How to Deal With a Difficult Co-Teacher

Tensions can be toxic for you and students!

What do you do when you have a co-teacher who isn’t quite cutting it? The question came up recently on the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE!. Teacher Denise writes:

“I’m getting more and more frustrated with my co-teacher. She comes to class late each day and adds nothing to the lesson. When she speaks, it is irrelevant and actually annoys my students because she is not on topic. I can almost count on one hand the number of times she has pulled students for small-group instruction, and she constantly ignores their requests for small-group learning. Many of my students need the help and they just don’t get it. What would you do?”

No two ways about it: Tensions with co-teaching can be very real and very toxic for both the teachers and the students. It’s best to deal with the issues quickly and professionally to get your year back on track. Here are some suggestions from our community of Helpline teachers.

Start by communicating your concerns.

“Find a nice way to tell her it’s important that she be on time to class. Maybe she’s unaware that it’s unprofessional to be late all the time because no one’s ever held her accountable or called her out on it.” —Erin F.

“It sounds frustrating. Talk to her about your concerns. Don’t go to the administration unless things don’t change, and be sure to let her know that may be a possibility if nothing improves.” —Matt S.

“Even if you talk with her alone to avoid bringing in the administration, try to have someone else in the room in case you need a witness.” —Lynn C.

If that doesn’t work …

“Have someone—maybe an administrator or a peer—sit in on a meeting between the two of you so you can voice your concerns.” —Linda C.

“Speak with her and your administration. She needs to do her job.” —Natalie A.

“Talk to your department head or administrator. She might not fully understand how co-teaching works and maybe getting administrators involved might lead to some helpful professional development for her.” —Corey G.

Make sure you both are on the same page with your expectations.

“As a special education teacher in a collaborative class, I rarely pull my students to a small group. With my students, it would actually be a violation of the IEP if done regularly. Perhaps you need to sit together and co-plan the lesson to ensure you’re on the same page.” —Helena W.

“It sounds like a planning problem. If the co-teacher were telling this story, what would she say? Maybe she does not know the subject well. Co-planning might solve some of these issues.” —Pat W.

“If she doesn’t intuitively do what’s necessary in the classroom, try giving her direct instructions or hold her accountable in some way; for example, directly ask her to create a review activity if that’s something she should be doing.” —Jenna G.

Document, document, document.

“If their setting is small-group instruction, they should be pulled out or aside. If she isn’t doing this, and it really isn’t your job to write her lessons if she is a licensed teacher, you need to put it in writing to an administrator. Neglecting to follow an IEP can come back at you as well for not reporting it.” —Henny E.

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Posted by WeAreTeachers Staff

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