This month I visited teaching partners Janice Lapointe and Patricia Tierney in their K–2 primary class at Rowe School in Rowe, MA. “Having a co-teacher makes you step up your game. We’re both responsible for 24 students. We discuss and reflect together on what we’ll do next,” says Janice.
“We both have the same level of engagement and involvement with our kids. And we have another teacher who understands. We have different perspectives so we can learn from one another,” adds Patricia.
As co-teachers who share a classroom, Janice and Patricia have a unique working relationship. They agree on and maintain consistently high standards. The two teachers balance their responsibilities and structure their school day so all students are taught individually and in developmentally appropriate ways. Students are encouraged to advance when they’re ready, regardless of age, and they do!
The K–2 whole class activities are planned for 2nd graders, with scaffolding for younger students. A recent morning message had words like Wampanoag and Europeans, ambitious words for 2nd graders. Beginning readers joined in with older classmates for a choral reading of the message.
Sam, a kindergartner, pointed to the words as the students read aloud together. Then Sam asked the group, “What’s the topic in the first paragraph?” and followed with, “What’s a detail in that paragraph?” Not typical kindergarten questions.
Small groups are determined more by skill than by grade. Both Patricia and Janice teach the Wilson Program’s Fundations at the same time. Janice teaches beginning readers about vowels and consonants, while Patricia works with more fluent readers on r-controlled vowels.
In math, Patricia, Janice, and a special educator each teach a small group. Occasionally there is a student who can move ahead or one who needs additional practice. Small groups are flexible since the whole school, all 69 students, have math at the same time.
Social studies and science are integrated with ELA. Units are taught every two or three years. The class may revisit topics like Native Americans or transportation, but in a different context. Their displays and field trips are repeated every three years.
Liam, a 2nd grader, picks his own spelling words, so he’s working on words like poison and implode.
The students move around their classroom independently and help themselves to supplies and materials. A well-organized classroom fosters independence. And this class is not quiet! There’s a hum of small voices engaged in their work.
One boy recently told his mom that a writing class was “better than any recess I ever had!” That’s high praise for Patricia Tierney and Janice Lapointe, two dedicated teachers whose co-teaching shows they both care deeply for all 24 students.
Janice came to Rowe School after graduating from Smith College and has stayed for 28 years. Patricia, who’s from Argentina, moved to Rowe from Connecticut after vacationing in the area. They’ve taught together for the past eight years.