Recently I attended a two day workshop on coaching. The workshop was valuable and informative. It has also left me with serious doubts about my plans for this fall. In discussing the coaching model that includes cycles of modeling, collaborative planning, observing, and providing feedback, the presenter said that the modeling phase should not be confused with co-teaching. He said that the research indicates that co-teaching as a form of coaching, where the coach will eventually leave the co-teaching situation is not effective. The classroom teacher would revert back to their old way of teaching because they lack the partner in the room.
I have plans to co-teach this year with a 6th grade teacher in her boys only reading class. The reason we had decided to give this a go was due to a workshop led by Laura Robb that I attended at the Michigan Reading Conference last spring. Led by the ideas in Robb's book Differentiating Reading Instruction, we want to implement a differentiated way of teaching strategic reading in our school. We are planning to implement Robb's methods and then report to staff and have the methods and strategies spread through the school.
The presenter's statement leaves me wondering if I have chosen the best method for creating change. Unfortunately, it is too late for me to "back out" of co-teaching. We've already begun planning and my co-teacher does not feel confident about pulling this together alone. And really, I'm not convinced that the presenter or his research were correct. I do think that it provides new questions for my co-teacher and I to discuss. I need to remember that this is really HER classroom, not OURS. We need to develop strategies for her to be able to run this new style of classroom on her own at some point, and I think we need to determine what that point should be.
If I consider our work together in terms of the gradual release model of instruction, I still believe co-teaching is the best option. The changes we are seeking are not ones I can simply model, as I've never taught this way. These changes are a whole new process for designing and implementng a reading curriculum. They will require both my co-teacher and me to shift our paradigm. But I think if the rest of our thinking follows the gradual release method, always reminding ourselves that at some point it will be she alone in the classroom, we can make co-teaching work.