11x: Connecting with Coteachers
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Having a strong relationship with your coteacher leads to a big reward—a welcoming, caring classroom that both children and teachers enjoy being part of.
Try these tips for turning your coteacher partnership into a dynamic duo.
1. Communicate daily. Set aside time to discuss successes and challenges every day. If possible, share coffee or lunch together on occasion. Spending time together strengthens your bond.
2. Share origin stories. From the time you first meet and know you will be working together, discuss what drew you to the profession. Talk about your favorite experiences with children and families and how they influence your teaching practices. Make it a priority to learn and respect each other’s values and viewpoints.
3. Validate feelings. “I can understand why you feel that way,” “I appreciate that you want to learn more about this.”
4. Give sincere, positive feedback. When you see something working well, show appreciation for the specific way your coteacher is helping the day go better.
5. Stay in the present. Address one current issue instead of bringing up past challenges. State your observation without judgment or blame, and ask for input: “I would like to let children call out answers and talk more informally during circle time. I see that you ask them to raise their hands. What do you think would be a good compromise?”
6. Practice active listening. During conversations with colleagues, give them your full attention, make eye contact, and use positive body language (e.g., smile and nod).
7. Set up positive rituals. Take time to stretch with the children, practice simple yoga routines, or read short poems or positive affirmations.
8. Provide calm “mental recovery zones” for both children and teachers. A soft, quiet space or a set-aside time can become a recovery zone. Read reflective books, use deep breathing, and tell quiet stories to children as they transition to nap time or other activities.
9. Create an appreciation board. Post a sign, a banner, “great moment” certificates, or stars on a bulletin board to thank coteachers, parents, and children for their caring contributions.
10. Establish celebration routines. To highlight the positive classroom community, have unique morning and dismissal songs, high-five or handshake routines, and a compliment jar (with written compliments that are read at the end of each day).
11. Grow professionally as a team. Seek colleagues who want to attend professional development opportunities with you. Share lessons you’ve learned with others at the school. Find experts such as librarians, nurses, and behavior specialists to visit the classroom.
Adapted from Marie L. Masterson, “Small Steps With Big Rewards: Connecting With Coteachers,” Young Children 70 (November 2015), 28–33.
Photo courtesy of Ellen St. Clair and Susan Frankel.