This winter I'm all about puppets. I'm working with another teaching artist to instruct puppetry to 30; K-5th graders. The program meets for 1 hour in the auditorium of an elementary school. After the 9 classes the program will end with a big fabulous performance!

I've been asked how to coordinate teaching experiences like this where two teachers have to collaborate creatively.

I have administrative experience pairing two teachers and have acted as one of the teachers myself so I'll touch on both scenarios:

  • Pairing the teachers: The two teachers must be open to collaboration, and they need to have similar aesthetics. If those two things are solid the other differences can balance out. An outgoing teacher will balance the quieter one etc... and you simply shouldn't consider pairing up a teacher if they like to be the focus of the classroom and if they have a tendency to mull over projects while solo. They probably will have a hard time mixing their ideas with someone else's.
  • Communication and expectations: This is sooo important when teaching or working with teachers. Everyone needs to understand what they are responsible for and when they'll get paid. I often start the pairing with an introductory email that spells everything out. I'll explain details like how the work should be split, any scheduling issues one of the teachers may have presented in advance and how I anticipate it being worked out, how supplies will be purchased and prepared. I also remind them to be respectful of each others time. This is a major one for me with the puppet program because my co-teacher was out of town for the month leading up to the first class. Clear emails and waiting to email until I had a lot to say is key. No one wants to be inundated with emails. You also need to explain the specific needs of the group you'll be teaching whether it's a camp, birthday, adult painting event, or like in this case in a school. For the puppet project the school had requested a program that will highlight their newly renovated auditorium so a performance is scheduled for the last class.
  • Dividing the work: Some collaborative teaching projects I've overseen have balanced out nicely with just two or three teachers each managing their own projects. Aside from making sure the projects aren't using the same supplies/equipment and that the projects complement each other nicely there isn't really a lot of collaboration happening. For the puppetry program we're actually co-teaching. We agreed to an overarching theme which I'll get into in a future post then we've divided the work. My partner is planning and leading direction for most of the projects and i'm preparing/transporting supplies and coordinating tech with the school. This logistically made a lot of sense for us.

I'm about half way through the puppetry class at this point and I'm enjoying working with my co-teacher. We are on the same page and I think because we're treating each other with respect and an open mind we're creating really fun and innovative projects. The kids are really getting the best from each of us. As an administrator, I love to see the evolution of the art teachers who are paired together. They leave the experience with more project and classroom management ideas...not to mention another professional contact.