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Education Expert Advice from Barbara Callaghan

Q: I am a teacher of third grade in a Catholic school. Recently I have been asked by my principal to teach 41 students next year with possibly an aide or, preferred by my principal, a second teacher. I have not worked with anyone before in the same classroom other than a p/t aide. Any resources on team teaching and your opinion on the subject? Also, I have recently heard of a new way of teaching called "learner-active teaching." Have you heard of this? Does it work? Is there training involved? Do you think it will work with 41 students?

Thank you,
Marianne

A: I am currently team-teaching 49 students in second grade. In addition, I have a student teacher and a student who requires a one- on- one aide. It works because the other teacher and I both wanted to do it, and we are very organized.

We were able to open the wall between our rooms and have one huge room. Generally speaking, only one of us teaches at a time and the other person does the "gofer" work and disciplining. After large group instruction, we both do flexible 'grouping' so that we can meet with small groups of children. If I do the math teaching this week, the other teacher will do language arts. We do our lesson planning together and trade off instruction so that we each get to teach everything. We decided to team up because we found we both had similar ideas of things we wanted to try.

If you have no experience with working with volunteers or an aide, you will need to do a lot of honest talking with your potential co-worker so that you can find the common ground that you both enjoy. The time to talk is before you start. Plan lots of meetings so that you both have a good understanding of the expectations. There will be lots of unexpected surprises and you will want to be well-grounded with each other so that the surprises can be dealt with easily.

I am unfamiliar with the term "learner-active teaching" but will make the assumption that it is probably some variation of hands-on learning where the children construct meaning from their experiences. There are many workshops and college week-long courses that are given on these topics.

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After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.


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