Julie Moeschberger, Salon, OH, email@example.com
Nancy Schikowski, Salon, OH, firstname.lastname@example.org
We (Nancy and Julie) co-teach a two-period, two-credit Geometry class. The students are in 10th or 11th grade. All students in this classroom are students with identified disabilities that receive services through IEPs, 504s, or are the most at-risk within our district.
Our goal this school year was to build mathematical identity and shared authority of learning in our classroom.
Our co-teaching model is structured so that it is “our classroom.” Students do not view one of us as a math teacher and the other as an interventionist, but rather that our roles are interchangeable and we are there to support all students. We have attempted to create a classroom that does not focus on the students’ deficits but rather capitalizes on their strengths, and our strengths as well. We truly share math authority with our students. As co-teachers, we keep each other focused on the big picture. We want to teach our students to think for themselves and have the confidence and stamina to work out complex math problems.
We model the mutual respect we
expect in our classroom with the
respect we have for each other…
Our students feel comfortable
approaching us, knowing we
will listen. As warm demanders,
we find that perfect balance of
empathy and expectations with
each of our students.
“How” we teach is important to our students’ long-term retention. Co-teaching is dependent on having time outside of the classroom to collaborate. We have a built-in period every week that allows us to go through the lessons and develop student-centered strategies. Our communication with each other and our students is key to building a strong co-teaching model.
We have similar teaching personalities and styles. We model the mutual respect we expect in our classroom with the respect we have for each other. We took a class this year called “Maximizing Student Engagement” and we found a word that articulated our approach: we call ourselves the “Warm Demanders.” Our students feel comfortable approaching us, knowing we will listen. As warm demanders, we find that perfect balance of empathy and expectations with each of our students.
During the first week of school, our students sat silent, still, and stubborn. To create a student-centered, problem-solving collaborative classroom, our main focus was to put some of the math aside and focus on those relationships. Trust, respect, and rapport in the classroom must be mutual. To earn that with our students, we share personal stories, our personalities, math experiences, and expectations with them. We welcomed the silence but continued to provide the time and space for our students to grow their trust.
We adapted strategies to help students gain confidence to speak and work productively on math. We implemented random grouping every day. Within the first five minutes of class, we projected a random generator that decided where the students would sit that day and provided a conversation task as well. Our students loved having discussions such as, “Would you rather spend a day without your phone or with no people at all?” This gave them an opportunity to interact with different students and engage in dialogue, which soon transitioned to student -to- student mathematical discourse. We also focused on vertical learning. This involved getting the students up and moving as they worked on a mathematical challenge while standing at whiteboards. Students were able to see other students’ work by just looking around the room. We were able to quickly evaluate errors and misconceptions, and identify a strong team that we could use as a model. Students loved to make a “fishbowl huddle” around the vertical whiteboard that was the example.
As their confidence and comfort grew in the classroom, mathematical identity and shared authority of learning started to flourish. Additionally, we realized that in math, we needed to focus on the learning process rather than the answer. When students asked questions and we answered immediately, they stopped thinking. Rather, we responded to their questions with other questions. We wanted to continue the conversations among the teams. This created a productive math struggle and opened up different strategies for solving a problem. At this point in the year, each student in our classroom has a unique purpose and voice. As the year continues, we enjoy seeing our students take ownership of their growth, confidence, and success in math. We have taken pride in our abilities as co-teachers to be unified partners in the connections we build with our kids. We look forward to continuing to develop and refine our collaborative teaching model.