Over the past two and a half weeks the world watched as Olympians from around the world took to the slopes, ice and sled runs. It’s no secret that these athletes rely heavily on their coaches and teammates. What many don’t realize, is that educators can take a nod from their favorite Olympians and apply some of the same principles to their classrooms. Team teaching takes many different forms, each with its own benefits for both teachers and students.
A mentor teacher is the “coach” of the education world. Unlike many other professions where employees are promoted as they gain skill and experience, most teachers do the same job throughout their careers. These seasoned teachers are often underutilized and have so much to share with their colleagues. Their experience makes these teachers ideal candidates for the mentor teacher role. Mentor teachers lead teams of newer teachers while still teaching in their own classrooms. They share expertise, observe lessons and offer insight to their mentees.
Teaching is, by nature, an individual profession – one teacher teaching, as the only adult in the classroom, for the bulk of the day. While many teachers check in regularly with grade level colleagues, vertical collaboration is often overlooked. So much can be gained when teachers connect with their vertical “teams.” A first grade teacher can be encouraged to see how far her students have come since kindergarten, while an eighth grade teacher can get an idea of how to best prepare his students by checking in with his ninth grade counterpart.
Departmentalized teaching creates two avenues for teachers to connect with a team. A departmental, or subject specific, team is useful when developing lesson plans and pacing curriculum. Teachers working on the same department team can also lean on each other for shared resources and subject specific professional development. In addition to their subject teams, departmentalized teachers have their cross-curricular team. Cross-curricular teams that work well together provide amazing benefits to their shared students: consistent classroom procedures, coordinated accommodations and cohesive parent communication.
Although team teaching can often be overlooked and may fall by the wayside without intentionality, the support it offers both teachers and students makes it worth pursuing.