How to Make Co-Teaching Work? – TAs, ESL Teachers, Co-Teachers

Teaching abroad can always be difficult. You work with people from different cultures and teaching styles. All these differences can lead to conflict or more difficult circumstances. Some people take their role too seriously, others not serious enough, and still, others blame you for a weird working environment. I learned to take each new assignment and teaching partner and try to learn how to work with them. Most have worked out. One has not worked out at all. And a select few have developed into a beautiful friendship.

Advice to Get It Working

1. Be clear with what you are expecting.

I am generally a very laid back teacher. Maybe even too laid back for some adults I have worked with. This laid back attitude is my saving grace when it comes to teaching. I do not overthink bulletin board colors. I like giving a general idea and being happy with whatever gets created. I want the people I work with to help save me time and energy and being too much in control does not give me the free time. I know teachers who are picky and they end up staying at school until 6 or 7 pm in an international school. You can stay for 1 hour after students leave and should be able to finish all your work. This is leaving at 4 pm or 5 pm. Being flexible and accepting how they want to complete a task I find to be helpful if the people you work with are competent. If they are not, more guidance is needed. I should have given my second TA in Venezuela more guidance or instruction. However, I felt that she has worked at this school for at least 5 years. She is an older woman. I shouldn’t have to tell her all the dos and don’ts of being a TA and what her job entails or doesn’t. But I hope she finds a way to work with future teachers and students because I can tell she is a very nice and beautiful person. I guess being laid back and giving people the freedom to do their job as they want works well with those who understand why they are in the classroom. If you find you are working with someone who makes a mistake by giving the opposite directions as you or just in generally overstepping their role, you need to tell them.

2. Set up a time to meet weekly.

I find this to be the most helpful. Sometimes people do not like listening or do not find them helpful. But honesty is the best policy and if they have an issue you can create a meeting where everything is addressed. I had meetings with my ESL teacher weekly and they slowly stopped but we found a rhyme and what I wanted her to prep before class became less relevant when her ESL students become more advanced. I should have had these meetings with my TA who didn’t work out. She completely disagreed with my style of teaching and was kinda trying to run a second classroom in mine. It was weird and I just tried to ignore it. In all honesty, when she was switched with another TA, the attitude and vibe in the classroom became significantly more positive. Weird. But a weekly meeting will help all parties express their thoughts and feelings. When my new TA came in for the second half, I didn’t have a scheduled meeting but every Friday, I asked how her week went. Who knows if she told me the truth but I tried!

3. Let them take small groups

The more kid interaction the better. I find when my new assistant at the end of the year was better because every morning she worked with a small group at 9 am. Every morning, I had photocopying ready on Monday at 7 am. She had rocket math after the first break. And got science or social studies ready afterward. I felt there was a rhythm. When she had free time or finished, she worked with a few students. Mainly making her presence known which is half the battle. But since she worked with all the kids, slowly they began to trust her. All the students need to trust any adult who comes in your classroom. The previous TA spent more time highlighting negative behavior. I do believe that over time since she didn’t follow through or really had a nice chat with these students they began to resent her. Therefore, a negative vibe in the classroom.

A beautiful friendship

My ESL teacher, Miss Oriana was such as pleasure to work with. Here she wrote me a letter and afterward, I would love to respond.

Dear Krissy,

I had never met Americans before coming to CIC. This year has been a great experience for me and among everyone, you’re the one with who I spent most of my time. No regrets girl, you’re my type of American! You’re F… crazy hahaha. However, you are also kind, friendly, sincere and passionate! I think you are an interesting woman that lives her life in an interesting way, definitely a risk-taker. (Don’t get me wrong, I still think you are out your mind by going to Mongolia) But then again, you came to Venezuela, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to me…

Krissy, I firmly believe that you are a great teacher, I admired your creativity and positive attitude with the children towards these hard times in the country. I cannot tell you how much I’ve learned from you. I’m really thankful for letting me be part of your classroom environment. People told me it wouldn’t be easy to be part of someone else’s class, but you made me part of yours in such a fun and nice way that the kids felt it too.

I wish I had spent more time with you, just hanging out or something. Unfortunately, life didn´t let me. Anyway, it doesn´t matter! Thank you for all the laughter at CIC. Somehow you made it easier. I truly wish you the best in your life as an international teacher and your coming adventure: marriage! You and Peter are just too cute together:3

I hope to keep in touch, at least once in a while. I don’t want to say goodbye but see you later, my friend. It will be awesome if we meet again someday!

A lot of kisses and good wishes,
Oriana

My response

Dear Oriana,

I am happy I am the first American you worked with and luckily it has been a great experience. I do not appreciate you language missy, but I will gladly expect that I am crazy but like in a good way. But enough about me! Oriana, you are truly a lovely person and a great teacher. All the students loved you and missed you when you didn’t come. I think they missed you because you are warm-hearted, funny and extremely helpful and caring. You made me feel happy to have you in the classroom. You added a fun and happy spirit to the room when my spirit was being drained and killed slowly through consistent, “Miss, what do I do?” At least there was another miss to answer all these questions.

I hope you get to work outside of Venezuela and I hope the continued years at CIC are joyful and fun! You will be a great addition to any school because of your warm happiness. Maybe you and Silvana are related? But anyway, you always made my last year more enjoyable. You were always there for me emotionally. I will miss you!

We will keep in touch. Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are always there. See you soon my friend.

Love, hugs and a little bit of tears,

Krissy

4 thoughts on “How to Make Co-Teaching Work? – TAs, ESL Teachers, Co-Teachers

  1. H. Oriana Escalona

    Oh… Excuse my French! That was a private letter hahaha, sorry (:
    I loved this <3

    1. Kristina Hines

      Well I want to share how super of a person you are!

  2. Rhett

    Teaching abroad certainly sounds like an adventure! I can really appreciate these tips on Co-Teaching as they are equally as relevant in any co-worker scenario. Letting other know what you expect of them is really a big part of working together, especially when you are the one in charge. The rub is how to let them know and still retain that laid back vibe!

    1. Kristina Hines

      Agreed, I found it difficult you do not naturally get along. 🙂 

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