Podcast: Coaching Co-teaching Teams | Steve Barkley
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Podcast: Coaching Co-teaching Teams

Coaching Co-teaching Teams

Dr. Andrea Honigsfeld, a researcher and consultant with co-teaching experience and expertise, joins Steve to explore how instructional coaches and administrators can support co-teaching teams. Her analogy of co-teaching teams as an arranged marriage generates interesting reflections on the need to build developmental relationships.

Visit Dr. Honigsfeld’s website here.

Contact Dr. Honigsfeld: ahonigsfeld@gmail.com

Find Dr. Honigsfeld on Twitter: @AndreaHonigsfel

Subscribe to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast on iTunes or visit BarkleyPD.com to find new episodes!

PODCAST TRANSCRIPTSteve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Instructional coaches and leaders create the environment that supports teachers to continually imagine, grow and achieve. They model an excitement for learning that teachers in turn model for students. This podcast is dedicated to promoting the important aspects of instructional leadership. Thanks for listening.

Steve: 00:27 Coaching co-teaching teams. Joining us today is Dr. Andrea Honigsfeld, who is a professor in the division of education at Malloy College, Rockville Center, New York. Andrea was an English as a foreign language teacher in Hungary and English as a second language teacher in New York City. She’s written and consulted extensively on the topic of co-teaching. Frequent listeners to this blog know that I have continued support for the idea that students are best served by teams of teachers working in various designs and makeups so I’m excited to have this conversation with Andrea today. Welcome Andrea.

Andrea: 01:13 Thank you so much for having me on your podcast. I’m very excited to share with you about my research as well as the practical applications of this type of work and serving multilingual learners for the coaching community.

Steve: 01:28 Thank you. So for starters, would you talk a little bit about your earliest co-teaching experiences and how that’s influenced the work you’re doing today?

Andrea: 01:39 Oh, absolutely. My most formative experience in my entire teaching career was the first time I stood in front of a group of students in Hungary. By training, I’m a school English and Hungarian teacher and in the fourth year of a five-year teacher education program, we were invited to try out what we know about pedagogy and teach a lesson just to get our feet wet. But a professor in this course called pedagogy, said that you have to choose a college classmate to go into the classroom because you’re newbies. You really don’t know yet what you’re doing, so collaborate work together on that lesson plan and then go teach together. And I will never forget that day. And then of course I did forget for quite some time because I didn’t have an opportunity to do it again until many years later, I found myself in the New York city public school system as an ESL, at that time, that’s what we were called, ESL teacher.

Andrea: 02:41 And I had a visionary principal, Carol Wertheimer, and Carol said to us, this was in the early 1990s, why don’t we try what special ed is doing? Why are we pulling these children out, spending so much time in the hallway, gathering them up from various classrooms, taking them back to the ESL room, which you might have guessed was in the basement. Yes, it was actually behind the stage, a former dressing room. So just imagine this beautiful, classic New York city public school with the super high ceilings and large corridors. So we’re walking about 10 minutes to, and back to the classroom. So she said that’s a lot of instructional time wasted so let’s try what special ed is doing and at that time they called it the push in model. I didn’t really like that terminology because it sounded like I’m forcing myself into somebody’s classroom, but that was the terminology, pull out and push in.

Andrea: 03:41 So I found myself as a push in teacher and I had the most fabulous year in my career because my co-teacher and I just hit it off. It was a second grade integrated class. We did not know what to call it, so we just worked together. We figured it out. There were no books, no articles. We could glean some insight from special ed what they are doing with the inclusion model, but we created our own framework for what co-teaching is all about. And then of course, years went by and again, I forgot about that because my life took me to a doctoral program and then to a college position. So periodically, co-teaching was something so important to me that at one point, I found a coauthor, I didn’t know that she was going to be my coauthor, a colleague, Dr. Maria Dove, who was also very passionate about co-teaching. So the two of us put our heads together and we thought there was still no literature on this. Nobody’s writing about it. There’s very, very limited emerging research on it. Why don’t we try to do something in this area because we’re both very passionate about it. And that’s how our research and publication as well as consulting pathway began, and that I’m putting it into like 2008, 2009. So it’s really decades of a journey for me to get where I am today, having written extensively on this topic.

Steve: 05:08 I have to tell you that as always listening to your story about picking the kids up and going back to the room behind the stage, I’ve just been working recently with schools looking at the “learning loss” from COVID and virtual and looking at the difference between approaching it with acceleration versus approaching it with remediation. And it’s a definite remediate remediation picture when a student knows they’re leaving the classroom and leaving what everybody else is doing to go down to the room behind this age and do some lesson to get “caught up,” and coming back feeling further behind than probably when they left. So the difference of that co-teaching model where the support is right there when the student needs it to work on the same content that the rest of the students are working on. So the picture just jumps right out.

Andrea: 06:14 Absolutely.

Steve: 06:14 Andrea, folks listening to this podcast are mostly working in roles as coaches and as school administrators. And for those who are promoting different kinds of co-teaching scenarios, what’s some of the research or information that they should be passing on to teachers about the value of of these co-teaching opportunities?

Andrea: 06:43 There are multiple bodies of research that inform this practice. I would think that the most powerful would be from leading researcher, John Hattie, and others who have similar findings connected to collective teacher efficacy. So this idea that when we collaborate, our collaborative expertise is going to have a higher impact on student learning than what I could have as an individual teacher, because we have that shared efficacy that we believe that together, there are many more perspectives, many more strategies, many more ways that we can reach and challenge our students than any one teacher could do it alone. So that’s the body of research. A second body of research that’s really critical and that sets us apart from special education inclusion is the notion of content and language integration. That we no longer teach language for its own sake. We don’t teach language just for communicative competence.

Andrea: 07:49 We could do that maybe in a world language class where we want our students to be conversational in Spanish or in French or any Italian, but within the context of English language development or any kind of dual language context, it doesn’t have to be English necessarily. But if the goal is academic competence in a particular language, then we need to connect that academic language to the academic content so that the students are simultaneously working with rigorous content and building the academic language that’s necessary for that. So that’s what’s really amazing about a line of research, very strongly advocating for that and how I can connect that to that in co-teaching because the two teachers are now supporting language and academic development at the same time.

Steve: 08:43 One of the questions that always comes up about people working effectively and in any kind of a team setting is, is one of trust. And I’m wondering if you might share thoughts on helping teachers who are new to co-teaching partnerships look at building that trust.

Andrea: 09:04 Absolutely. Since you were asking me about bodies of research earlier, I can’t help but think about the research around relational trust and creating an educational environment or any kind of work environment in which there is a solid foundation of trust among those who work together, whether it’s the two co-teachers or the coach who’s supporting their collaboration or the administrator who creates the master schedule in which collaborative time is embedded, that the teachers know that they will have additional support for their work so that they could launch the co-teaching or strengthen their co-teaching partnership. So relational trust is really critical in the sense of building that trust around understanding our own strengths and assets, what we bring to the partnership and honoring our partner’s strengths and assets and knowledge and avoiding any kind of shame and blame. It is not about that. It’s merging the first person, singular, I, to make it the first person plural, we, so that we together, can have an impact on student learning. So how do we do that? It definitely happens incrementally, it definitely happens through systemic support for communication and ample time for teachers to work out different philosophies, different teaching styles, different thinking along what works for this population and honoring each other’s expertise, clinical expertise, in class expertise, knowledge base, and having a platform where I can freely share what I know about this work without feeling that I misspeak. So that takes time because it’s a lot of communication, a lot of trial and error, and definitely the larger systemic support for collaboration time is what we need.

Steve: 11:02 You laid out important words there. I was hanging on the first one that I was going to come back to, and that was you work it out. And so then the work it out requires trial and error, requires time. So the coaching is really built around assisting people and working it out. I know people would like to develop the trust before they start but that doesn’t work. You gotta jump in and build it.

Andrea: 11:29 Yes. And sometimes, work it out means that there are set protocols. So that’s why coaching can also step in. So as we know, sometimes we joke about co-teaching using the marriage metaphor, that some of these marriages are love at first sight and the two co-teachers just click and there’s chemistry. And I have observed it so many times, including when co-teachers show up, literally dressed alike when they never talked a lot about they’re going to be coming to school with, but there’s such synergy between the two educators and the same way the coach can develop that kind of synergy with his or her clients as well. But other times, after all, it’s an arranged marriage, I’m hoping I’m not offending anybody with this metaphor I’m borrowing from Wendy Murawski. So sometimes, it’s not something that the teachers necessarily signed up for or had a choice in who that with their partner would be.

Andrea: 12:27 So building that trusting relationship is going to take time. And the structured approach to that is through protocol. So there are sharing protocols, there are goal-setting protocols, there are a number of different protocols that teachers and administrators and coaches can use to make sure that the limited amount of time that they usually have to work these things out, as you said, will be productive. So it could be a 20 minute time set aside for celebrations and goal setting. So we’re starting with what worked in the past week, or since we last met, what is one thing that we’re wondering about, what is another thing that we’re noticing and what is one goal that we can set to strengthen our partnership? I really like when these protocols are tight and neat, so that we keep our focus on what’s really critical, which is advancing the partnership and advancing the ways that we can support our students.

