We couldn’t be more different.
He graduated high school when I was still in elementary school.
We cancel each other out every election.
He is mini sculptures of former presidents; I am mini sculptures of zombies and Disney princesses.
He’s sweater-vests. I am a different hair color every couple of years.
He is an apple and a banana for lunch every day. I am rice and chicken and salsa and strawberries and kombucha.
He is Captain America. I am Deadpool.
He’s history, and I’m language arts.
And we are partners.
My teaching partner and I have been together in the classroom for six years now. We have experienced the highs and lows of our professions (seeing students move beyond their own expectations despite us knowing that they could do it and seeing students through hardships that they are too young to experience) and the highs and the lows of our personal lives (in our six years, we have each lost a parent, watched our kids go from elementary to high school and his to college).
And through it all, we have remained a strong unit in the classroom.
Our 145 students share 100 minutes with us per day. They have two sets of eyes on them at all times. With our years of teaching added together…we have half a century of experience under our belts. Between the two of us we have Masters’ degrees. We have various advising positions and various coaching experiences.
And between the two of us, we are walking examples of how people can disagree and still get along. We are walking examples of a positive working relationship. We are walking examples of strong individuals who will help each other out through any situation.
And how do we do it?
- We share a philosophy on how we should treat our kids, both in terms of education and discipline. Our kids are just that. When they walk into our classroom, they are our children for those 100 minutes. We show them care and tough love and watch them grow. While we are teaching under the label of AP American Studies, we have all levels in our classes. We have those students who are naturally gifted, so we work to challenge them further. We have students who struggle, and we work to keep them growing on an individual level. We have students who want to be invisible, and we work to show them, “hey, we see you.” We have students who want to be seen, and we work to show them, “And we see you too.”
- We have mutual respect for each other. My teaching partner is well versed in his subject matter, just as I am well versed in mine. He has experiences in life that are different from mine. And I honestly appreciate seeing life through that lens. And this girl right here has had different experiences than he has, and I’d like to think he appreciates seeing life through my lens as well.
- We compromise and run ideas by each other. Could I dig into ten minutes of your time, so they can finish working with this skill? Do you think this will work? If not, why? How would you handle this situation? Did I sound okay when I addressed her about (insert situation here)? This is how I would handle this situation. You talk to her, she responds well with you. I got him, he and I have talked before. (It’s a little like professional wrestling where we tag each other in when that person is needed to help a kiddo).
- We communicate. We compliment when it is deserved. We give feedback when asked or when we see something that is awry. Students often are privy to us hashing out ideas in front of them, debating issues in front of them, agreeing to disagree in front of them…and also sometimes agreeing in front of them.
- And we laugh. At ourselves. (And frankly, at each other…the other person is usually laughing as well. LOL)
Team teaching can be a rewarding experience for both students and teachers alike. And like any relationship, it has give and take. But if nurtured well, it can be a teaching tool for students to learn not only content, but to also model good communication strategies in a world where shade is thrown, where politicians cannot seem to get along, and where students are searching for more examples of positive human behavior. Look, we may not be “real life Deadpools or real life Captain Amiercas” with our own movies. But honestly, there is no greater gift or power that we can bestow on our kids than a pair of teachers in a classroom that are willing to work together to battle for them when it comes to curriculum, when it comes to their self-doubt, when it comes to their trying to figure it all out. And when it comes down to it, we would do anything for our kids, and we are lucky enough to be able to do it together.