Monday, March 9, 2015

"Teamwork divides the tasks and multiplies the success." Author Unknown

Teaching can be a very lonely job.  Although the teacher is surrounded by students, the lack of adult companionship, the chance to invent and explore teaching ideas together, to share responsibilities and the nuances of presenting lessons, each teacher taking his turn, and building upon the other, and to truly TEAM TEACH could be the pinnacle of teaching, in my opinion.  I only had the chance to really "team teach" a handful of times in my career, and I found every time to be exhilarating.  The lessons were lots of work and preparation, but the classroom time was  exhilarating, with great results on test scores and positive interactions and total acceptance from the students.  I can still remember how much fun it was to teach those lessons!  Do not get me wrong- I always loved to teach, but team teaching was really special.  Of course, I had terrific teacher friends and teaching partners to collaborate with, and that made the experience even better. 

Although many elementary and middle schools use team teaching or teacher team concepts, why isn't team teaching more widely used in high schools?  I think team teaching could be extremely beneficial to both students and teachers.

Teacher burnout is one of the hottest topics in Education today.  Why are teachers burning out ?  The simplest answer is that more and more responsibilities are piled on the shoulders of the solitary classroom teacher:  test scores and more test scores, NCLB, keeping up with the technology the district decides will be used for the year, helicopter parents hovering at dangerous levels, more and more 504 and IEP plans to accommodate,  and more and more "hats" to wear as a teacher.  Teachers are no longer only teachers; in fact, teachers are : counselors, confidantes, psychologists, parent figures, college advisors, interventionists, organizers, coaches, club advisors, directors, and many more. And because of the busy daily schedule of each teacher, there is no real time for teachers to discuss burning issues with other teachers, thus the burning issues contribute to teacher burnout.  

Although team teaching is not a new concept, I think it could work in high schools, and that it could alleviate some of the stressors in teachers' lives, even though the work would not be less. If schools could make pair-share classrooms for teachers and give the time needed to plan, prepare, and make exciting teaching materials, I think both students and teachers would benefit tremendously.  Sharing ideas and classroom responsibilities with another adult would give validation to teachers; students would benefit from having more than one point of view and more than one method of presentation.  Teachers would be more energized with the "give and take" of presenting, and students would be more interested interacting with two teachers instead of just one.

I must point out that when I talk about TEAM TEACHING, I do not mean that one person presents while the other sits at a desk.  I liken my experiences with team teaching to singing in a quartet:  you are always singing, but sometimes it is your moment to shine, and sometimes it is your moment to sing in the background.

Schools have got to start thinking of ways to prevent teacher burnout.  I think team teaching could benefit both teachers and students. 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

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