Sunday, August 18, 2013

Co-Teaching! {Part 2 of 5} Starting off the Year! {Plus a Freebie!!}

Back from the Appalachian Mountains and super excited because {drum roll puhlease!!!..............}

Mrs. Cahill and I are back for Part 2 of 5 of our series on co-teaching!  If you are starting off the year with a student teacher, this series is great for you!  We would especially love lots of comments and feedback about what other fabulous {and experienced!!} teachers have done when receiving or becoming a student teacher. 
Last week Martina and I talked about our first weeks together and our first impressions, before the school year began.  Today I’m here to talk share my story about starting off the school year together and how we transitioned from me teaching full time, to Martina teaching full time, and then back again.  And I apologize ahead of time, it’s a long one.  But if you stick with me to the very end, there’s something good in it for you!  I promise.
We’ve all been there- student teaching.  However we all have different experiences.  Some *amazing*, some horrifying!  But it’s important to have experiences.  No matter what they are.  For me, I felt like it was kind of challenging to start the year off with a student teacher.  There’s no “normal” at the beginning of the year.  But I knew that you don’t always never have two teachers in the classroom and I had to make the most out of it while I could!  So for the first few weeks, we lesson planned together and worked together on everything.  It was awesome and easy for both of us.  It felt natural. 
During these two weeks, I taught all of the lessons but would have Martina teach mini-lessons or work with kiddos one on one during independent work time.  I taught her to do DRAs/ Fountais and Pinnell’s Reading Assessments and she began doing some of these during Reader’s Workshop.  The students got comfortable referring to both of us when they had questions.  We began to get comfortable working as a team.  She was still so nervous getting up in front of the classroom!  But she got better and better every time!  And what better way to get comfortable than standing in front of 20-something kiddos?  Slowly she gained more and more responsibility.  {From leading small groups to leading morning meeting!} The kids loved her!  And I loved her!  She began to learn classroom routines, expectations, and create her own teaching style.  She already had my trust as a friend, but she began to gain my trust as an educator as well.  There’s a big difference!  I don’t know how you know when it happens, but you know.

We decided that in order for her to take over the entire classroom for four full weeks, it would be best to do it gradually.  {Her program required two full weeks but I thought it would be hard to get the “gist” of being a real teacher in just two weeks so we upped it to four!}  So week by week she picked up a new subject.  She started with math and taught math for a whole week.  Then the next week she picked up Science so she was responsible for Math and Science every day.  The third week she picked up a new subject… and this continued, week by week, until she had picked up every subject and transition time.  While she was picking up new subjects, I was in the classroom.  I felt comfortable enough to leave for large chunks of time- maybe working in the workroom or helping out another teacher.  But I was mostly there.  Helping her, making sure everything was okay, and overall, being a co-teacher!  At the end of each school day we would sit down and discuss her lessons from that day.  I always started by asking her, “What went well?” and then “What do you want to do differently next time?”  This helped her reflect on her lessons but also allowed her to celebrate what went well!  We had lots of celebrations!
As much as I *love* and *trust* Martina, when it came time to leave the classroom altogether, it was not easy.  Once she was teaching every subject, I had agreed to leave her in the classroom ALONE for two-four full weeks.  Easier said than done.

Y’all, I went home and had anxiety attacks.  I tried my darndest to step back and allow Martina to figure everything out.  But at the same time I found myself going home and not needing to lesson plan, grade, or organize… Weird, right?  I threw myself into a new project at our school and tried my best to allow Martina to learn, grow, and {most importantly} teach!  Even keeping busy I really missed being in our classroom.  I trusted Martina and loved having her teaching but I missed being a part of it all too.  
Those four weeks were hard on both of us for so many different reasons.  Martina was used to having another body in the classroom so management was all of a sudden more challenging.  Things that were easy with two teachers {such as running to make copies real quick} was all of a sudden not an option!  I had to step back.  I had to learn about working with other teachers, staying away from my classroom, and trusting that Martina had it {which she did!}  Martina grew and I grew as well.  Don’t we all learn best when we do?  Rather than just listening or watching?  Well, Martina was learning.  Fast!  And I learned that I was much more of a control freak than I had ever known :)

Martina’s two weeks were up and gone before I knew it and I was suddenly taking back a subject, week by week, until I was again teaching everything {but with Martina by my side!}.  It felt great to be back in the classroom teaching.  However, I realized our kiddos didn’t even react to having different teachers.  They were fine. 

A nice little reminder I saw this weekend :)
Mine and Martina’s struggles had gone unnoticed by our 5th graders!  Martina continued to lead Morning Meeting and be a huge part of the classroom! {But more on that next week!}  And I stepped back in and it was as if I had never left.  I learned that sometimes it’s best to step back and allow someone else to take on some responsibility.  Having Martina in our classroom allowed me to notice things that I would have been too absorbed to notice while teaching.  She made me such a better teacher!
Having a student teacher is such a responsibility.  It seems great but is so scary and intimidating too!  I really loved and trusted Martina but still worried about handing my classroom over to someone else.  But I knew I had to.  How else will newbie teachers learn?  We’ve all been there!  And I know my classroom was better for it.  I also know that Martina and I are better teachers for it. 

The 5th grade way of saying, "You are awesome!  You, you, are awesome!!!  Yayyyy!"
How do other teachers out there handle receiving a student teacher?  How have student teachers taken responsibility in the classroom?  What’s the best thing your mentor teacher or student teacher has done for you? 

Go check out Martina’s thoughts on Starting off the Year on her Blog, The Hungry Teacher!

Alright, you stuck with me until the end- THANK YOU!  If you comment on this post before the end of Monday {August 19th} I will e-mail you a FREE product {of your choice} from my TpT store!  Just leave a comment, your e-mail address and the product of your choice!  Next week I will have a similar treat!  So please be sure to check back next Sunday for some more freebies!
 AND OF COURSE... GO CHECK OUT THE AWESOME BACK TO SCHOOL SALE on TpT!! :) Everything in my store is 20% off for the next day and combined with the code BTS13, you can get 28% off TONS of items all over the site!!  YAY!
Thank you Beth for this super cute graphic!!


  1. Hi Kelly,
    I REALLY enjoyed reading all about your experience having a student teacher.. I know how we as teachers are control freaks and it takes a lot of trust to give up your classroom to someone! I, like you, would find it hard to go home and have nothing to plan..nothing to grade... it would be weird. But so worth it, right? Because you could see how your co teacher is growing and that is so fun to watch! I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your posts on this topic!
    It's so generous for you to give one of your TpT items away! I've had my eye on your writing unit-loving writing unit 1 (in fact, it's on my wishlist) for a while! We're starting writer's workshop this year and I'm a little overwhelmed!
    Fifth Grade Ramblings

  2. Yay! Thanks so much Kristin! I am e-mailing you with the Writing Unit now! Please let me know if you do not receive it.

    Kelly Anne