Is Two Better Than One?

bigstock-Image-of-two-young-pretty-busi-49672886I was looking for something inspirational to write about when I came across this very interesting and thought-provoking article online by Judie Haynes, and felt the need to share it with everyone: The article discusses co-teaching and begs the question: Is two better than one when applied to ESL classrooms?

Judie breaks it down quite nicely and explains that collaborative teaching can be of great benefit to the learners in the sense that they get better and more individualized attention from the teacher because there would be two teachers in the room.

On the other hand, she believes that an ESL teacher would have some challenges to face, as co-teaching may complicate lesson planning, make it more difficult to effectively deal with learners, or worst of all, one of the teachers being looked at or referred to as a helper instead of the instructor. Judie is of the opinion that the benefits of collaborative teaching outweigh any potential negatives that accompany the practice. She mentions how sharing a classroom would equate to shared responsibilities to teach, including more creative lesson plans, leading to students being more encouraged and engaged due to a better, more effective learning environment. And if all of that wasn’t enough, there is the added “fun” of sharing a class together with a fellow colleague.

I’m not so sure I share Judie’s enthusiasm.

I can see this going either way if it were to be implemented in our classrooms. On one hand, students receive more time and individualized attention from their teachers and, therefore, are hopefully better able to succeed in their subject(s). Also, given that the average classroom size nowadays is well over what’s recommended, it could give the teacher the needed assistance to help deliver the materials in the most effective way possible.

On the other hand, as personalities take over, I believe the clear drawback is the potential for teachers to feel a bit inferior towards one another, or for a sense of competition to creep in (and not the good kind). Certain teachers may be led to worry about their position and maintaining the respect of their students should they come to be viewed more as an aide versus an equal to the other instructor. Also, who decides who divvies up the tasks?  And would that also mean that teachers would have to get together outside of school hours to plan their lessons to ensure they’re in sync? What happens in the event two teachers can’t agree on how a lesson ought to be taught? Or the very subject might be interesting to one while irrelevant to the other.

Considering both the positives and the negatives, my view is that the drawbacks would outweigh the benefits. In order to have any chance for collaborative teaching to succeed, there needs to be, when hiring or assigning teachers to a collaborative class, a predetermination of their roles in the classroom based on their experience etc., be it by the board itself or the coordinator at the school. This way, a common understanding can be had between teachers, hopefully lessening the risk of animosity and competition to the detriment of students and effective learning.

Who leads and who scales back? Or can two teachers effectively lead a classroom at the same time? Would harmony or competition be the result of a shared classroom? Are two instructors in a classroom better than one?

What are your thoughts? I would love to know!


2 thoughts on “Is Two Better Than One?”

  1. I would not want to co-teach a class unless it were with someone on the exact same wavelength that I’m on when it comes to teaching philosophies and approach. Even then, it would be challenging and probably not a lot of fun for me. However, I do enjoy having a teaching assistant at my disposal, especially for ESL Literacy. I like having the freedom to say, “We don’t need you today; you can go support someone else this hour.” And I also like it when she OCCASIONALLY offers to teach a lesson. We work well together, and my school is lucky to have her.

  2. Thanks Kelly. I personally agree with you. It would be quite difficult if two teachers were to conduct a group of students simultaneously. I envision there would be unwanted conflict which would defeat our purpose to lead and have the proper impact on our learners. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

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