When we think about Dual Language programs, we immediately think of language acquisition, academic standards, lesson planning, and teaching in two languages, among other things. One topic that does not immediately come to mind is collaboration and co-teaching and how these two go hand in hand like “love and marriage”.
It is true that with the many demands educators face, the last thing on their minds is worrying about how to develop their relationship with coworkers and how this can positively or negatively affect the academic performance of their students.
The truth is that the responsibility of addressing the diverse learning and socioemotional needs of all students is the responsibility of all of us, not just the classroom teacher.
Therefore, we should not work in isolation, but collaborate with our colleagues. Here are five tips to start your journey to collaboration and co-teaching in a dual language program.
1- Make sure that you listen to understand and not listen to respond.
Many times, we think of ourselves as great listeners because we are very attentive to what others are saying. In reality, what we are doing is paying close attention to what the other person is saying so that we can find the flaws in their argument or moments when we can interject. Focusing on responding does not allow us the space to carefully listen to our colleagues’ ideas or suggestions, in order to better understand their point of view or why they might be making certain suggestions. When listening to your colleagues’ ideas make sure to listen with an open mind and not with an open “mouth” that is ready to respond.
2-Be mindful of non-verbal communication.
This is something that might be a bit tough for some of us who tend to speak with our facial expressions. Many of our facial expressions or lack of attention to what someone is saying or doing may be interpreted as a sign of disrespect by others. This can happen even if that was not our intention. To help prevent this, it is important to keep our non-verbal communication in check. Make sure that you are paying attention to the speaker. Acknowledge what is being said with nods or words. Make sure that your attention is not being diverted by other things (cellphones, tablets, etc.). I do understand that we live in a world in which we are constantly connected, but make sure to put the cellphone down. If you can’t apologize for using the electronic device, make sure to keep the interruption as short as possible.
3-We all have something we can provide. Make sure you are confident and share your thoughts.
Many of us have wonderful ideas during a work group situation that could positively impact the academic achievement of students, but we keep quite because we feel intimidated or afraid that others might reject our idea. Speak up! Speaking up and sharing your ideas is instrumental in the success of all students. Remember it takes a village. Make sure to share your idea in a respectful manner, but with confidence.
4-Brush up on the Super Six of Co-teaching.
If you have not already done so, I strongly encourage you and your teammates to try out one or more models of co-teaching. Co-teaching models are often associated with special education but are a wonderful tool for all educators. Co-teaching models can help two teachers in a dual language classroom as well as the gym teacher working with the 4th grade team. Co-teaching is a way of transforming teaching through collaboration and co-planning while addressing the learning needs of all students. If time for co-planning is the biggest hurdle that stands in the way of you and your colleagues trying out co-teaching, check out collaboration tools such as Google Docs, Twidia , Thinkbinder and Mind Meister, among others.
5- Last, but not least, trust your colleagues.
I know that trust is such a hard thing to earn and an easy thing to lose, but it is essential in education. You can’t teach your students everything they need to be successful in their careers as students. Therefore, you must trust your fellow educators in that they will also do their best to ensure the academic success of all students.
Remember, you are part of a team, and as team member you must help your fellow educators as you would like them to help you. Building trust takes time and effort, but you must do your part.
I wish all my fellow educators a wonderful and successful 2019-2020 school year!