If you are a special education teacher who has been asked to co-teach in a general education classroom, you may be wondering what the etiquette rules are. How do you share a classroom with another teacher without stepping on toes? In this blog post, we will discuss some of the things that you need to keep in mind about physical space within the classroom when co-teaching with another educator.
Tips for Co-Teaching Etiquette
When co-teaching in a classroom, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to avoid any conflict. Here are a few tips:
Make sure you have a clear understanding of the expectations and procedures for the class.
Be respectful of each other's space and teaching style.
Communicate with each other regularly about what is working and what isn't.
Be flexible and willing to compromise.
Physical Space Within the Classroom
When co-teaching in a classroom, it is important to be aware of each other's physical space. Here are a few tips for sharing space:
Make sure there is enough room for both teachers to move around freely.
Try not to stand in front of each other when teaching.
Make sure that the special education teacher has access to the materials they need, such as manipulatives or special seating arrangements for students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs).
It's important to give your co-teacher some breathing room during the day, especially when you're trying to work together on lesson planning or grading assignments for students who are struggling in class. This can be done by splitting up duties like taking attendance, handing out worksheets, or calling students up to the front of the classroom. But how does it work when looking at the perspective of physical space?
How are special education teachers supposed to feel that they are equally important in the classroom and to the education of the students if the minute they walk in the door the physical space blaring states that they are not?
The Importance of Co-Teacher Desks or Work Space
When surveyed Special Education instructors responded with a strong "yes" when asked if co-teachers should have a specific spot in the classroom. However, 65% of educators polled also stated that they do not have a desk or place to work in their co-teaching environments. Only 22% of teachers said they had a desk or some sort of allocated seating space for teaching materials and meeting with students.
Nope! I'm lucky if I can leave my milk crate!
No… I actually feel like a para in mine.
I carry a large bag and try to have everything I need in it but I'm always missing something.
I don't feel comfortable using my host teacher's supplies.
We share a desk.
No desk, barely even a chair or place to put my stuff.
I have a large very heavy bag with all my manipulatives and teaching materials.
This isn't acceptable. A special education instructor should never feel like a second-class teacher in a co-teaching situation. It's time to have some important talks about classroom equity. When the phrase "our" students is used but not reflected in "our" class, there is an obvious disconnect.
Co-Teacher Sharing Physical Space in the Classroom
Should a co-teacher have a desk in the classroom?
For any teacher, it's important to feel like you belong and have a place and a purpose. No one wants to feel like a guest in their own home. This is no different for a co-teacher.
A Special Education Teacher's Perspective on Co-Teaching Etiquette
Co-teachers that don't feel equal in the teaching space can have problems. In my special education classroom, I always feel like I need to ask permission to be in the room. My co-teacher has a desk and chair right in the front of the room while I am crammed into a small corner. This makes me feel unimportant and that my opinions about what is happening in the class are not valid. I always feel like it's my job to keep the special education students quiet and controlled while we are in the "real" classroom. This adds a lot of stress on me because I'm trying to teach them but don't want to disrupt everyone else's learning!
Creating an Equitable Space in the Classroom
This might be as simple as having each co-teacher a desk and chair, but you can guarantee that they have an equal physical area in the classroom. This would be ideal if the co-teaching is spread out over several hours. If it's only for one push, you don't need to provide them with a full workstation; just a space to meet with students and store materials.
In order to function as a genuine co-teaching collaborator, a special education instructor in the classroom should always have everything they need. Transportation of items manually between diverse parts of the school puts a strain on the co-teaching relationship and may rapidly lead to animosity and irritation for the special education teacher.
How to Share a Classroom with Another Teacher
If there is not the same amount of physical area in the room, be sure to speak with your co-teacher on a regular basis about how the space is feeling and functioning as a teaching environment. When moving classroom to classroom, special education instructors should not have to live out of a backpack or rolling crate like a second class teacher.
When special education teachers are co-teaching with a general ed teacher in the classroom, there may be times when special educators need to have special accommodation for their materials. If special education students are receiving instruction from both special and general educators at the same time, then space is required. There should be an area of the classroom where special education students can be separated and receive special instruction. This special space may need to include storage for special materials or resources that the special educator needs on a regular basis.
Sometimes special educators are required to have private conversations with other staff, students, or parents regarding their student's progress and progress monitoring numbers, services, etc... Some co-teachers designate a special space in the room, like a corner or an unused desk, to have these conversations. It is important that both teachers are aware of this designated area and respect each other's privacy while conversing.
Special Education Teachers in the Co-Teaching Classroom
So, should special education teachers have their own desks in the co-teaching environment? There is no right or wrong answer, it depends on the specific situation. However, special educators should always advocate for their own needs and make sure they have what they need to be successful in the co-teaching classroom.
If you are a special education teacher who is new to co-teaching, it is important to ask your general education counterpart about their needs and what you can do to help make the co-teaching environment run smoothly. Establishing clear communication is key to a successful co-teaching experience for everyone involved!
Please share any tips or experiences you have with co-teaching in the comments below! I would love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading!