Even though it has been around for decades, coteaching is now emerging as one of the most popular buzzwords in education, specifically at the high school level. It has been a proven strategy in the elementary setting, and now secondary administrators are beginning to utilize the philosophy to improve instruction and reap the same benefits that surfaced in the elementary schools. The problem with coteaching in secondary schools is the same with most elementary school philosophies that are forced into the high school ranks; teachers are not ready or willing to accept the change and the administration assumes that they are, and there is insufficient training before the philosophy is applied.
Teaching is an isolated profession, especially at the secondary level. Programs such as grade-level teaming and team teaching have only recently penetrated the walls of American high schools. High school teachers have stereotypically developed a possessive mentality over their classes and, rightfully so, have become defensive to change, especially when change involves relinquishing control of a classroom. So when coteaching is suggested, most high school teachers are reluctant. That is a constant that is not going to change; what needs to change is the approach taken by administrators in the implementation process.
If coteaching is going to be a direction that a school district takes, the teachers need to be informed about the implementation, strategies and benefits that accompany the coteaching philosophy. Pairing teachers strategically and applying effective strategies are aspects of coteaching that need to be addressed, but the point of this article is to elicit the value of communication by the administration and among the faculty during the implementation process. Secondary teachers do not know what the term coteaching means; let me repeat, secondary teachers do not know what the term coteaching means. Most high school teachers that teach in an inclusionary setting view coteaching as the content teacher leading the lesson and the special education teacher combing the classroom trying to assist in the lesson. Any elementary teacher would be able to point out the giant flaw in that system; but elementary teachers have been trained and they have already adopted the philosophy.
Coteaching candidates at the secondary level should be given time before the school year begins, preferably at the end of the previous year, to actually learn and understand the material on coteaching. They should utilize videos of high school teachers using a team teaching approach on actual high school students. They should be informed of the benefits of coteaching by real high school coteachers and high school students. They should be able to voice their concerns openly, without fear of criticism, before they actually begin the process of coteaching. Informing the faculty, however, is not the end of the journey but rather the beginning. It is the most vital step in the process.
When done well, coteaching may be the answer to motivating students, raising test scores, motivating teachers, and reducing behavior issues. The solution to successful coteaching strategies at the secondary level does not reside solely with the teachers; the solution is in the conveyance of the information. Coteaching is too valuable an asset to be lost to a stereotype.