As a teacher, I’m always reflecting on my practice and working to learn and improve. This year, as a Teaching Channel Laureate, my Getting Better Together focus is all about meeting the needs of the diverse learners in my classes. There are a million ways to support students in our classrooms and my colleagues and I have tried a variety of strategies this year to help all of our kids grow. With these new videos, you’ll get a chance to see us in action, try out one of our strategies (should you choose!), and even give us direct feedback on our teaching.
Who We Are and What We Do
We are National Board Certified Teachers who have been collaborative partners for almost a decade at Oceanside High School in New York. Our collaboration works because we’re working together towards a common goal: helping our students reach their fullest potential. We teach two integrated sections of ninth grade Honors English and Social Studies, where our students move as a cohort between our classes, giving them an experience that illustrates how English and Social Studies are related by providing them with the opportunity to read text deeply, and link themes occurring across both classrooms. In addition, we team teach a Conference class where students delve deeper into the humanities, exploring concepts that link us all in the human experience.
Every year we have the opportunity to teach grades other than the ninth grade integrated program, and we choose to stay together. We love working together to mold new entrants into high school, teaching them the skills they’ll need for high school, college, and career success, while we encourage each other to be the best teachers we can be.
The following seven tips come from our decade of experience working together as collaborative partners.
Throughout my teaching career, I was lucky to have teaching partners that I loved to collaborate with. Because of our appreciation and respect for each other, we were able to enrich each others’ thinking and plan rich learning experiences for our students. Best of all, we had tons of fun doing so.
Watching high school teachers Erin Gilrein and Jen Wolfe collaborate reminds me of the magic that happens when teachers gel with each other. Their joy and collaborative spirits are infectious. While watching their planning sessions, I wanted to jump right in the room with them to bounce ideas around.
At Oceanside High School in Oceanside, New York, Erin and Jen collaborate to teach a ninth grade integrated program. Jen teaches Global Studies, Erin teaches English, and together they team teach the students in the program. Jen and Erin align their curriculum closely so that students are working on similar topics and skills in both disciplines. Part of this close alignment comes from the dynamic collaborative planning sessions that Jen and Erin regularly engage in.
Learning through the arts is a dynamic way to engage students. But arts integration is more than just an engagement strategy — it’s a powerful way for students to gain and express understanding. Teaching Channel is really excited to present a new series of 19 videos on arts integration, in partnership with The Getty Museum. In this series, we see teachers engage their students in learning through the arts in a variety of grade levels, subject areas, and contexts. It’s inspiring to watch teachers use arts integration with English Language Learners, students in Special Education, and in conjunction with the Common Core.
Learning About Greek Mythology Through the Arts
In David Cooper’s sixth grade social studies class, we see students learning about Greek mythology through the arts. After studying Greek gods and goddesses, David has his students apply their knowledge when looking at artwork in the classroom and then later at a field trip to the Getty Villa. As a final performance of understanding, David’s students work together to plan and perform a Greek or Roman talk show. This performance of understanding shows students applying their knowledge of Greek mythology in a new and creative context.
Can educators really be expected to survive a “co-teaching marriage” if nearly half of real marriages end in divorce? It’s not easy. But with the right approach and hard work, I have found the answer is yes! Real synergy can be created where each co-teacher can feed off of the positive energy and ideas that they get from the other. This collegiality can be another major way teachers can enjoy their career, in addition to the satisfaction of seeing their students succeed. Here’s how to have a successful co-teaching experience:
KEEP THE GOAL IN MIND
You can survive, and even thrive, in a co-teaching marriage if you make sure that you and your co-teacher are clear on the educational goals. As long as both of you can agree on the learning standards that need to be met, and the content and skills that need to be covered in a project, then all decisions should be measured by how well the plans for the class/project meet those goals.