Why I Loved Co-Teaching


– By Robin Fogarty

Why did I love co-teaching? It’s simple and it’s complicated. It’s simple, because when I look back, I know in my heart, it was the best teaching I ever did. It was complicated because we learned constantly, coached each other continually and reflected every single day. We also celebrated successes with the students who were always at the center of our decision-making.

Our circumstances were unusual as we had a multiage classroom of 8-12 year olds, in a double room with a flexible, folding wall and two teachers of different backgrounds and teaching experiences, in different grade levels. We taught all subject areas, encouraged families and siblings to enroll, and invited parents to volunteer in whatever ways they could. So, yes, it is simple to say I loved co-teaching. But, I’m definitely not saying it was easy to pull off. It was not easy for either of us, or for the students, who at times, looked like deer in the headlights.

Even though we had planned and planned and planned…we revisited, reorganized and rearranged, reviewed and retreated any number of times, yet, what we realized was, no, it was not easy, but it was surely worth every ounce of knowledge and knowhow we were learning. At the end of the day, we knew our students had experienced valuable lessons of learning and of life in an environment rich with content, relevant with the varied groupings we used, and rigorous with the mindfulness required.

What Exactly Did I Love About Co-teaching?

More specifically, here are some of the reasons I love co-teaching as a viable and proven model to support our students in their inherently personal learning journeys. These were the attributes of that dynamic model of teachers teaming to provide the best of the best for our students.

I loved the collegial partnership, the reflective culture, instructional flexibility, the necessity for creativity, the natural collaborative environment, the range of academic content and the life lessons of tolerance, leadership and kindness for all.

Collegial Partnership:

Two heads ARE better than one. Four hands are better than two. It’s called synergy. One leads, one facilitates; both lead, both facilitate parallel groups; one facilitates small groups, one coaches one on one; both conduct individual reading conferences or math check-ins; one works in the room, one in computer lab or library. The partnership affords creative uses of both professional with equal footing for both.

Culture of Reflection:

The reflective moments at the beginning and end of the day are invaluable as professional growth experiences. So much is voiced and considered explicitly that seldom happens when working as the sole teacher in the room. Just the ongoing comments, questions and concerns throughout the day are teachable moments for both.

Instructional Flexibility/ Spiraling Curriculum

  • Individuals

Reading and math seem to work best with individualized, data-driven materials, specifically designed resources, varied methods, and student/teacher conferences, to monitor progress and stay intently connected to the student and his well-being.

  • Small Group

Of course this model is punctuated by small group interactions for typical skill development in vocabulary, higher order thinking skills for comprehension strategies and deeper understanding. These groups are flexible and constantly changing as the talents  and needs are determined.

  • Whole Group

Flexibility means using the whole class model, particularly in social studies, health and science that have spiraling curricula and also often may warrant class field trips, presentations and performances. Writing exercises, art projects, science experiments provide opportunity to move through all three constructs- individual, team and whole class with both teachers intently involved in the planned lessons.

Creative Innovation

Creative innovation is a given when the structures change in fundamental ways. With co-teaching both students and teachers are acutely aware that this is different than one teacher, one class. They are a little anxious, but the students are also eager to see how the day changes. The human brain loves novelty, it’s how teachers get focused attention from the kids. This co-teaching strategy offers the perfect setting and resources for inventive collaborations as the various advantages emerge with each new development. Learn to enjoy the freedoms it offers for good solid teaching and learning and don’t fret too much about the restrictions you might feel.

Habits of Mind:

Perhaps the most powerful outcome of the co-teaching process, and it is ultimately a rewarding process, are the life lessons that evolve as the teacher/student interactions become more complicated, versatile and changing. From these novel circumstances, student attitudes, dispositions and habits of mind seem to percolate. They learn tolerance for others as teachers model collaboration and student groupings constantly change; they learn leadership skills, as teachers model shifting roles and students start stepping up or stepping in as needed to help out, and most of all, the entire experience somehow speaks to kindness and caring for all involved. Why? I’m not sure, but that’s what I always saw happen in my team-teaching experiences.

In Closing

What I know is this. You too will learn to love co-teaching as you have time together to talk candidly about your greatest fears, and your highest expectations. Your team develops as you begin to look at models of co-teaching and configurations that work for your class and as you get down to the nitty-gritty of what you each will actually be doing. And the trust evolves, as you both learn more about your strengths and weaknesses as earnest partners designing the teaching and learning for YOUR class. Enjoy the learning adventure!



All About Personalized Learning

What is personalized learning?
Is it something new?
Or something we already do?     

It is the next generation of
Differentiated instruction,
Student-centered classrooms,     

Individual data, goals and plans,
Awareness of strengths, weaknesses,
Readiness, interests and modalities.     

Personalized learning is all about
Student-agency, independence,
Ownership in one’s own learning,  

Personalized learning is
Self-directed, self-monitored
And self-evaluated…

It’s accomplished with
Deliberate practice with
Reach and repeat routines.

It’s ignited by one’s passion,
Rooted by growing talent,
Supported by expert coaching.

Personalized learning is one’s
Persistence to persevere,
Willingness to listen and learn.

It’s all about building character.
CHANGE what needs changing
CHALLENGE oneself to a personal best

CHOICE to do or not to do what it takes
CHAMPION of one’s personal quest
Supported by unrelenting believers in you.

