Monday, October 1, 2012

Go Team! Teaching

It was a cool Monday morning; students were trudging through the building as if they were just rolling out of bed and trying not to fall down the stairs. I was huddled at my desk trying my best to prepare for the day and change the lives of my students. The sound of squeaking shoes and muddled conversations was beginning to break my concentration. I tried to push through, but soon realized that it was no use; time for my morning duty. As I stood in front of my classroom door, I could now put faces to the growling sounds coming from the hallway. I did my best to transfer my energy for the day to my past and current students. I even transferred a 'Good Morning!' to those that I did not recognize, but alas, no results. As time ticked away, a fellow colleague of mine stopped by my room to ask a favor. He had a meeting during his first block class and asked if I could cover for him for a few minutes. "No problem," I said, "what are you teaching today?" He responded with, "The students are learning about function operations. I'll leave options on my desk for you if you don't feel comfortable teaching a lesson." He handed me his notes for me to look over if I was interested in teaching, and I thought to myself "Sure, I can do this on the spot." During homeroom, I read over his notes, quickly trying to come up with something interesting and engaging that I could present to his students. I had no interest in 'out-teaching' him in any way, I simply wanted to put together a quality lesson. I certainly did not want to take away from his class in any way. Fast forward 15 minutes and I'm standing in his class getting ready to teach. I was given the option to allow them to continue their classwork, go over their homework, or teach. I was feeling confident in teaching, and I recognized half of the students from previous years, so I went for it. I began teaching function operations and function composition to a pre-calculus class that I had never planned for before and it went Xtremely well. While there wasn't much exciting to the lesson, I was able to build off of their prior knowledge and construct new ideas that stuck. However, the best part was yet to come. About 10 minutes into my teaching, my colleague returned to the room. Since I was in the middle of a thought, I continued until I came to a stopping point. I asked if he wanted to take over and he sat down and let me continue. No problem; I was having a grand ol' time. It was a unique experience teaching a lesson and having the students participate and listen 100%. I'm used to freshmen that are still all over the place and seniors that have a hard time understanding the value and beauty of mathematics. These juniors were on top of their game and begging for more information. It didn't take my colleague long to notice this (he experiences it on a daily basis with them) so after a few minutes he jumped right in, helping me teach. Before I knew it, we were both teaching his students, and they were hanging on every word. We were able to bounce concepts off of each other, fill in gaps where one (me) might have missed something, and fully illustrate what function operations really represented. As the students led me through examples, he was standing at the smartboard illustrating what was going on through graphs. I noticed the students' heads constantly moving back and forth, but not in an overwhelming way. They were truly engaged, hanging on our every word. Jokes were told, knowledge was passed, lives were changed. I
In talking with my colleague the next day, he said his students remembered everything we had talked about in the previous lesson. Team teaching was effective, and super-freakin'-fun! He said the students loved it and requested that it happen again on a regular basis. I walked in later in the week and I could see the excitement on their faces grow, not because I'm awesome, but because they were hoping to have some more fun in math class! Fun in math class? Really? Is that possible?
I've always heard of team teaching and thought it was something that was only done in the past. But now I know why it was done, because it works! The lesson we did together was completely spontaneous and I think it was one of the most effective lessons I've ever been a part of. Just think of what we could've done had we planned it out ahead of time!?! So, obviously, we've decided to make this a regular part of our lives. Because of the positive outcome, we're going to get together and plan lessons and be guests in each others' room at least once a week. But doesn't that cut into your planning period? Yes. Doesn't that make you so mad? No. Aren't you going to ask for extra payment since your teaching more? No. This is fun, and its great for the kids. A better question is, why wouldn't we do it??
As we do this more, I'll try to get some pictures and post updates as to how it is going. I believe this week students will see more than one teacher in their room, but not for intimidation purposes...

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