6 Tips for How to Be a More Effective Co-Teacher

Whether you are an experienced co-teacher or are brand new to the practice, veteran teacher Heather’s tips will help make your co-teaching experience mindful, productive, and effective.

Updated on: November 28, 2019

How To Be a More Effective Co-Teacher

When it comes to teaching children, two heads are better than one. That’s how I try to think about it anyway, when I have a co-teacher assigned to my room for the year. Whether teaching just one class with him or her, or having them in my classroom for most of the day, one thing’s for sure -- it takes a lot of getting used to.

You can be an effective communicator by employing some helpful tips and tricks that target planning, feedback, conflict, and instructional delivery. Here are my top tips for working with a co-teacher.

1. Give Them Space

Your co-teacher deserves a spot in your room. Provide him or her with a little area with a working surface for a laptop, and a chair that is away from you own desk. Having your own space is key and it makes a co-teacher instantly feel a part of your classroom. As a nice gesture, you can gift them a basket of pens, sticky notes, and other trinkets that they can keep stationed there.

2. Go Over Teaching Strategies

Sometimes, a co-teacher may not be familiar with the kinds of teaching strategies that can be used to maximize instruction. It’s important to go over these and include them in your lesson plan, so they know what they are doing for the day. Some of the most popular co-teach teaching approaches are:

  • One Teaches, One Observes

  • This method allows you to teach the class with the co-teacher observes in order to collect data based on their observation.
  • One Teaches, One Assists

  • This method allows you to teach the class and the co-teacher moves throughout the room, assisting students who are off task or need help.
  • Parallel Teaching

  • This method allows you both to teach the same lesson, at the same time, just with smaller groups in different areas of the classroom.
  • Station Teaching

    This method allows you to both teach a different concept. Students move in small groups from one of you to the other.
  • Alternate Teaching

  • This method allows for a teacher to teach the majority of the class, and one of you pulls a few students off to the side or outside of the room for remediation.
  • Team Teaching

  • This method allows for both teachers to teach at the same time.

3. Pick a Planning Day (And Stick to It!)

As a teacher, you know that things pop up all the time: assemblies, schedule changes, conferences, grade level meetings -- things can get busy fast and come up at the last minute. It can be very easy to push off your planning day with your co-teacher. Try not to do this. If you both agree that you’re going to do your lesson plans together every Tuesday during your planning time, stick to it.

Oftentimes, the lead teacher takes over the plans when there’s a lot going on, and it leaves the co-teacher in the dark. This is when a major disconnect can occur and the last thing you want is for your co-teacher to feel left out, resentful, or foolish if they get informally observed in your classroom and they don’t know what they’re doing.

4. Compromise

It's helpful to realize when you’re co-teaching that you can’t run the whole show. While you may think your ideas are great, your co-teacher may also feel that they have some great ideas as well. Shutting him or her down isn’t OK. You can either let them set up the lesson as they envisions it, or you can politely use their idea but offer a suggestion to make it run more smoothly.

Worried you’re going to hurt someone's feelings? You can start by saying that you like the IDEA, but you have a few suggestions to add to it. Compromise is important for both parties.

If there comes a time when you both don’t want to teach what the other is presenting, it may best to agree to disagree and move on, thinking of something completely different to try and taking the original ideas off the table.

5. Give Them a Responsibility

Co-teachers want a shared ownership within your classroom. Give them a responsibility, such as grading homework, splitting the test pile to grade, walking the group to the bathroom, or emailing the day's homework to parents. This will also help them understand what’s going on in your classroom, and how policies and procedures are implemented.

6. Use "We," Not "I"

Your students need to understand that there are two teachers in their classroom, not just you. When speaking to the students, stay away from using words like, “I.” When you use “we,” students will understand that you both care about their learning and are going to be working with them. They will understand they can ask questions to either one of you and will also learn to welcome your co-teacher into their learning environment.

Working with a co-teacher can be a challenge, but with some time, patience, and lots of effort and understanding; a co-teacher can really maximize instruction and benefit all types of students. Consider the simple tips and tricks above to set the tone for a positive, mindful, and productive co-teaching experience.

What are your tips and strategies for co-teaching? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Heather Aulisio is a third grade teacher in Pennsylvania. She has been a teacher for nearly 15 years and holds multiple degrees and certifications. A freelancer for The Mailbox and other education-related clients and publications, she enjoys writing in order to help and entertain fellow teachers. She currently resides with her husband, Bryan; son, Matthew; and two pugs, Lily and Leo.

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