Working as a team with your co-teachers can be rewarding, exhilarating, and wonderful. Yet, it can also feel frustrating at times, and down-right impossible at others. Very few teams feel they are without troubles, but this is not necessarily bad news. Problems are normal and can help keep team members flexible and creative in their daily work. The struggle for many teams is not that they have problems, but that they operate without an articulated approach to problem solving. When problems emerge, it is important for teams to resist wallowing or blaming. Instead, teams need to kick into problem solving mode and work it out.
To help you address any number of problems you may encounter this year, we are going to outline useful techniques to help tackle troubles and solve classroom or interpersonal problems. As you read, consider how each might be used to solve a problem you are currently experiencing.
One technique we suggest is 15-minute problem solving. The purpose of this exercise is to move past complaints, inspire creativity, and encourage new ways of seeing struggles and designing solutions. Therefore, you will want to follow the guidelines exactly to avoid discussions that pull you into familiar ruts such as admiring the problem or assigning blame instead of generating ideas.
To engage in a 15-minute problem-solving session, gather blank paper, markers, and a timer. Identify the problem to be explored. Then, move down the table row by row, set the timer for the amount of minutes shown in the left hand column and follow the directions in the right hand column. Respond to the prompts in writing first and then discuss. When the timer goes off, move on to the next row and set of directions. (click image below to download the worksheet)
In addition to this exercise, we recommend two additional concepts to help reshape the problem at hand: Reframing and WWMCTPD (more on that later!). The first, Reframing, is a fairly straightforward strategy which involves exploring a problem from a different angle. The best way to engage in this process is to try to solve the same problem by asking a different question. Language drives perception. By reframing the problem, you and your co-teaching partner can consider how you both can change your language to define a problem and come to a mutual understanding.
The second technique, WWMCTPD, stands for What Would My Co-Teaching Partner Do? If your co-teaching partner is skilled in fielding parent concerns or diffusing tense classroom situations, focus on what they say or do in those situations. Use them as your inspiration as you work through challenges. By drawing on your co-teacher’s strengths, you can gain confidence, creativity, and greater perspective on the problem at hand.
Co-teaching problems are inevitable. With the help of these techniques, however, you can turn the problems into opportunities for growth as you learn how to coordinate with co-teachers and work through them together!