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Team-teaching: The Good and The Ugly

Team-teaching: The Good and The Ugly | ITTT | TEFL Blog

A preferred method of teaching abroad is the team-teaching approach. This is where two teachers, dubbed T1 (often the “main” teacher”) and T2 (often the “assistant”), work together to develop a syllabus, prepare materials and lessons, teach students, then evaluate the results and make changes whenever deemed necessary. As the base, unless T2 has strong language skills in the local language, T1 will be expected to explain core grammar. Both are responsible for their own contributions to the class in order to create a cohesive classroom for effective English learning.

The Good

Shorter Preparation Times

That’s right, you’re on a team which means you’ll be sharing time preparing materials and coursework! Prep time at home will be at a minimum with the both of you working on your own parts of the lesson between classes. This also means you can put more work and effort into your own parts of the classes, rather than being spread too thin between different grades, which also greatly benefits the students. With roughly half the work being split between the two, you personally can get through twice the amount of work in a day that a regular instructor could. This extra time reflects well on lessons, and it shows through the positive progress of your students.

More Collaboration with Ideas

You’ve heard it a thousand times, and I’ll say it once more because it’s true: Two heads are better than one. It has never been more applicable than through team-teaching! You can understand other teacher's perspectives and use this for the class. Teaching methods and ideas are radically different depending on the culture that dictates it, so it’s beneficial to both parties in team-teaching to be aware of these differences and utilize the best ones. Maybe a concept that got swept away from your radar is already on theirs, and vice-versa. Collaboration comes easy if you’re willing to listen and discuss it with your partner.

Utilizing Each Other’s Strengths

Unless you’ve somehow managed to be paired with your doppelganger from another country, you’ll have very different set of skills and weaknesses. This is great either way you look at it, as you can develop yourself further as an educator with someone who can help with your weaknesses, as well as being able to play off of each other’s strengths in class. Better yet, you can support each other by covering for each other’s weaknesses, making it a team experience where you work together to get the best for your students.

The Ugly

Butting Heads

Ah yes, the potential to butt-heads about topics is ever-present in life, even after our own schooling. Working as a team is sometimes difficult, especially if you are both unwilling to budge on certain topics. Butting heads often means that someone holds something in much higher or lower regard than their counterpart does. For example, does one teacher want to introduce a verb that you think should be left for a later, more advanced lesson? Rather than having a stalemate, it’s possible to have some productivity from this. It’s good to express your concern with the topic and work through the issue together. Often, one side can be coaxed, or a compromise can be made that works for both teachers, and the students.

Dominating Teachers

Some people spell “team” with a big capital “I”. Even if the work is shared behind the scenes, sometimes a teacher will remain purely dominant in the class, creating a power dynamic that is probably palpable to the students. Some may even take a lot of the prep into their own hands. This is probably due to their nature of not being able to depend on the teachers before you, so make sure to ask for more responsibility before, during, and after classes. They may be unyielding at first, but once you demonstrate that you’re willing to put time and effort into the classes together, they will be more accepting of your position in the team dynamic.

Differing Methods

Different ways of teaching may confuse students. While the syllabus and topics may be the same in every classroom in the country, clashing teaching styles may arise. Is one person laid-back, and the other more controlling about classroom behavior? Does one assign homework, and the other allows work to be done in class? These are definitely struggles for the whole dynamic of the class. These confusing expectations for students may work against the productivity of the class. Just remember to check in with each other and see how you feel about the ambiance of the class. Differences are fine, as long as collaboration can continue.

In the End, Communication is Key

In the end, like many things, success is heavily dependent on communication. Do you have too much prep work? Tell your partner you need more support. Would you like to introduce a new topic to the class? Talk to your T1 about it and see how it can be incorporated, if not now, then for a future class. In the end, your team teacher isn’t there to work against you; in a majority of cases trust first needs to be established, and then you can start flourishing as a team. New points of view are a big benefit to this style of teaching!

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