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No team planning time for this team teacher

Ms. T. will be guest-blogging every other week or so here at GothamSchools, sharing her experience of working in a Collaborative Team Teaching classroom. Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) is when two teachers work in a classroom that is 60% general education students and 40% students with special needs.
As a part of a team teaching classroom, I must be a team member. I cannot walk into the classroom and successfully teach with another teacher without planning together successfully. It seems obvious, right? Well, maybe not obvious to all.

Our students leave us for a short time daily to enjoy what other teachers have to offer in physical education, art, music, and other “cluster” classes. During this time, when our students are away, my team teacher and I keep on working as a team. This time is vital to the success of our Collaborative Team Teaching classroom, and we use it as completely and efficiently as possible. I can rarely be found without Ms. B, and she’s rarely seen without me.

Unfortunately, since the third week of school, some have been trying to split us apart and take our team planning time. Because it is a CTT class, there must be two teachers with our students at all times, even during cluster classes. Our school has not accommodated this requirement, and the cluster teachers and UFT representative know this. Their solution: One of the classroom teachers must give up the team planning time and stay with the cluster teacher.

Anyone familiar with the rights of NYC teachers would know that our contract gives us a certain amount of planning time that cannot be taken away. Don’t worry, we’ve been told, you’ll get your planning time. Another of their wonderful solutions: Take it during one of the academic subjects… Wait, when will we be able to do our team planning? Even more important, how does this make any sense? The classroom would be left with one teacher during the academic subject, defeating the purpose of a CTT room and not accommodating the students’ Individualized Education Plans.

The mere thought of not being in my classroom when my students are learning makes me want to scream. It is my responsibility to be there to support my students during all academic subjects. Even if they sent in a random body to take the place of one of the classroom teachers (which they have not suggested), we would still lose quality teaching time. I would probably never take my prep time, because I’m less than impressed with the options for whom they’d send into the classroom (based on the teachers who have been sent in at other times). As the classroom teachers, we know our students well. We know which students need assistance in each subject and how to manage their behaviors. We know how to work as a team and run our classroom.

I wonder if these people even understand the purpose of a CTT classroom. I have never had official training on collaborative team teaching (not commonly found in the state where I got my undergraduate teaching degree), but I already know that team planning and teamwork is extremely important in getting successful results in a team teaching classroom. It makes sense to me. Why doesn’t it make sense to them? More importantly, is there anything protecting team planning time for team teachers?

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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