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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Making the "Marriage" Work --Co-Teaching for the Gifted Teacher

Co-teaching is often compared to marriage.

It can be lots of work.

Add to the relationship a teacher of general education and another who specializes in gifted~ and depending on the situation~ it could be compared to a marriage where the spouses speak different languages.

If youve attended trainings on co-teaching~ then youre aware of best practices and the various models: One teacher instructs~ the other supports (research shows this is the most common approach)~ two teachers instruct two groups simultaneously~ teachers work at different stations~ and teachers teach at the same time.

When factoring in teaching styles~ personalities~ experience levels~ personal goals and other aspects~ co-teaching can be a very complex topic. In all honesty~ I feel like co-teaching has been one of the most if not the most- difficult challenge of my teaching career.

After years of having command of my own classroom~ I took a position that involved pushing in to general education classrooms to work with gifted students. The change required a lot of education~ adjusting~ and flexibility~ and I still have to work at it.
While the subject of co-teaching with a special education teacher in the room has been studied and written about~ little has been published about gifted teachers working together with general education classrooms. It is a subject that definitely demands more attention by the gifted education community~ and for good reason. According to Claire Hughes and Wendy Murawski in their article~ Lessons From Another Field: Applying Coteaching Strategies to Gifted Education~ many states and school districts provide gifted services within the general education classroom~ and without collaboration with the field of gifted education~ differentiation for gifted students rarely occurs within the general education classroom.

Much of the research on co-teaching has been designed with the special education teacher in mind. Although there might be some similarities~ a teacher of gifted education sharing a classroom is going to have some unique challenges~ take it from me.
In this blog~ Id like to share some of those challenges as well as possible solutions. Perhaps~ you could join this online conservation and add to the body of knowledge.

General education teachers may lack an understanding of gifted students and gifted education. Likewise~ the teacher of gifted may have never served as a classroom teacher. In both cases~ there is a lack of knowledge and experience~ which means the best strategies and approaches are not being used.

Education. The classroom teacher would benefit from training in gifted education as would the gifted teacher would benefit from taking core academic classes~ classroom management classes~ and other classes related to effectively running a classroom. Both teachers need to understand each others position and the needs of all students in the room.

Different goals. The gen ed teacher may be focused on closing the achievement gap and raising test scores while the gifted teacher is focused on accelerating students and providing rigor and challenge.

Try to fuse goals. Work on improving performance and scores of all students while meeting students' needs through differentiation.

Gifted students sometimes struggle. Gen ed teachers may mistakenly believe gifted children are good at everything and don't understand why they fail or struggle with some skills and lessons.

SOLUTION: Determine the student's strengths and if possible serve the student in that area. Develop a plan to remediate problem areas.

No time to co-plan. Studies show this is the biggest frustration among teachers who co-teach.

Be creative. Try to find common planning time. If that's not possible~ use technology. Text~ e-mail. Communicate using the tools at hand.

Teachers of gifted working in general education classrooms will face their share of challenges~ and co-teaching may not always be a perfect marriage~ but I think by focusing on solutions and stressing the importance of training and communication between teachers~ we can create synergistic relationships that benefit everyone ---mostly importantly~ the kids.

Thank you~