Teaching is all about communication. When creating a classroom environment the students are not just observing and learning from their coaches interactions with the students, they are observing and absorbing the attitudes and behaviors of the coaches interacting with one another as well. For instance, if we want to teach our students how to listen, the coaches need to be an example by staying quiet when the other coach is teaching. The way the coaches interact with one another sets the tone for the class.
Coaches must communicate effectively with one another in order to create a positive classroom environment. Here are some key pointers on directing your coaches towards effective communication that will serve as positive role modeling for the students.
- Have an transparent classroom culture: Curtail the personal chatting between coaches during class. For an open, transparent classroom, teachers should be always be talking aloud to their fellow colleagues. Also, side conversations are not professional and take away from class time. When I am in the classroom if I want another teacher to assist in a particular way, I simply state it aloud. For example, I will tell all the kids – “Coach Meghan will come around and give you a high five if your toes are pointed.” Rather than directing the conversation to Coach Meaghan – the whole class is participating in the conversation. When I observe coaches, I have seen that this method of transparency automatically improves communication skills because when the coaches are talking aloud in front of the students; they are aware that the students are listening and they automatically adjust to using friendlier language and tone. It’s sort of a “fake it until you make it” technique where having the kids there to censor us forces the teachers to respect one another publicly and I find that it usually positively impacts the general relationships between the staff.
- Work as a team: Respect the other teacher’s roles and leave room for both teachers to lead and follow. Here are some strategies I use to ensure that we are always working as a team in the classroom:
- Follow each other’s lead – if one teacher starts a song or game – follow along and vice versa. Try to avoid starting something new when you see your co-teacher already started something. If you think there is a better song or game to play – only mention it when you will have a chance to discuss it properly. Follow your co-teacher and after class is over discuss the changes for the next week.
- Responsibilities are shared at all times – Both teachers should always be actively engaged in the lesson. For instance if one coach is leading the stretch, make sure the second coach is helping by fixing form.
- Keep your commitments. Avoid making commitments you cannot keep and think through with your co-teacher of strategies that you can use to make sure that commitments are followed.
- Stick to the lesson plan – If there is a lesson of the day planned, both teachers should stick to it in order to avoid confusion. A good rule to have in the classroom is that in order to modify the lesson of the day, both coaches must agree on the change beforehand.
- Talk kindly with each other & talk kindly about others. Decide on a standard of language that is acceptable and respectful. I think a lot of people underestimate the value of the words we chose. At my program, I work to implement positive only speech – that means using kind language when referring to students, staff, parents or former employees. Creating a habit of framing people and their behaviors in either a positive light or at least a non-judgemental light creates a space of respect and compassion for our fellow human beings. When we create a culture of respect and understanding, the entire environment becomes more collaborative. I see too often staff discussing and belittling a “crazy parent” or “awful child.” Ultimately, the type of environment that is created by that kind of talk is judgment and hostility and we are the ones who get hurt because our gym culture suffers. I think as a culture we tend to focus a lot on negative gossip so it can be easier said than done. One way I try to combat it is by asking my staff to take the time to notice and say something nice at least once a day to one of their fellow coaches. When I do performance reviews and classroom observations I grade the coaches on how kindly they speak to and of one another. This way we integrate promoting a positive classroom culture as part of our job performance.
Class time should never be wasted on arguments or discussions. In order to maximize classroom time and keep the environment positive and running smoothly, take the time to come up with a concrete plan describing each teacher’s roles is in the classroom. Then every day before class starts, take a few minutes to discuss how each teacher’s role will be implemented that day.
How do we know if we’re overstepping our boundaries with our fellow teachers? The best way to keep ourselves in check is by clearly defining our roles ahead of time and sticking to it. For instance, if one of the teachers is in charge of scheduling makeups that specific teacher should always schedule makeups. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to “help” the teacher arrange the makeups. Overstepping our boundaries is a recipe for stepping on each other’s toes. It might seem nice in the moment, however, in the long run, we will be most effective if each teacher is held accountable for their own responsibilities. This way each teacher has the opportunity to take ownership of their role in the classroom.
Remember though – things sometimes can change in the classroom – so decide beforehand to be open, transparent and include the students in the conversation as the class progresses. In my follow up article to this, I will suggest some sample co-teaching expectation discussions and checklists that can be used to effectively monitor and track that we are engaging in effective co-teaching communication.
Sample Co-Teaching Expectation Discussion coming soon….In the meantime, check out these other articles