Friday, 30 October 2015

Honest Reflections on the Move to Team Teaching

This term I have left my single cell room and ventured into the world of team teaching. This is slightly new to me in that for two hours a day I work side by side with another colleague teaching Literacy. In the past I have team taught with my BT (beginning teachers) as part of my mentor role but that was only for one hour sessions and not every day.

As we move to our new school in 2017 this is going to be the norm and I enjoy the fact I get to do this already because it isn’t easy. You are suddenly out of your comfort zone and having to learn to adapt to someone else’s way of teaching can be quite daunting. You also need to learn to compromise and be prepared to accept that your ways are not always going to be the best.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike it but I have found it harder than I had expected to. At the moment we are still ‘carefully’ treading around each other and pretty much being polite about everything. But I know this might not always be the case. This is where honest communication is the key. It’s important to remember that it’s not personal and not to take everything to heart.

Not only do both of us have to get used to each other’s teaching styles and mannerisms but we also have 43 students who have to do the same.  One of the hardest things for me is that the room is set up as two classes with two teachers. As I am only in there for two hours a day (I teach elsewhere for the rest of the day) I’m still feeling a bit uncomfortable about moving around the furniture. It also is a prefab that doesn’t have the best acoustics and isn’t that much bigger than your standard classroom.
The hardest part of all this has been trying to break the ‘this is my group that is your group’ mentality we have when it comes to teaching. I have tried to go in with the idea of two teacher’s one classroom.  As we have only set this up it has been slow going.  

One of my downfalls is that I plan ideas in my head, chop and change to adapt the situation, don’t plan a minute by minute lesson and not that keen on doing all my reading groups in one go. What I envisage happening is a number of children will work from their set time table and meet with me for reading and small group writing sessions throughout the two hour period. Rather than having set whole class writing and reading times. 

My colleague on the other hand is someone who needs to see it written down, explained in depth and is more structured than I am. Once again this is where open lines of communication are important. I know my way isn’t for everyone and I also have to be accepting of this and adapt a little for them. 
One of the positives is that we have both have very similar ideas and ways in how we go about teaching the fundamentals of writing (Reading is not taken into account as we do whole school Sharp Reading). So when it comes to planning it is quite straight forward we seem to be able to have a 10 minute conversation and our week is planned!

How we execute it is the area we are still trying to work out.

This is where it can get messy. We are still ‘ironing’ out this part and as we have had only had three weeks in class with a lot of interruptions we are still taking time to find that common ground. There have been times where it has been easier for us to separate ourselves and work with a group each but the fact is we are not actually doing anything new. There are students in our group that can be independent and work to their own timetable and meet with us in small group tutorials. Others need a little more direction and set tasks and routines. But we can actually move away from big whole class teaching sessions and focus on smaller more directed to meet the learner’s needs.

Because it takes time and as I said before can be messy and look chaotic we find ourselves falling back into what we are comfortable with and this is what we have to break out of.
This can also still happen in a MLE. I have visited schools where teachers actually still teach their ‘own’ groups.  Although they had collaborated on the planning that is where the collaboration ends. Teachers are still teaching ‘whole classes’ and most are still focussed on ability setting. As someone said recently, how can we have a growth mindset if we are still grouping students based on their ability?

Other schools have done this brilliantly. You can see teachers working in small groups, but you also see other students working independently or with their peers and you don’t see one teacher occupying one area for that whole day or time.

I can see why some teachers find this change quite difficult to do. It’s all about taking that risk, being open to change and realising things do take time to perfect.

Ruth Duke-Norris  @ChCh_based

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