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Co-Teaching Styles to Avoid

We all know the benefits of co-teaching but it is not Field of Dreams (if you are too young for this reference, look up the movie on YouTube and enjoy). Simply saying you are going to do something will not make it so. The secret sauce to co-teaching is planning and collaboration.
By Trish Geraghty
We all know the benefits of co-teaching but it is not Field of Dreams (if you are too young for this reference, look up the movie on YouTube and enjoy). Simply saying you are going to do something will not make it so. The secret sauce to co-teaching is planning and collaboration. 

You can read about the six co-teaching models here: Co-Teaching Models. In this post, we’ll talk about what to avoid with co-teaching.

1. The Watcher

This is a bad version of one teach, one observe or one teach, one assist. I have been on both sides of this scenario as a general education teacher and special education teacher. I taught 8th grade ELA one semester and was “assigned” a special education co-teacher. I was so hopeful that together we would do great things for kids. What I quickly realized is that my co-teaching buddy did not feel comfortable with the content and saw his role as observing student behaviors and intervening when needed. This was so disappointing and made for a very long and frustrating semester. 

On the flip side, I have been the dreaded “watcher.” As special education teachers, we sometimes feel the need to be invited to “teach” in our general education colleague’s classes. I was partnered with a brilliant and veteran middle school teacher. She was organized, so organized that she had the whole semester planned out in July. As admirable as that is, it leaves little room for co-planning for co-teaching. Anytime I would mention changing plans to accommodate student needs, she would remind me that I was a “helper” in her room. Ouch. 

Both situations do not honor the expertise or experience both teachers bring to the classroom. This is the most common version of co-teaching that I have experienced and seen. 

2. The Flitter

As known as the pop-in and out special education teacher. You may see this person once a week as they pop in and ask, “all good?” while giving the thumbs-up sign. Ah no, not all good here, thanks for checking. But the “flitter” is already gone on to the next class. 

There are two reasons why this happens. First and foremost is a lack of staff. Co-teaching should not be used to handle staffing shortages, however, in my discussions with administrators, the increase in co-teaching was born from necessity. You cannot be in multiple places at once, you just can’t, and trust me I have tried. 

The second reason is a lack of clarity on what their role and responsibility is as a special education co-teacher. Sometimes special education co-teachers feel like a “watcher” and decide their time is better used elsewhere, meaning paperwork. It is no surprise that special education teachers are buried in paperwork. Any moment to get caught up on paperwork is truly a gift of time, unfortunately at the expense of kids.

3.“My Kids Only” Teacher

Ugh, this one is the absolute worst! This goes back again to a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities of co-teaching. I have even been told that due to how someone is funded they can or cannot support all children. Yes, there are funding issues and rules that must be maintained, but if funding prevents you from helping all students we have a serious problem.

Hopefully, these examples made you giggle a little but truth be told we have probably seen one of these examples during our careers. Purposeful planning and frequent walkthroughs help us stay true to our expectations and focus on supporting student growth. 

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Trish Geraghty
Trish Geraghty, an accomplished educational leader with 20+ years of experience, excels in curriculum development, instructional design, and professional development. Her proven track record includes successful support for schools, districts, educators, and students. Committed to ensuring universal access to high-quality learning, Trish is a visionary advocate for inclusive education. Her innovative approach to curriculum development reflects a keen understanding of evolving standards. Trish's transformative influence extends beyond traditional boundaries, actively contributing to the broader advancement of education. A catalyst for positive change, she inspires excellence in others, shaping the future of education through unwavering commitment and visionary leadership.

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