I didn’t have my ‘own class’ this past year – thoughts on team teaching

One of the things about teaching in a recently established school is that you have to be flexible.

This past year I’ve been teaching the bulk of my time in one class and then releasing my team leader’s Year 3 class while another teacher teaches the first class.

I’ve had a lot of raised eyebrows and people asking me what it’s like not having my ‘own class’ which got me thinking there’s another educational assumption being made.

That primary teachers have their ‘own class…’

There are a lot of benefits to sharing a class.

Ability to teach to individual talents and interests – there’s one thing you can’t fake in teaching – passion. The kids know when a teacher is interested and passionate in a topic. They can also sense when a teacher is just going through the motions. Negotiating during planning enables individual teachers to play to their curriculum strengths.

Two sets of eyes are better than one – sometimes I’ll miss something going on with a kid and vice versa. Another set of eyes in the class means more people looking out for the well-being of children. Kids might find themselves more comfortable coming to the other teacher for some things and that’s ok.

Two sets of heads are better than one – a problem shared is a problem halved. Sharing a problem of practice is so much more easily when your colleague teaches the same group of kids. Their conversation is based on real experience with the child in question.

Two classes are better than one – sometimes it’s good for both of you and the kids to have time away each other, particularly towards the end of the term when patience is starting to wear thin.

Incidental PD – you’re often in the room during a lesson and get to pick up on something cool that another teacher is doing in the room rather than hearing about it later.

Being sick isn’t a huge problem – Despite being allergic to having sick days, the one time I was sick the other teacher covered my class. Because this teacher already taught the class, there isn’t the potential for shenanigans that can accompany a substitute teacher because there’s a teacher who has a relationship with the kids.

Looping – This coming year I will have taught 1/3 of my incoming class as Year 3s. I won’t be an unfamiliar face to the children and them to me.

It’s not all sweetness and light. There were some drawbacks

You need to accept that you won’t have everything ‘your way’ –   you learn to make compromises. You either find time to do what you planned or accept that the other person will do things differently.

Your day is fragmented – you are splitting your time and energy. This can be hard on the days where you’ve got something really interesting happening it can be hard to hand things back over.

You need to be really well organised – migrating classrooms means you need to have all your gear with you. Someone else using your classroom means you need to keep clutter to a minimum.

Communication needs to be really good – Schools can be busy places and sometimes it can be easy to forget to email or talk to the other teacher.

It’s interesting that my experience of team teaching is that the advantages of sharing classes benefits teaching practice whereas the disadvantages are about making my life as a teacher easier…

Are individual classes a thing of the past?

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