  Brian M. Pete and Robin J. Fogarty 2018 

1Day on-site PD Description RFA PersonalizedLearning

 In Brief  …

CHANGE SOMETHING: Personal Pathway, Pacing, Performance or Product

CHALLENGE POTENTIAL: Self-Reflective Data-Driven Decisions

CHOICE-MAKER: Ownership of Personal Goals and Choices

CHAMPION CAUSE: Talents and Needs for Personal Best


Transfer and Application: Personalized Learning

By unlocking student talent with new information about how to develop personal expertise, teachers can increase student fluency in READING that results in deeper comprehensions skills with all reading matter.

In fact, using “deliberate practice” in WRITING, a “reach and repeat routine” keeps students performing at the edge of their potential. Practices that are deliberate are ignited with iterations to achieve a personal best. Practices are scheduled frequently, unusually brief, and coached with “actionable” feedback to ensure “reachfulness”.

Rather than continuing the typical, over-used and under-productive, “skill and drill” cycle of boring redundancies, using deliberate practice protocols develop student fluency in basic math facts, and foundational algorithms that impact student performance in all future MATH classes.


A Passion for Learning: Nine Ways to Motivate Students

 (Blogpost Part 1 of 3) Based on excerpts from, Unlocking Student Talent: The New Science of Developing Expertise: Fogarty, Kerns, Pete: Get even more insights into motivation—and the explore the other two elements of student talent, practice and coaching—by purchasing your copy of Unlocking Student Talent today. 

 Research has shown that experts are made, not born—and motivation is the spark that sets students on the path to mastery. It is the first key element of the new science of expertise. Together with practice and coaching, motivation empowers students to reach their fullest potential.

However, as researchers K. Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool have noted, educators are unlike sports or music coaches: they “must help every child improve their performance and start building skills, no matter how little motivation they may have.” Based on Unlocking Student Talent: The New Science of Developing Expertise, the latest book by Robin J. Fogarty, Gene M. Kerns, and Brian M. Pete, this guide provides practical strategies for sparking a passion for learning in every student.

Inspiring Motivation: Starting the Journey

Inspiration is the initial ignition, the flash of discovery, the “aha” moment where a student decides what they want to do and where they want to go. It’s how all great journeys get started.
Increase exposures to new and diverse experiences.

The more experiences that students have—and the more diverse those experiences are—the more likely students are to discover new interests or abilities they want to pursue. From show-and-tells in the classroom to field trips to museums, theaters, and businesses, each new experience is an opportunity for inspiration.

Explore stories of greatness.

Videos, stories, and examples of successful individuals—especially those who overcame an initial lack of talent, such as ballerina Misty Copeland being told she had the wrong body type and was too old to start ballet at age 13—can help students realize their own potential for greatness.

Eliminate the idea of average.

When the US Air Force decided to make an airplane cockpit based on the “average pilot,” they made a startling discovery: Not one of the pilots was average! Instead of comparing themselves to an average that doesn’t really exist, encourage students to focus on what makes them unique or how they would like to be unique.

Invigorating Motivation Continuing the Momentum

As students progress along their talent journeys, they’re bound to stumble at some point. There are roadblocks, frustrations, and failures. Invigoration is how the tough keep going, even when the going gets tough.
Set personalized goals.

It’s easier to get where you’re going when you have a specific destination in mind. Setting personalized goals according to student’s interests, starting point, and learning needs is a great way to keep students motivated and moving forward. For big endeavors, consider setting a series of smaller goals leading up to the larger success.

Track progress visually.

Once personalized goals are set for each student, help them find ways to track their daily, weekly, or monthly progress toward those goals in a highly visual way. This can be as simple as crossing off days on a calendar, keeping an activity log, or coloring in a thermometer. It could also be more creative, like adding rings to a paper chain or adding pieces to a do-it-yourself puzzle.

Get up and moving.

Physical activity is a brain-friendly way to motivate students! Movement causes oxygen to push into the brain and energize the mind as well as the body. Even if it’s just to gather supplies for an impending activity, getting up and moving around can boost engagement.

Instilling Motivation: Becoming the Destination

At a certain point, the goals we pursue become part of who we are. Motivation is intensified, internalized, and instilled within each student; pursuits become personal; and learning transforms into a life-long endeavor.

Envision the future self.

Ask students to envision who they will be and what they will do in the future. Have them create a vision board or a collage depicting their dreams and aspirations fulfilled. Focusing on this vision, encourage students to start thinking about the steps they need to take to get there.

Make daily affirmations.

There is real power in telling ourselves that we can—that we will—accomplish something. Tennis star Serena Williams kept up her motivation during one competition by collecting matchbooks and writing affirmations in them. Have students include an affirmation on each piece of homework they turn in or worksheet they complete to get them in the habit of daily affirmations.

Explore colleges, careers, and job pathways.

Not every student knows what they want their future to look like. Help them explore the possibilities through school-sponsored career days, guest speakers in the classroom, field trips that offer authentic learning experiences, and the promotion of positive role models from history as well as current events.

Thanks to the support of our co-author, Gene Kerns and his fabulous team at Renaissance Learning for sharing.

What world are we preparing our student for?

Notice how Creativity moved from #10 to #3 and consider the importance of creativity when solving complex problems. It is the skill the US is the best at and also the one we do not really value in most curriculums.

Robin and I always remind teachers that assignments that ask student to “complete” something are not as engaging and do not promote thinking beyond the classroom like having student “create” something.

One of our key ideas: Create vs. Complete