Co-teaching Woes

I’m finally admitting it to myself, I am frustrated with 90% of my teaching situation because I am not in charge, nor is it really my classroom—ever. And while this makes me sound like I’m not a team player, I would like to argue the opposite side of the board and say that maybe I’m too much of a team player.

For 4 of my 5 days of work I am asked to be in classrooms lending support to Units of Inquiry that are taught in English. These units are structured around a specific theme with various lines of inquiry that focus on improving a few different attitude types and getting our students to be more curious…in short, to be learners. During U.O.I/English I work with the core teachers—or I should say that I am supposed to work with the core teachers. What I am finding instead is that no one really knows what the dynamic or roles are during these courses. I’ve shown up on multiple occasions with the core teachers saying “okay so you are teaching blah blah blah today,” and I’m left standing there wide-eyed because I have no plan. I have no plan because no one really knows what I am supposed to be doing and work I have done since arriving is consistently left unused, again, due to a lack of planning as a team.

Adding to the pile of hazy expectations is the fact that we have no schoolbooks so we all do independent research. This means that each classroom is taught whatever the teacher gleans and fact checks themselves from the good ole W.W.W. on each specific theme laid out by the International Baccalaureate framework. And while the flexibility of curriculum specifics would normally be a dream, as a new teacher feels like a roller coaster filled with soaring highs on the days when communication happens and wobbly, twisty lows when it does not.

And at the heart of it all I am finding that what really makes me sad is quite simple:

I miss being a language teacher.

I miss talking about parts of speech, having my students run up to the board and identify different vocabulary words or making them stick out their tongues and say THHHHHH only to roll over giggling hysterically. I only get to do this one day a week during their dedicated English lesson. The rest of the week I’m like a human English dictionary pulled off the shelf when a core teacher needs additional support.

I’m a worksheet publisher, an editor of letters home to families and a pronunciation guru—all of which I am happy to be, I really am  (HEY publishers, I want to write for your workbooks!), but I really miss being the conductor of the orchestra.

So how does a new English teacher assert herself in the classroom without seeming pushy? How do I get my co-teachers to include me more in their planning and then in the followthrough of that planning? What is the key to being flexible with what appears to be a very loose planning style without my losing my mind? How do I get back to being a teacher, back to conducting the orchestra instead of cleaning the instruments?

Comments, please!

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3 thoughts on “Co-teaching Woes

  1. I understand how you feel. 2 years ago, ‘WE’ were once the captain of the ship. Maybe because of the changing times *winks*, we became the ‘SUPPORT’ of some other teachers. Don’t get me wrong, being a ‘support’ is not ‘bad’ (I don’t know what correct adjective to describe it.) It’s not ‘bad’ though but I don’t feel so good about it too or sometimes I don’t feel right about my role. (honestly!)

    I sometimes tend to be pushy with some class teachers I have worked with that’s why I always have to remind my teachers that they let me know if I’m overboard. Some though thought I am domineering.:) It’s just that I still couldn’t get away being the ‘conductor’ of the choir.

    Sometimes, I would think I’m over idealistic with my teaching views since I came here but often I get answers that I’m not. It’s just that some practices are not properly done but were not corrected as well. We shared our views but it’s not according to what they believe is right.

    I hope my heart doesn’t show in this comment.:)

  2. Part of this is just the way things are done and there is little you can do to change that. Have you tried suggesting you and co-teach have plan time together? Do you ever interrupt co-teach to offer suggestions? Have you offered to take over the class so co-teach can get some “rest”? Are you included in staff meetings? If so, can you suggest an English class one more day a week? You’ll have to be very careful to sound like you’re doing these things to help the co-teachers, not that you’re doing this because you want to be more hands on. But also try to be assertive in not being used as a dictionary only. It’s a fine line and in the end you may have things change a little for you, but after you leave, everything will go back to the way it was.

  3. That sounds like a really frusterating situation! Pedagogs always preach and praise the value of team-teaching, but if there is no leader (coach) the team it’s teams, it’s a group of individuals trying not to step on each others toes and in the end ,work individually anyway!
    If no one else is stepping up, it might have to be the ‘pushy American’ that gets the dialogue going. I like what others have suggested already, so I won’t rehash those ideas, but I will go a step further to encourage you to flush out some ideas how you work best (e.g planning a day ahead, or where/ how to generate materials effectively and accurately, and how much time you need to be prepare) Then share this with your colleague and ask them how they can accomodate you (in a nice, constructive way of course 🙂 It sounds like you will learn a lot this year, that’s for sure! Just remember, they hired you for a reason….if they wanted someone with a Asian mentality they would have hired a local. Unfortunately, it’s more common in my expereince that school managers have no idea what they want or what they are doing. You’ll have to accept and cope with that, but maybe you can be that catalyst for change. Don’t be afraid to give them some ideas. As long as you present them in a respectful and constructive way, hopefully your ideas will be well received. However, if your co-worker are lazy bags of dust, then it might be an intractable problem you just have to get through and look forward to moving on. Good luck!

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