Team Teaching: With careful planning it’s not a luxury

May 22nd, 2008

Without teamwork, we cannot prepare students to meet the challenges of the next millennium. If each teacher individually tries to address every curricular objective and cycle back to the broader standards of learning, there will never be enough time in the day or the school year to finish the job. We have to work together to integrate and reinforce importance concepts from all subjects, teaching students that learning is recursive, related, and really, really cool.

–The authors of TeamWork
TeamWorkTo many teachers, the idea of team teaching seems like a luxury. It sounds wonderful, but who has the time for that kind of collaboration? In their new book, TeamWork, Monique Wild, Amanda Mayeaux, and Kathryn Edmonds argue that with careful planning, collaborative teaching actually saves time by drawing on both individual and collective strengths. And if you’re resourceful, these award-winning teachers say, you can carve out planning time without skipping meals or abandoning your family life.

The authors of TeamWork spend countless hours unifying their curriculum, coordinating classroom activities, discussing student progress, and collaborating on creative ways to bring the curriculum to life for their students. They even wrote their book together during stolen minutes between classes, or while sitting in a parking lot in Monique’s Acura, waiting for their daughters to finish dance lessons. “Ultimately, it was our passion about the benefits of teaming for students that propelled us to find the time to work when it seemed there was none,” says Amanda.

This same passion fuels their teaching every day. They believe that teaching as a team enables them to infuse their lessons with engaging and challenging content, while also ensuring that the curriculum meets state and national standards.

The three “Teamers” begin the planning process in the summer with a series of meetings. “The summer meetings might frighten people,” Kathryn says, “but we probably meet for a total of only four full days. And in that time, we can outline our entire year.” Once they have the framework in place, they can pull lessons together quickly throughout the year, staying a few weeks ahead of where the students are.

The Teamers were provided with 90 minutes of planning time each day by their school’s administration — half of that time is used for team planning and the other half for individual planning — and every minute is critical. “We plan the meeting the day before so that we’re clear on what we have to do,” explains Monique. “We table things if we can’t come to a conclusion.” They also have a timetable for what topics are addressed on what days: for example, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are set aside for IEP meetings and on Fridays they address classroom discipline issues. “We set these at the beginning of the year, so we don’t have to ask ‘what are we doing today?'”

It also helps to have ground rules for meetings: always start at the agreed-upon time, don’t run over the allotted time, stick to the topic, and don’t get distracted with other things like grading papers. Resist the urge to multitask, advises Monique; it’s more efficient to concentrate on one thing at a time as a group.

The Teamers also take advantage of their different personalities to move planning forward — Amanda is “the dreamer” who comes up with imaginative ideas to engage students; Monique plays the role of “the enforcer” who makes sure that things happen on time; and Kathryn has great organizational skills that “keep the team humming.” The key, Monique says, is using the group’s balance to meet all the objectives: “We divide and conquer.”

The Teamers realize that other obligations at school or at home sometimes can cut into the most well-planned meeting, but they try to keep interruptions to a minimum. “When that starts to happen on a regular basis, we have a frank discussion,” says Monique, and they might modify their team meeting schedule. “That time remains sacred at all cost.”

Family time is equally important. The teachers’ ambitious teaching and planning schedules could easily overtake home life, but they won’t let that happen. “Our schedules revolve around our families. We don’t cancel family plans because of work,” Monique says.

And sometimes, family members pitch in their own ideas to help with the process — like the converter Monique’s husband bought for her so she could plug her laptop into her car during all those dance lessons. Without that kind of team spirit, TeamWork might have never been written.

Entry Filed under: Classroom practice,Content Areas

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