A district instructional coach was requesting to have some staff members present at a training. He asked if I would contact the “co-teachers” and include them in the group. I was puzzled as I didn’t understand why he was singling them out for the event. So I asked, “why do you need the co-teaching pair?” His response, “no, I just need the co-teacher.” It took me a minute to understand that he was referring to the special education teacher as “the co-teacher.” I asked him what he calls the “general education teacher” of the pair. “That one is the primary teacher.” I realized then, that while we had established parity within our school community, it didn’t extend to the greater community.
When we first began co-teaching 7 years ago, the teachers and I who were initially invested in the concept, went out of our way to tell everyone that two teachers were going to be equally in charge of the learning in one classroom. We made sure that we communicated that message fully. The classroom name- (i.e. 4SL) was 4SmithLacey. We never called students over the loudspeaker without saying both teachers’ names. When we called for that group in the lunchroom, we shouted, “Ms. Smith and Ms. Lacey’s class!” The class name (4SL) was written on the playground in white paint so the students knew where to line up. Parents were slightly confused initially, but caught on with the repetition that we provided. If a parent came to the office and said she wanted to meet with her child’s teacher, Ms. Smith, we proudly told her that Ms. Smith or Ms. Lacey would get the message and one of them would get back to her.
But, boy did we blow it when we didn’t help all of our school employees who are not in direct contact with the co-teaching classrooms understand that our students have the benefit of two teachers who are of equal importance to their students.