The Co-Teaching Rodeo

I can attest as a former co-teacher, supervisor and trainer of co-teachers that co-teaching can sometimes be like a rodeo!  Have you ever tried to make the best of the short amount of instructional or planning time you have, just to be thrown from the saddle?  Or have you be trying to co-teach with limited resources, so you can only hold on with one hand? And what about those rodeo clowns (cough cough...ill-structured systems, poor leadership, no planning time, no professional development, or resources!)?  I'm sure these metaphors have resonated with many of the co-teachers out there today. So why do I call it the co-teaching rodeo?  Let's look a bit closer to the aspects of the rodeo and make connections to co-teaching....

Let's start with the types of riding in a rodeo:

Bronc Riding is a rodeo event that involves a rodeo participant riding on a horse (sometimes called a bronc or bronco), that attempts to throw or buck off the rider.  

The co-teaching comparison equates to mismatched or unbalanced partnership.  We often think of parity in co-teaching as equality.  We want to see collaboration happen where both co-teachers have a balance of strengths and assets that reach each and every learner in the classroom.  The mismatch happens when dialogue and clearly defined roles are not established.  Sometimes there is even slight inequity when the locus of control is lost because you share a room, materials, or even some intellectual property.  

The best advice for the BRONC RIDING Co-teacher team is to restart, reevaluate your goals, strengths, and value-added assets that should be used in the co-taught class.  In addition complete or create your roles and responsibilities agreements for both instruction and for tasks related to the partnership.   

Bareback riding is one of the most physically demanding events in rodeo, with a high injury rate. Cowboys ride the bucking horse one-handed and cannot touch or hang onto anything with their free hand. To make the event more difficult for the rider, they are required to lean back and spur in a highly stylized manner that was never historically used in actual practice. 

The co-teaching connection... Sometime bareback co-teaching limits co-teachers to optimizing the benefits for both students and teachers because of limited understanding of what co-teaching can be, the curriculum, and even what the students need.  I often here from co-teacher teams that they are uncertain of the content and scope and sequence.  Specialist teachers feel inadequate especially at the secondary level. Core content teachers may express concern on limited knowledge of specific student need.  Sometimes the lack of exposure or practice limits true instruction and minimizes the partnership to the one teach- one assist model.  Additionally, because of limited time to plan or ill-structured planning time the "highly stylized" [we'll call this differentiation] can't happen...and we know this is what all students need, regardless of their level and/or ability.  Hanging on for dear life is the impact (with high injury for systems, students, and staff) and therefore co-teaching survival mode limits the impact of success!  .  The best advice is to review the Recipe for Success and Sustainability of Co-Teaching...which of these pieces can you use as talking points with your leadership to reduce high co-teaching injury and increase success and sustainability!

BARREL RACING is a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. It combines the horse’s athletic ability and the horsemanship skills of a rider in order to safely and successfully maneuver a horse through a clover leaf pattern around three barrels placed in a triangle in the center of an arena.

The co-teaching've been co-teaching for awhile, perhaps with the same partner, multiple partners, or always with someone new. Its definitely a balancing act!  In any event the expectation is that in the co-taught classroom you must close the achievement gap in the shortest amount of time possible...compound this by a laundry list of district initiatives and an exhaustive list of barriers including time, resources, support, and/or energy to do all of these things well.  Rest assured its not impossible to create a dynamic co-taught partnership, however, you must be willing to take each co-teachers skills and abilities and marry them to the existing conditions.  Co-teachers must present and bridal a united front in terms of co-planning, co-instruction co-assessment.  With achievement looming and test scores driving instruction its imperative to have joint accountability of outcomes.  The best tips and tricks for this is transparency... consistently looking at data.... summative, formative, and anecdotal. Lastly, be mindful of the needs of your co-teacher....its relational and the more you invest in each other the more you both harness co-teaching ability and skill to maneuver the co-taught classroom more efficiently. 

TEAM ROPING also known as heading and heeling is a rodeo event that features a steer and two mounted riders. The first roper is referred to as the “header,” the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually around the horns, the second is the “heeler,” who ropes the steer by its hind feet.  A successful professional-level team takes between 4 and 12 seconds to stretch the steer, depending on the length of the arena. At lower levels, a team may take longer, particularly if the heeler misses the first throw and has to try again. At higher levels, the header and the heeler are allowed only one throw each, if either misses, the team gets no score.

The co-teaching connection.. at any level co-teaching takes a team.  Both teachers share the successes and the failures.  While you might not be looking to get the "score" you are both trying to attain optimal instruction that impacts in the classroom.  Whether you are the "header' or the "heeler" we know that one cannot exist without the other.  Ahhh....the essence of collaboration and truly a vital piece to co-teaching.  So how do you get there?  Its certainly not an end destination, rather the journey that affords you many  opportunity to build capacity.  I love sharing this self assessment tool in my training to be mindful of what is happening in the co-taught partnership.

Dr.Martina Wagner 2018