5 Tips for the Co-Teaching Relationship

The beginning of any year is challenging.  There are longer hours, getting to know the students, establishing routines, and building relationships.  As with any year, there can be uncertainty and trepidation.  However, starting a classroom with a new co-teacher can bring an entirely new layer of uncertainty.

Let me start by saying I absolutely LOVE co-teaching.  I love the comradery, I love to learn from other teachers, and I THRIVE on being on a team.  In my role, I switch almost every year who my co-teacher is going to be.  This can be challenging to learn how to work with different personalities, but here are 5 tips to get you started on the path to a successful co-teaching relationship!


Build that relationship

This is the number one thing we do with kids, right? Why is it so easy for us to just push to the side and forget about when thinking about our interactions with adults.  To have a successful partnership, you need that relationship piece first and foremost.

How do you get there?

Get to know your co-teacher.  Ask them about themselves.  The more you know, the more you will be able to connect on different interests, find out what makes them tick, and build trust.  Get to know the personal lives of your co-teacher.  Just like you, they are also a person entirely separate to the classroom.

It can be intimidating to have other adults in you classroom, watching you teach, watching you make mistakes (especially if you do not co-teach all of the time). This can be a big stressor for co-teachers. However,if your co-teacher knows you are a team and support one another, this will help foster your relationship and the community within your classroom!

Be open

So the students with IEPs are on your caseload, right? Well guess what, they are general education students first.  Yes you provide the accommodations and modifications, but those are just stepping stones to help them reach the general education standards.

So, that means being open and honest with your co-teacher about the students’ needs, expectations, and anything that happens in their lives that will affect the classroom.  So many times co-teaching adopts the mind-set of divide and conquer.  This divides the team and students.  It can be damaging in the long run.  So even if it is a few extra minutes each day, touch base about the students and share relevant information.

Also be open with how you are feeling.  Do you want to share the lead role of teaching more, disrespected or even love something your co-teacher did? Then tell them!  So often this suggestion of being open refers to negative feelings, which is incredibly important.  However, if you also compliment and acknowledge the hard work your co-teacher is doing they too will feel appreciated.  We all like to hear we are doing a good job.  Keep those lines of communication open!

Choose a co-teaching model that works for you

There are many different types of co-teaching models.  You can do station teaching, parallel teaching, alternative teaching and more.  If there is one model you love, then try it out!  However, keep in mind that the best model for your team may change year to year.  This can be affected by your students, the teaching assistants, therapies, or maybe just the curriculum. 

Be sure to talk with your co-teacher, figure out what model they are comfortable with to use in the room and then try it out together.  If something worked one year, but is not working the next, do not be afraid to change it up!  We as teachers love our routine, but sometimes this routine needs to be changed to best fit the needs of the classroom.

Define your roles

This can be a difficult conversation to have.  When there are two teachers in the room, some people automatically think that the job is split into two.  “Two teachers, wow life must be good in that room!” Ever heard that before? That is why it is so important to have a conversation with your co-teacher about both of your roles.

Some examples of roles to talk about include:

  • Roles during planning
  • Behavior management
  • Report cards
  • Identifying grade level standards
  • Developing IEP goals
  • Copying and preparing lesson materials
  • Progress monitor
  • Communication with parents
  • Communication with related service providers

There are many small roles that also are developed with time.  Continue to have conversations with your co-teacher about these.  If the conversations are not had, there may become a buildup of animosity between teachers.  One may assume the other is not pulling their weight, but by continuing these conversations, decisions can be made and the relationship can continue to be a successful one.

Once these roles are established, assume positive intent.  Do not get into the dangerous cycle of who does more.  This can be detrimental to your relationship and your mind set.  Stay focused on you, but if it continues to be too difficult, have the conversation about roles with your co-teacher.  They may be doing other roles you never thought of or do not see!

Work together

At first, this may mean time before or after school to find those precious moments to work and plan together.  By planning the lesson together, roles can be clearly defined, accommodations can be discussed and implemented, and all ideas can be heard.  Many times I see teachers struggling to find time for this.  When this happens, one teacher may take on the role of assisting for an extended period of time.  When this happens, teachers may become frustrated.  Although some extra time may be needed in the beginning, once you learn each other’s styles, expectations, and routines, the teaching will happen more naturally and the planning will be easier.

Work together to address issues with your admin.  I find this is a way to build your relationship with your co-teacher and feel like a team.  When there are issues with a student, parent, paraprofessional, go to your admin together to discuss the issue.  This helps you both feel that you are not alone and you have a teammate right in your room who also has your back!

Let me tell you, speducator, co-teaching can be hard work.  However, it is one of the most rewarding roles.  If you can implement these five steps, I know you will have a successful year with your co-teacher. 

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