Special EDition: Reigniting the Co-Teaching Flame

bandCo-teaching involves two adults paired together for a significant period of time to share the responsibilities of educating and raising children. Perhaps this is why co-teaching is often referred to as a “professional marriage”. This arrangement allows general and special educators a unique opportunity to blend their expertise to create a powerful partnership. But the honeymoon doesn’t last forever and now that it’s November, many co-teachers have already lost that loving feeling and are wondering…how can we reignite the co-teaching flame? Don’t file for divorce yet! You and your co-teaching partner can get back on track by revisiting a few of the following co-teaching basics:

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Special EDition: Who’s Who in the CTR’s SPE Resident Cohort?

AUSL’s Chicago Teacher Residency (CTR) program is about to witness its first class of graduates in Special Education.  This small but mighty cohort of 11 residents will be the first to receive a master’s degree in Special Education and be fully endorsed as Learning Behavior Specialists.  All of these residents have spent the past nine months observing, planning, teaching, and learning alongside a mentor teacher and coach in an elementary Special Education classroom in one of AUSL’s training academies.

So on the heels of Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought it was fitting to feature this group of future AUSL Special Educators and get to know them a little better as we explore Who’s Who…

Back Row: Brittany Anderson, Christine Roche, John Devine, Celia Davenport, Shannon Conroy, Nathan Rosiejka. Front Row: Agata Sidorkiewicz Jean Wilkinson, Jessica Kimbrough, Sally Tabatsalis, Chris Roeloffs.

Top Row: Brittany Anderson, Christine Roche, John Devine, Celia Davenport, Shannon Conroy, Nathan Rosiejka. Bottom Row: Agata Sidorkiewicz, Jean Wilkinson, Jessica Kimbrough, Sally Tabatsalis, Chris Roeloffs.

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To the Resident Class of 2014: A Letter From Your Future Teacher-Self

Dear Resident Class of 2014,

First, welcome to the Chicago Teacher Residency! My name is Savannah Jackson; this past year I have been a resident at National Teachers Academy with 27 of my favorite people: 25 first graders, my mentor and my co-resident. Next school year I will be joining the teachers, students and families at Marquette School of Excellence. Go Mustangs! And this is where it all starts!

I am genuinely thrilled for you to be joining a group of passionate, energetic, relentless Chicago teachers. There are many ways to become a teacher but this program is for those committed to becoming great teachers for the students of Chicago. The residency is here to provide experiences for you to be the best at your profession, making a real impact for students in high poverty schools.

As you take your first steps in the Teacher Residency, here are some words of advice from a few of us who have been through the trenches. I took an informal poll of my resident class, and am sharing with you the common threads.

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What’s May Got to Do With It: Part Two

Back in January, right before the second round of those humbling Winter Leads, Sarah Brown Wessling shared a provocative blog and video on the Teaching Channel. Her essential message for those of us looking for ways to improve our practice post-May: “…making mistakes is part of getting better.”

With Ms. Wessling’s advice salving our psychic wounds (voilà! thanks, Sarah), let’s explore effective instruction and collaboration.

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What’s May Got to Do With It: Part One

I have it on good authority that three weeks ago many residents were asking themselves, what’s May got to do with it?  Fair enough, because really, how could a mere 15 days at a turnaround change what we do in our classrooms next year?

Yet, in speaking with them  about their experiences, it seemed that many residents who began their visits thinking, I’ve got this, quickly realized, No, I don’t.  For one reason or another, residents struggled (see this and this from Fuller & this from Casals) and, in effect, felt compelled to reevaluate their year-one blueprints a bit more closely. So, let’s look at some ways to make that reevaluation most productive.

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Mentor Musings: How TchAUSL Will Make Me a Better Mentor

When I was a first year teacher, a veteran co-worker once told me, “As long as you’re one day ahead of the students, you’ll be fine.”  Though there is much debate about whether or not this phrase is true, it has an underlying meaning that I’m sure everyone agrees with – the importance of planning ahead.  As a first year mentor, I have seen how important it truly is to plan ahead, not only for your students, but also for your residents as well.  Thus, I already know how I am going to plan for my residents next year, and the TchAUSL website is going to play a big part in it.  Here are some ways that I plan on using the website to help coach my residents:

1)  Help Residents Preview Strategies

I know that when I was a student in college, I always read about math, but I did not fully comprehend it until I actually saw someone do the math in front of me.  Likewise, some residents have difficulties grasping the concepts of various Lemov strategies by just reading about them.  Imagine trying to have to explain to a new teacher that “Pepper” is not a culinary technique utilized in the classroom, or that the “Hook” is not some archaic way of maintaining discipline.

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Confessions of an MRC Control Freak

OK-I confess!  I have never liked the month of May.  This is the month where our resident teachers leave the comfort of home (their training site) and take up residence in the many of our Turnaround Schools.  Intellectually, I know this experience is very important for their growth and development as a teacher.  They get to apply what they know with a new group of students and in a new context.  They often return to their training site in June inspired by the successes they have had, the challenges they have worked through, and ready to take on the responsibility of being a teacher of record.  So, what don’t I like about this experience?

My residents are away from me! In my role as Mentor-Resident Coach, I know daily what they are working on, areas they are excelling in, and how they need support. I can walk from classroom to classroom, not feel intrusive, observe a resident teach, perhaps provide some real-time coaching or debrief with them at the end of the school day.  But when residents are at the Turnaround School we lose touch a bit.  I am not with them each day and I feel disconnected from what they are experiencing.

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Anytime Anywhere Debriefs: Using TchAUSL to save time and get things done

One of the greatest strengths of the Chicago Teacher Residency Program is the knowledge our mentor teachers share with their resident teachers. One of the greatest challenges? Not enough time!

A teacher’s to-do list is never-ending. Our mentors carry the entire workload of a teacher with the added responsibilities of mentoring two resident teachers. We are always looking for ways to maximize the time mentors and residents have together to expedite teacher development.

If only we could extend the day by a few extra hours and our residents could continue their rich conversations late into the night, possibly while relaxing on their couch at home. Many resident teachers state that they wish they had more time to receive feedback from their mentors on their teaching, watch their mentors teach, and ask questions about what they see. Thankfully this is possible with TchAUSL! Read more