5 Tips for Getting Along with Your Co-Teacher

Inclusion (sometimes called "push-in") is the ideal least restrictive environment for many our student with IEPs, but having two teachers in one classroom can be... difficult. As an introvert and someone with strong opinions, I honestly preferred teaching in my own resource room! But getting along with your co-teacher can go a long way towards making inclusion more pleasant, and ultimately making the classroom a better environment for students.

1. COMMUNICATE. This one is first and in all caps because it's the most crucial. You have to talk to your co-teacher outside of your teaching time. I wish this went without saying, but if you just show up during your scheduled "push in" time and that's the only time you speak to your general education co-teacher, things. will. not. go. well. And I say this as someone who's done it. At points, I was working with 5+ co-teachers, some of whom clearly did not want me in the room. You have to push past it and insist on meeting at least once a week or things are never going to get better.

2. Give gifts. Yep, I blatantly ingratiate myself with co-teachers throughout the year. Gift giving is my love language and I really do enjoy making and giving gifts, but it can also be a great way to start things off on the right foot! I give little gifts at the beginning of the year, the holidays, and the end of the year, at a minimum.

3. Take on tasks. Some general education co-teachers might be unsure of how much you're willing to do. Show you're a team player by offering to take over certain tasks. That could be lesson planning for a subject (I lesson planned a quarter of gen ed Social Studies for the whole grade level because I was the most passionate about the subject, which was Black History in Illinois), completing running records, or changing the bulletin board each month.

4. Exchange phone numbers. I genuinely hope you're thinking, "Duh," but I'm including this because it definitely wasn't the case for me with some co-teachers. Having each other's phone numbers means you can communicate last minute when you need to, and I think can lead to becoming friends as well. When you have someone's phone number, you can text them from Starbucks before school and see if they want anything. And we all know coffee leads to friendship.

5. Share & care. Your co-teacher doesn't need to know all the ins and outs of your personal life, but sharing some information can help you become closer. While some might think this is TMI, I truly think sharing with certain co-teachers that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder helped them to be more understanding of me. Of course, it doesn't have to be that personal. It can just be talking about your pets, or kids, or your new apartment. And this goes both ways! Show that you care about your co-teacher as a human being by asking about their life (in a non-prying way) outside of school. Ask what they're doing this weekend, remember their kids' names, and ask if they're feeling better when they have a cold. Some of you are probably thinking, "Thanks for the primer on being a normal, nice human being, Sarah," but I know it's not always easy when you're nervous or new! There will be some co-teachers that this all comes naturally with, and others with whom you'll really need to make an effort.

As I developed relationships with co-teachers, it became clear that some of them were a bit chilly towards me at first because they were used to special education teachers who in their minds, didn't do anything. Keep that in mind if you think that your co-teachers don't like you at first! Show them that you truly want to be a co-teacher, not just an assistant-- and hopefully even a friend! 

If you're looking for more tips on teaching in an inclusion setting, check out these 7 Things You Can Do as an Inclusion Teacher.

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