By Wendy Murawski, Educational Leadership author
In our December 2015/January 2016 Educational Leadership article, Phil Bernhardt and I list several keys for administrators to make co-teaching successful. One of the questions I get asked most relates to the tricky question of scheduling. Given the various make-ups of schools, it’s impossible for all schools to schedule the same way. However, I have worked with many administrators who have figured out how to make co-teaching a viable, and even amazing, option in their schools!
Across the board, all successful scheduling I’ve observed has involved putting students with special needs into the schedule first. One Texas principal told me, “It’s such an obvious thing, but one we just didn’t do before now. We were so caught up in our typical scheduling with the computer that we didn’t realize how important it was to hand schedule students with specific needs proactively, rather than trying to move them around afterwards.”
After I had worked with her school for two years, a vice principal in Alabama realized that the school needed to redo its schedule altogether. She reported, “We had a lot of ‘sacred cows’ in our schedule. We needed to shoot them dead and make BBQ.” They changed their six-period schedule to an eight-period one that allowed each teacher to have two planning periods, one alone and one for collaboration.
Recently, I was very impressed with some administrators in southern California. A few weeks into the school year, they discovered that most of their co-taught classes were made up of more than 50 percent students with disabilities. Their goal had been to keep the proportion to 30 percent or less to ensure a more inclusive class, but they realized they had forgotten to train all counselors, many of whom did scheduling, in co-teaching. Rather than give up or cast blame, they pulled all the teams together and collaboratively began creating short- and long-term goals to fix the problem.
Scheduling isn’t easy, and co-teaching doesn’t happen in a bubble. Many administrators have figured out ways to make it work, and I know you can too! Look for more strategies for your role in supporting co-teaching in our article in “An Administrator’s Guide to Co-Teaching” in this month’s EL.
Wendy Murawski is the executive director and endowed chair of the Eisner Center for Teaching and Learning at California State University, Northridge, and the CEO of 2 TEACH LLC.