Sunday, August 11, 2013

What is Your Role in the Class? (and other accidentally hurtful questions abut co-teaching)

Tomorrow marks the beginning of my second year of teaching. It will also be my second year as a special education teacher in a full-day co-taught class. I've learned a lot of things since I began teaching, but one of the major lessons I've learned in my particular position is how to check my ego at the door.

As a special education teacher, it didn't surprise me at all when I was told that I'd be co-teaching all day. One of the major pillars of IDEA (special education legislation) is that students need to be educated in the least restrictive environment possible, which is, increasingly, the general education classroom. However, classrooms have traditionally had only one teacher, leaving students and their parents confused to find two. I should not have been surprised to find myself explained away as "the assistant," but I was. Surprised and hurt.

This year, I am lucky enough to be co-teaching with a wonderful second grade general education teacher. We both attended a co-teaching workshop in the summer. Both of our names were on the letter that informed students of their new homeroom. We wrote both names on everything in the classroom and even decided to share my afternoon hall duty to reinforce the appearance of our equality. I was so excited to begin a fresh new year, where no one viewed one of us as the "real" teacher.

We met our students and their parents one morning last week, and it didn't take long for me to realize:

They knew.

Somehow, despite our careful portrayal of equality, they knew I was not the "homeroom" teacher. I have to say, I was a little crushed at first. Crushed to be asked "who I was with last year" and "what my role in the class" was.

And then I thought about it.

I was hurt because I wanted to be recognized as important, but they were asking questions because they were legitimately confused. I may be knowledgeable about inclusion, but for them it's brand new. So, I need to drop the ego and figure out how to best explain it, rather than sitting around with hurt feelings.

I haven't figured it out yet though, so this is an unresolved blog post.

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