Teamwork makes the dream work, so they say, and if you’ve ever played a sport or worked with a solid team, you can recognize the efficiency of quality partnerships. They’re like well-oiled machines.
Imagine this, though. A class of 28 students, 12 who require special services. Every child reads at different levels, many below grade level. Most can write coherent paragraphs, but some cannot. And you’re charged with teaching all of them the same curriculum.
I could go on, adding scenarios that would still fall short of the many obstacles in a typical public school classroom. These challenges are the norm in our schools, not the exception, and the go-to solution is to team up specially trained teachers with the classroom teacher, hoping to create the dream work required to give every single student in the classroom what he or she needs to be successful.
Two highly qualified teachers in the classroom — sounds easy, doesn’t it?
It’s not. In fact, creating those well-oiled machines in the classroom is one of the biggest challenges facing our education system, so, when you find that special partnership, you stand in awe.
It exists at Matthews Elementary in the classroom of Cindy Applegate and Meghan Hagan.
Last week, I walked in to see Mrs. Hagan sitting on the floor surrounded by a group of boys with their books open and pencils moving. She sat crossed legged with a contagious smile, kindly prompting a read aloud. She gently pointed her finger onto the page of the blonde boy to her right, while she spelled out words for the rest of the small crew of learners.
Mrs. Applegate was sitting among huddled desks, leaned in to hear one of her students reading aloud. With the fluidity of a seasoned teacher, she quietly redirected a student’s attention, while drawing another’s eyes to the words being read. Her questions prompted deep thought, and you could easily tell her students were accustomed to and comfortable with the challenge.
Meanwhile, other students studied their reading, guided by meticulously outlined directions. I wandered about the room, eavesdropping on their fluent reading, impressed with their independence and self-awareness.
Both teachers exuded auras of sincerity and genuine care for their students, and the connection they have formed between each other was easy to see. The learning environment they have created together is warm and inviting, and I could quickly tell that their students are very lucky.
Now, I don’t know the make-up of Mrs. Applegate and Mrs. Hagan’s class. I couldn’t tell which students have paperwork about their need for additional help or which students are future valedictorians, but I could immediately sense the dream work of their seamless and flawless teamwork.
Tag-teaming to meet our students’ needs is vital to the overall efficiency of our school district. But the teamwork can’t be confined to our school buildings. Partnerships must be cultivated between parents, community, and schools, because although teachers like Mrs. Applegate and Mrs. Hagan are gaining ground in overcoming so many of the challenges in our classrooms, teachers can’t do it all alone. We need more teammates. So, find a way to join the team, because when one of us wins, we all win.
Sheryl Green is a secondary educator in Columbus. Email her at email@example.com