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“I need help”: 3 powerful words in co-teaching

A couple of weeks ago, I had an extremely ‘low’ day. This was a rough day, at the end of a week that had challenged me at multiple levels; when I walked into school that morning, I really felt like the stuffing had been knocked out of me. My usual instinct would have been to plaster on my best I-am-strong smile, keep mum about how I was feeling and tackle the day head on. Instead, I walked into class before the students arrived and said to my co-teacher, “I am not feeling at the top of my game today. I need your help in keeping the energies up in our classroom.”

This was the first time I had ever said anything like this to my co-teacher (despite the fact that my co-teacher can be fairly empathetic on any given day.) It was scary to say this for the first time, because it meant putting myself in a position of vulnerability in front of a colleague. But strangely, it felt really good to be able to say this; which got me reflecting on why it had been so daunting for me to say this in the first place.

Co-teaching is not easy. Let’s be really honest and acknowledge that for ourselves. To share a classroom, a set of students, and your instructional practice with someone – every day, all day – demands a LOT from any good teacher. It is an intense dynamic, and requires a serious investment of your energies. As teachers, we always want to do our best for our students; in the same way, in a co-teaching situation, we always want to be on top of our game and show our best side to our co-teacher. It’s taken a really long time for the perfectionist in me to acknowledge that it doesn’t work that way. We all have our moments. Perhaps it would serve our interests – and our co-teaching partnership – better, to acknowledge those moments, and draw on each other for support.

In the 2 years my co-teacher and I have worked together, that morning was, perhaps, one of the bigger milestones in our professional relationship. In all our conversations, this was the first time I had openly acknowledged that I didn’t have my game face on; to my surprise, the sky didn’t fall down when I said that. My co-teacher was perfectly comfortable being leaned on, and I felt much more grounded and ready to take on the day. There are no magic beans in co-teaching; but there definitely is a lot of power in these 3 simple words –  “I need help.”

Tagged: Co-teaching, Learning

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Written by Megha

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