Monday, February 07, 2011

Co-Teaching as Mentoring

I'm a month behind on this article from Education Week. (I blame Educon.) Apparently special education teachers are much less likely to have a mentor in their first years of teaching than general education teachers.

It got me thinking about my school, as I do frequently. In the years I've been there we've had a few teachers who have not had their contract renewed after two or three years. They've all be classroom teachers.

We have lots of special education, English Speakers of Other Languages, literacy, and math teachers. Just like our general education teachers they have not all started off super strong (as is true for most teachers). And yet, we've never had one whose contract wasn't renewed.

I think that's because of our co-teaching model. All of our non-classroom teachers co-teach in multiple classrooms everyday. They have the opportunity to watch the classroom teachers with whom they work. They plan with the classroom teachers, discuss what they are noticing about students together, and generally work as a team. They are not functioning in isolation.

Of course, this is true for our classroom teachers as well. But, a classroom teacher may only have one specialist in their room for an hour a day. Our specialists are in rooms for multiple hours each day. It can, for those just getting started, almost serve as additional student teaching time. That's pretty powerful.

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