Co-Teaching at PS1
At PS1, two lead teachers in every classroom are central to our mission. This model of collaboration occurs at every level of the school. In the education research literature, two lead teachers in the classroom are called co-teachers. Co-teaching is defined as the practice of pairing teachers together to share the responsibilities of planning, instructing, and assessing students. In a co-teaching setting, the teachers are considered equally responsible and accountable for the classroom. Two teachers leading a class opens up many opportunities for students as well as the teachers. Two significant benefits of co-teaching are expanded opportunities for one to one interaction between students and teachers, and the chance to learn from teachers who have different ways of thinking and teaching.
In PS1's co-teaching model, lessons are more robust and creative, due to teachers sharing the planning process. Teachers support one another by complementing each other's strengths and weaknesses, building camaraderie, and dividing the classroom workload. Our values of collaboration and cooperation are not just instructed but modeled for students by the adults. This model of teaching is challenging! For it to work, partners must establish trust, develop and work on communication, share the chores, celebrate, and work together to creatively overcome the inevitable difficulties that enter any partnership. The teachers at PS1 have strong teaching partnerships. It is remarkable to see how the co-teaching model transfers to our Distance Learning Community Program (DLCP), illustrating the depth of trust and creative interchange between teaching partners.
I have seen examples of the power of partnerships in our DLCP throughout the school.
Before starting the DLCP, a teacher was quoted as saying, “The collaborative nature of the teaching partnerships means that teachers are never complacent. I constantly see innovation within the classroom. Innovation and examining practice and making small adjustments for kids and each other.” This was never more evident in our jump into distance learning.
In the first days of our DLCP, I noticed that during whole and half-group meetings, one teacher was interacting with the students and focused on the lesson. The other teacher was managing the new Zoom details-raising hands, muting mics, virtual backgrounds clicking on and off, etc. PS1 teaching teams did this organically since they are used to co-teaching.
In one class, one teacher was presenting the lesson to the class and sharing her screen, while the other teacher was guiding the conversation so that the discussion among the students about the lesson was relatively seamless. Since we had no warning that we were jumping into a DLCP, these skills were not taught. Teachers who work in partnerships naturally come to rely on each other and “divide and conquer” to meet the needs of their students. In planning their DLCP, teachers planned who was going to do what, just as they do in their on-site classroom. What was remarkable was how well it worked without any time for “practice.”
In another class, when teachers are running a book group, they are writing students' thoughts on the Google page, which serves as the "board" to collect ideas. Even though teachers are working separately in small groups, and cannot see each other, when they write on the board, students can see everyone’s ideas from both groups. This type of collaboration requires an extraordinary give and take between the teachers who cannot see each other and who are sharing a virtual space while making room for all of the students’ ideas in one place and giving attention to a specific small group of students.
Sometimes, in a Zoom meeting, one teacher's tech freezes or glitches, and the teacher partner picks up the thread of the class without missing a beat.
Teaching is a process, and learning is its goal. When education is most successful, both teachers and students learn. Students and teachers (and administrators) learning and growing together is the culture of PS1. Relationships are a core value. The co-teaching model that provides strong relationships between teaching teams is central to our ability to provide high-quality education whether it is on-site or through our DLCP.