Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Art of Co-Teaching

A lot of people complain about supervisors. I hate to admit it, but I tend to get along well with mine. Whenever we have a conflict, she sits me down and talks until I agree with her. I actually recognize what she's doing, but she manages to persuade me, and once I agree with her there isn't much left to discuss. But she also has a perverse streak.

Three years ago I said to her, "Well, I'm gonna be in the trailers forever." They'd pretty much become part of me. So what does she do? She pulls me out and puts me in a real classroom for the first time in over a decade, using some flimsy excuse about a turf war with the English department.

One of the little-known things about us trailer trash teachers is that we don't use classroom technology. This is largely because no one puts expensive equipment in some trailer. The classroom they moved me into, though, had a computer and a monitor. In the beginning I panicked, but fortunately the impressive looking computer equipment didn't actually work. I would hang my jacket on the monitor and demand credit for using the technology. (The next year, when it actually worked, I started using it, but had no place to hang my coat. You can't win.)

Last year, there was a lot of Sturm und Drang over ESL. We weren't real teachers because Part 154 said teaching a language didn't involve actual subject content, so we had to pair up with other teachers and hope for the best. I was lucky, though. While my colleagues were pairing up with English teachers, it turned out I was a licensed English teacher. Who remembered that decades ago that was how I started? I could never manage to get a job as an English teacher, so I went into this ESL thing.

Co-teaching wasn't a new thing, but it was more concentrated in special ed. before this. I watched various pairs of teachers having conflicts. Once I was appointed, with another teacher, to break up a class between two teachers who simply could not function together. Later I was forced to get involved with several pairs who needed to separate but could not, with various unrewarding resolutions. I thought, "Who the hell needs this?"

But then I made an egregious error. I told my AP, "I don't ever want to co-teach with anyone." For some reason, utterances like that get my AP thinking, and what do you know, the next year I had a co-teacher. That wasn't my only mistake, though. For a good part of the previous year, I'd been commenting to the AP that one of our new teachers was very quick-witted and personable, and I repeatedly said good things about her. These two things together kind of sealed my fate.

So now I have a co-teacher. As co-teachers go, we get along well. We have conflicts. I work very quickly. I cannot survive otherwise. She likes to think about stuff. I'm like, "WHY are you THINKING about stuff? It's not EFFICIENT!" But she just sits there thinking anyway. Our classroom is an odd place. I am running around like a lunatic, with kids constantly telling me to calm down. I tell them, "I AM PERFECTLY CALM!!!" My co-teacher is thoughtful and patient, forever working out ways to get things done despite all the noise.

On Monday there will be a class size grievance for my school. Two of the oversized classes are ours. I'm pretty sure they will stay that way because we have two teachers. Nonetheless, I'm gonna complain. After all, if I don't do it, who will?

I have to conclude, though, that my AP has persuaded me once again. I pride myself on being a huge pain in the ass and the craziest person in my classroom. I'm fairly confident that few of my students or administrators would begrudge me that description. This notwithstanding, as far as I can tell, my co-teacher and I get along a hell of a lot better than a lot of pairs I know.

This is what my AP planned all along. I hate it when they are right.
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