I like to share. I don’t have control issues. But, when it comes to my classroom, I don’t like to share and I do have control issues. I work on a three-person team, but we have never taught the kids as a team. I would be more than willing to work together with the kids, but my teammates are not interested. They are willing to do community building activities with the kids, which is ironic because we don’t teach/learn as a community, but they aren’t willing to do any PBL or inquiry projects connected to the curriculum.
In my nineteen years of teaching, I have only worked successfully with one teacher. We worked on a team and did many PBL projects with the students, but the third teacher was not interested. Unfortunately (for me, not the teacher), the teacher retired three years ago and I was left on an island again. This wouldn’t bother me, but being a sixth grade teacher, there are so many learning opportunities (correlating science and math or history and ELA or all of the core subjects) that we could do with the kids, and I believe that they would have success.
Two years ago, I was scheduled to teach the Consultant-Teacher-Direct class with a sixth grade special education teacher. I have known the teacher since I was in high school, but before a few years ago, I did not know her very well. What I knew? She worked hard. She worked well with the kids. She had experience at the elementary school level. And she seemed to enjoy teaching. Even with all of this, I was very nervous about having her come into my classroom. For our middle school, this was the first time we were trying this model, and I could not stop thinking: Will we be able to make this work? Will the kids in my classroom have success? Will I be able to work with her and get along?
Well, after almost two years, which included a pandemic, the answer is, “Yes, yes, yes.” Not only have we made it work, but the kids are finding success in our (no longer “my”) classroom. How do I know that they are finding success? They are turning into readers (not just because we want them to read, but because they want to read) and they are sharpening their writing skills, which is amazing because teaching writing in a hybrid/remote learning environment is almost impossible. Most importantly, we work together better than I ever imagined. We constantly talk pedagogy, reading and writing strategies to utilize with the kids, and the modifications that need to be made to lessons and activities so ALL of the kids find success. For me, this is unusual because most teachers just want to talk about personal issues when they are not teaching kids. We talk “school” at school and away from school. Our students are so lucky to have two dedicated teachers. I feel lucky to have this (especially this year).
She is the second best teacher that I have EVER worked with. Her knowledge of special education is outstanding and her strategies that she shares with me and utilizes are effective. We (not “me” anymore) have created a learning environment where EVERY kid is learning and growing as readers and writers.
This leads me to yesterday afternoon and my letter to the building principal. I wrote to him asking for one more year with the CTD ELA class. We have accomplished so much during a pandemic that I want one more year (or more) to utilize all of the lessons, activities, units, and modifications that we have created and used over the last two years. I know that we will have new kids and new challenges, but I also know that we will do everything that we can to help ALL of them find success with reading and writing. I’m getting better at sharing my classroom (thanks to this teacher), which is our classroom. And, I’m even getting used to giving up some control in our classroom for the benefit of OUR students.