to work with you and be receptive to negative information, if you have first had a positive conversation. Even if you do have to have a conversation with a parent about something negative related to their student, it is helpful to start with 1 to 2 positive things and then bring up the issue that happened in class with that student.
Try to make it a partnership. When you have a student that is difficult, I have found it helpful to ask for help from the parents. I ask them to help me understand their student and what we can do to help that student be successful. When parents realize it is not an 'us versus them' scenario, they might be more open to addressing classroom issues at home and supporting your actions in school.
Write a script. If you are a new teacher or just uncomfortable talking to parents, it could help to write a script. I definitely did this when I was a first year teacher, because I had never done it and while I am super comfortable talking to 130 teenagers in a day talking to their parents is something else entirely. I still use scripts now, mainly because it keeps me on topic. Sometimes a parent just wants to talk and then I get off topic or after making so many calls I just forget what I need to talk about. Either way writing it down and having it in front of me is helpful.
Don't take it personally. This is hard. I still find this hard to a certain extent. When a parent is hard on you, it can be easy to take it personally, just as it is when a student is difficult. The thing to remember is that parents are trying to look out for their students and they don't know what it is like in the classroom most of the time and they have only heard one side of the story. As the teacher our job is to first listen and then ask questions that help get to the root of the problem. Then discuss with parents your version of things and reassure parents that our goal is have students be successful. We all want what is best for our students. When parents are going off though it 99% of the time isn't really about you, but frustration with their student, their history with teachers and education, or any number of family issues that could be happening. I know that when it comes down to it, that may not help you feel better when you have a rough parent contact but it can help you put it in perspective when you are more calm.
Make use of Technology. There are so many tools out there now that can help you reach out to parents. They definitely can make life easier for you and parents. Here are some tools you can try out:
Original post : 9/25/2017 Revised: 7/23/18