What I have learned 'team teaching' for a term

Would you want to share your classroom with another teacher? For this primary teacher the experience has been revelatory
8th December 2020, 4:47pm
Victoria Nuechtern

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What I have learned 'team teaching' for a term

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/what-i-have-learned-team-teaching-term
How To Rebuild Your Team

At the end of the summer term, we were told we might face a situation where teachers had to 'team teach' in the same room.

To some, this may sound like the last thing they'd want - after all being in charge of a classroom is part of the fun (and challenge) of teaching.

However, I was excited as the opportunity to trial a new way of working like this felt exciting and innovative.

To put this in context, I work in an international primary school and I am currently working with students aged 6-7. We are an IB school and, as a "year group team", we teach most areas of the IB framework, except we have specialists in languages, music and PE.

We've been working like this for almost a full term now - here's how it's going.

How it works

Our team teaching works by having both teachers present for all lessons to assist each other in the delivery of the teaching and also support behavioural, language and special educational needs.

When we are planning lessons, we decide together who will find or make the resources for each lesson - and usually that person takes a lead teaching that lesson. However, we both know exactly what the plans and resources are and so we can both lead if we need to. 

We generally mix up who teaches different areas - for example, I might teach maths one day and my partner teacher will teach maths the next.

Fortunately, we have PPA time together and, during some of our specialist teacher lessons, we are also able to discuss and plan. Normally, we spend time after school each day having a reflection about the day and ensuring we are ready for the next day.

Varied experience brings us together

I have taught and held senior leadership positions in the UK for over 10 years and this is my second year in an international school.

My partner teacher has studied, trained and taught internationally in several different European countries and is a couple of years into her teaching career. 

Therefore this mix of training, experience and approaches is a positive asset towards our team-teaching approach as it means we are able to better support each other in developing our subject knowledge of different curriculums (my UK background and her IB background), approaches to learning and activity ideas and resources.

Share everything

Communication is key and so far we are able to share everything together. We are able to teach together, plan together, mark together and collaborate with other staff, together. 

This can help lessen workloads such as marking and feedback and it means we bounce ideas off each other for how to approach a tricky topic - or simply take over if the other has that moment of brain freeze that happens to the best of us!

Supporting all students

We have many students who are new to learning English, and so having two teachers allows us to share the workload of the additional support and strategies we are putting in place to support not only the EAL students but all of the students.

For example, my partner-teacher has shown me how to use different translation apps to support these children that I haven't used before. I was also able to share with her some examples of a different resource we can use to build vocabulary banks for these students, too.

Supporting each other

When it comes to meeting parents virtually or sharing ideas within meetings at school with other staff, we are able to support each other and share the responsibility.

In addition, we support each other when teaching different concepts or subject areas that we may or may not have had experience in teaching before. 

We are both always in the classroom and often ask questions about learning in front of the children so that they can understand our thinking. 

Where next?

We haven't yet received any specific training on how team teaching should be done.

At the moment, we are taking it day by day, week by week and are constantly reflecting and developing our strategies to benefit both us and the students. We also have the support of our Primary Leadership Team (PLT).

We are also the only class in our school that is following this approach at the moment, but so far so good - we only have positive things to say. We would like to share with the PLT how this approach is working and perhaps it could be considered for other classes in the future.

It may not sound like something every teacher would relish, but the benefits we have seen so far suggest that perhaps it is something that should be open for discussions where it makes sense.

Victoria Nuechtern is a Primary Years Teacher at Amity International School in Amsterdam

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