A practice that we see becoming more and more common in the classroom is team-teaching, or working as part of a teaching team. As a concept, the practice makes a lot of sense; more teachers in the classroom gives students the opportunity to be exposed to different perspectives, experiences, approaches, and personalities, to ultimately benefit their learning. An effective teaching team allows educators to also model high-level collaboration and communication; essential soft skills for people to thrive in the modern world.
The task of team-teaching however does present challenges for Casual Relief Teachers in terms of ensuring that their involvement in the classroom can benefit both the students they’re teaching and the rest of the teaching team for, sometimes the single day, that they’re a part of that community. So what are some of these challenges and how can they be best addressed to aide positive outcomes?
Speaking with some of the educators that I work alongside, one of the biggest concerns of a CRT being placed in a team-teaching environment for the day relates to them not quite knowing where they stand; how much is too much involvement? Will they be interfering with the work of the rest of the team as the ‘outsider’? But unfortunately, the tendency to cautiously step back and take on more of a supervisory role in this arrangement can lead to the interpretation that the CRT isn’t willing to ‘pull their weight’ in the classroom, and it can sometimes appear that they might not know what they’re doing. Both of these interpretations don’t present the CRT in the best light, and are likely completely unintentional. So how can we put the best foot forward and create the best opportunities for success as a CRT working in a teaching team? I spent some time with a couple of my schools that use and love team-teaching structures to gain some of their wisdom around this arrangement, and their advice falls into the following categories:
PREPARATION – Arrive with plenty of time before the start of the school day to meet with your teaching team and plan for the day. Approach this interaction with flexibility and openness; remember that you’re at the school for the day to replace the regular teacher, so the role that you adopt in the team may not fit what works naturally for you – your strength might be literacy, but instead you’re asked to work with a small group on a more advanced version of the planned numeracy activity. Roll with it – you never know what you might learn or be inspired by.
COMMUNICATION – Ask questions; nothing can be gained by entering the school with fixed assumptions about the day or by the mentality that asking for clarification or confirmation is somehow a negative reflection of your capability. Openly inquire with your team at the start of the day, but remember to check in with them throughout it as well – the day can easily skew in strange directions so it’s important that everyone’s on the same page! Some great questions to ask include:
- What are our goals for today?
- What is the role of the teacher that I’ve replaced today as part of this team?
- What are some of the routines that this group carries out each day? What can I do to support these?
- Are there particular rules or expectations that are normally implemented with this group? What is the process for managing behavioural issues and what is my role in this?
- Are there any students in this group that have additional needs or an altered program? What is the best way for me to work with them?
- How can we effectively use the space/materials with this group for the activities we have planned for today?
As you’re discussing the game-plan for the day, you might come across some topics or activities with which you have extensive experience or ideas. Don’t be afraid to speak up about these things to the group to see if your suggestions for additional tasks or an alternative approach could benefit learning. Yes, you’re there to replace another teacher, but there’s also great potential for you to enrich the learning experiences with your unique contribution too!
CONTRIBUTION – Speaking of which, remember to still leave notes for the teacher that you’re replacing. This can sometimes feel unnecessary, especially if you have been effectively communicating with the rest of the teaching team throughout the day. But it’s still important to leave feedback for the other teacher, detailing your particular contributions, and the progress of their class, or any smaller groups that you may have run interventions with. Not only is this courteous, but it also allows the teacher to easily shift back into the team upon their return. It’s also a good idea to ensure that your CRT kit is still full to the brim with resources and activities for your day, even if you know that you’re going to be working in a teaching team. The tendency can be to assume that the rest of your team will have plenty to work with for the day, but your materials could be the saving grace for providing additional scaffolding, keeping the early finishers busy, or keeping the ship afloat if the students aren’t engaging with what was originally planned.
Ultimately, team-teaching provides wonderful opportunities for a CRT to both share their knowledge and skills, but to also learn from other teachers, which can sometimes be missed when you’re constantly moving from school to school. To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of team-teaching, please see the Further Reading article, which contains not only some helpful information about the practice, but also some interesting comments contributed by readers.
anzuk Education Recruitment Consultant
Thank you to…
Lisa Banks & Pip Turner – Hartwell Primary School
Helen Healy – St Mary Magdalen’s Primary School
StateUniversity.Com, Team Teaching – Advantages, Disadvantages, accessed 14th November 2018, http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2493/Team-Teaching.html