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Career Advice: Team Teaching Troubles

Suzanne Tingley on getting along with a coteacher and juggling work and grad school.

By Suzanne Tingley
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Team Teaching Troubles

Q: “My team teacher and I are polar opposites in terms of discipline, assignments, and philosophy. Neither of us is happy. How can we find a way to work together?”

A: Sit down with your colleague and be honest. Decide how you are going to divide responsibilities. If your colleague is going to teach math and science and you are going to teach reading and social studies, it may not matter if you don’t agree. If you are teaming up on the same subjects, however, you will have to compromise. The way you present the material may differ, but you must agree on what you want your students to know and how you will test them.

The cardinal rule for teachers who are teaming up (or who are just colleagues, for that matter) is never to let students or parents hear you criticize each other or act as if you agree with students’ complaints about your fellow teacher. You may share students’ comments in private—or not.

You might find that you learn from each other and develop a strong working relationship. You might not. I once knew a teacher who flatly refused to speak to her assigned teammate. Don’t be that person. Make the best of it, learn what you can, and make sure your students have a good year.


Grad School Juggling Act

Q: “How can I balance grad school and teaching? My days are already packed and I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.”

A: Having taught graduate school for many years, I know that students who effectively manage their time perform better, are less stressed, and complete the program in a more efficient manner. Here are a few tips.
Read your course syllabus and sync it with your school calendar. That way, if a grad assignment is due the same night as your school’s open house, you’ll have time to figure out what to do.

Rely on lesson plans you’ve used successfully in the past. Resist the temptation to do your coursework while your students work quietly—you don’t want to shortchange them.

Tell your principal about your studies. She’ll understand why you might need to leave early on occasion or can’t volunteer for as many extras as you used to.

Go into the program with a positive attitude. You’ll meet new people, explore new ideas, and engage your intellect. It will be tough but rewarding. 

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