Steve: 13:25 You caused a big smile to come to my face because I team taught with a with a woman for five years and about the third or fourth year, we joked at how often we showed up dressed, rather similarly that people were convinced we had called and planned something for the day. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the administrator and coach being able to observe co-teaching and practice, and then being able to give coaching feedback to a team, rather than giving coaching feedback to an individual.

Andrea: 14:04 Absolutely. A critical aspect of this kind of supervision or coaching depending on who goes into the classroom that’s co-taught and what the goal is, is to have a pre-observation or pre-visit conversation with the co-teachers. And the reason is because in my work, in my books and articles and trainings, I often guide co-teachers to start with your why, borrowing from Simon Sinek and many others. So set an intention. What is your intention in that lesson? Obviously, what are the goals? What are the learning intentions? What are the desired outcomes? What’s the success criteria? And when we start with that conversation, then the co-teaching models, the roles and responsibilities will be closely aligned to the clarity of the lesson, rather than the other way around. I’ve heard from teachers and administrators who approach the coaching or the observation from the angle of, I’d really like to see group work, or I’d really like to see how you are delivering instruction upfront. And to me, that’s backwards because we always have to start with, what is the goal of the lesson? What are the desired outcomes for the students? What are their needs? And based on student needs, the co-teachers will negotiate the natural flow of the lesson with the different configurations and the roles and responsibilities. So having a pre-observation conference with the educator, with the coach or the administrator, would be tremendously helpful because then there could be some clarity established around the look for’s.

Steve: 15:45 In my coaching work, I describe the pre-conference as the most important step. And when people get short on time, it’s the one they want to skip and I come back to them and I suggest if you have a good pre-conference, even if you don’t get to do the observation and the post-conference, people will grow from the thinking they did in a good pre-conference. So I’m kind of hearing as I listen to you that it’s probably even more important observing a team because you’re looking to understand I’m guessing, their individual thinking as well as their team team thinking. So as an observer, I often say that as a coach, I’d like to look at the lesson through the eyes of the teacher. So the pre-conference kind of lets me get to the eyes of the teacher, how the teachers looking at this. And I can see that, especially if I’m working with a a person who’s a content specialist and a person who’s the language learning specialist, and now they’re working together and now I’m coming in and observing as a coach, can I get this concept of looking at what’s happening here through both of their eyes?

Andrea: 16:58 Absolutely. I think we are aligned in our thinking around what’s necessary and what’s productive and helpful to the collaborating teachers. And often, I’m not sure we’ve the coaching session lasts for the entire period. Sometimes co-teachers that I work with, I ask them to plan lessons, sequences, meaning two, three lessons that flow together because language is not learned or acquired in 45 minute chunks. So if you’re focusing on maybe the narrative genre and storytelling in the past tense, you don’t learn the past tense in a single day or the various ways that text markers will indicate that we’re telling a story. So if there’s a lesson sequence, it’s very rare that the administrator or the coach would be there for the entire lesson sequence. This way, this pre-conference conversation could definitely allow the observer to see the larger scheme of things and how that particular slice of life that particular observed lesson fits into it. And the reason why that’s important is because in my work, I have identified with Maria seven co-teaching models, and there’s no way that you can squeeze in seven co-teaching models in the 45 minute period. But in a lesson sequence, chances are that there will be a lot more variations and of configurations of how the lesson is delivered. So I think the broader picture is just as important as that slice of life when I walk in through the door and see some dynamic collaboration between the two teachers.

Steve: 18:31 Well Andrea, I really appreciate the insights you’ve shared with us. I’m wondering if you’d pass on the best way for listeners to be able to get in touch with you, maybe find out about those seven different strategies that you just talked about and some of the resources that you have available for people.

Andrea: 18:51 Oh, sure. That’s very kind of you to allow me to do that. So I have published extensively on co-teaching with Corwin press. I have my own website too, which is my first name and last name, andreahonigsfeld.com and I do answer every email. So if people email me, I’m very happy to respond, offering some additional answers or resources. My email is ahonigsfeld@gmail.com. And finally, I’m very active on Twitter. So if somebody wants to look me up, it’s @AndreaHonigsfel without the D because my name is too long.

Steve: 19:25 We will put all that information and the lead-in to the podcast so folks who are doing this while they’re out on a walk, can get back in and go online and get the specifics. Thank you so much, much appreciated.

Andrea: 19:39 Thank you.

Steve [Outro]: 19:42 Thank you for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean. And please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley, or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com

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