Teaching Profession

Co-Teaching for Rookies: Classroom Organization and Managing Details

By Christina A. Samuels — August 17, 2015 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

I have been asking for advice from educators on how to build a strong co-teaching relationship. Last week’s blog entry focused on “big picture” co-teaching ideas that educators should consider as they launch such a partnership.

As promised, the second part of my “co-teaching for rookies” series will focus on the tips and tricks that teachers use to make the classroom run more smoothly on a day-to-day basis.

Before the first day of school, discuss how you will introduce yourselves, says Anne Beninghof, a consultant from Lafayette, Colo. “It is critical that students see both teachers as experts and having equal authority in the classroom. During the first week, be sure to share leading roles as much as possible to establish the paradigm of ‘our’ class. If, instead, the special education teacher spends the first few weeks as a ‘helper,” it can be hard to break out of this pattern. Our students need both of us to be fully utilized!”

Beth Lakretz, the president of Lakretz Creative Support Services in Baldwin, N.Y., offered several pieces of advice in bullet points:

  • Both teachers’ names on the door, introductory letter, and any papers that go home. (For secondary teachers, who may co-teach one period and may teach the same class other periods on their own, list the co-teacher’s name with the period in parentheses so you don’t have to make multiple handouts.)
  • Get some training on the Marilyn Friend and Lynne Cook co-teaching models.
  • Use them on the first day of school.
  • Pick one to use on open house with the parents.
  • Create a joint email stamp so parents email both of you and you respond together.
  • If you co-teach full time, conduct all parent-teacher conferences together. Both of you speak to the child’s strengths/weaknesses
  • At the elementary level, if you co-teach part-time, conduct conferences together with the parents of special education students, and pick as many of the parents of the general education students to meet with at the first conference you conduct together. At the next conference, again meet together about special education students, and pick the students you didn’t do together in round one to meet with in round two

Sanna Roling, a retired special educator, says that both teachers must be listed on the student’s schedule and report cards. “Otherwise, students will cause major disruptions all year—"you’re not a teacher...,” which definitely takes time away from education and leaves the students in charge rather than the teachers.”

Other teacher-to-teacher advice from Roling: “On the first day, say ‘we are your teachers’ and ‘you are so lucky to have two teachers which means you have twice the individualized class time help.’ Never say, ‘this is my assistant’ or ‘I will be assisted by...’ or anything like that. Such comments relegate the special educator to a position of tutor.The special educator may spend more time with the special education students; however, it is essential that they are not singled out any more than necessary. Also, given that the teachers do their jobs well, by March of any year the special educator will be spending more time with general education failing students than with the special education students. Why? Because, the purpose of inclusion is to bring our special students up to grade level work.That is accomplished by first ‘holding their hand’ and giving individualized instruction to create understanding. Once understanding begins to happen, extra help is gradually withdrawn as the student’s own self-confidence and drive materialize.”

Almost every person who has offered advice has said that joint planning time is essential. But how do you do that? One email responder said “our district allows for one day a month or two half days for planning. While I don’t like for both of us to be out of the classroom at the same time, this was the only way for us to keep our head above water. Planbook.com is an excellent resource for co-teachers as well as those that do not co-teach. We had one login and password, so we essentially had one plan book. We had one grade book and our classroom had both our names. I think that is crucial to having both individuals feel like they have equality in the classroom.”

Another tech tip came from a teacher who uses Google Docs, which she said is a “very efficient and collaborative” planning tool with with co-teachers. The teacher emailed to say: “I created a table for specific classes and needs, so all involved could access the information. Each teacher “fills out their part” prior to actual planning meetings. The meetings then become a time to hone the ideas for specific students or learning tasks. The table includes rows labeled with the date, learning target, learning tasks, teacher A, teacher B, and support ideas.”

The teacher added: I also find out that “special treat” my co-teachers like and present [it to] them within the first them weeks of school.

Finally, some tips from Twitter:

Thank you to all who emailed or tweeted me in response to my call for advice. This may be the end of this series, but I don’t want it to be the end of the conversation. Thanks to the power of the Web, new teachers may come across these blog posts weeks, months, or even years from now. If you are one of those later visitors and you have some advice that you would like to share, please feel free to leave it in the comments. Consider it a way to “pay it forward” for the help you were given earlier in your career.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not note the recent death of Lynne Cook, who was mentioned earlier in this post in a comment about co-teaching models. Cook died July 7 of lung cancer. She and Marilyn

Friend literally wrote the book on co-teaching: Collaboration Skills for School Professionals remains one of the most widely-used texts on co-teaching and collaborative classroom practices. Her last position in a long career in education was as dean of the College of Education at California State University-Dominguez Hills. She was married to Fred Weintraub, another special education leader and an author of what is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, who died in May 2014. I am sure many of the people who responded to my call for advice have been and will continue to be influenced by Cook’s work.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Reported Essay Students Aren’t the Only Ones Grieving
Faced with so many losses stemming from the pandemic, what can be done to help teachers manage their own grief?
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Teaching Profession We Feel Your Grief: Remembering the 1,000 Plus Educators Who've Died of COVID-19
The heartbreaking tally of lives lost to the coronavirus continues to rise and take a steep toll on school communities.
3 min read
090321 1000 Educators Lost BS
Education Week
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Educators Have a Responsibility to Support the Common Good
A science teacher responds to another science teacher's hesitation to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
1 min read
Teaching Profession With Vaccine Mandates on the Rise, Some Teachers May Face Discipline
With a vaccine now fully FDA-approved, more states and districts will likely require school staff get vaccinated. The logistics are tricky.
9 min read
Grace John, who works at a school in San Lorenzo, gets a COVID-19 shot at a mobile vaccination clinic run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state in Hayward, Calif., on Feb. 19, 2021. California will become the first state in the nation to require all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. The statewide vaccine mandate for K-12 educators comes as schools return from summer break amid growing concerns of the highly contagious delta variant.
Grace John, who works at a school in San Lorenzo, gets a COVID-19 shot at a mobile vaccination clinic in Hayward, Calif. California is among those states requiring all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
Terry Chea/AP