In many ESL classrooms, you many required to teach with a co-teacher. Often, the co-teacher will be a local. Their roles are varied and depends on the school you are teaching at; it can be to support you in the classroom, help translate when needed, help you with discipline, and assist you with navigating bureaucracy and politics at the school.

This is a relationship that you have to cultivate, and a difficult relationship with your co-teacher means that you AND your students will suffer. Today, we’ll going to focus on tips for a successful co-teaching partnership, but let’s briefly look at the co-teaching structures most common in an ESL environment and the benefits of co-teaching.

Structures of Co-Teaching

The most common models of co-teaching in an ESL classroom are:

  • One teaches, one observes – In this setting, one teacher teaches while the other one observes. The “observation” may be that of a silent partner, but also one where that teacher can help you with difficult or struggling students, translate when needed, etc.

  • One teaches, one assists – The one teacher provides instruction while the other helps with discipline, moves around the classroom, helps students who need extra assistance, etc.

  • One teaches one day, one teaches another – Quite a common setting in cram schools is where students have two ESL classes in a week. The native English teacher teaches one class (sometimes more focused on pronunciation, grammar, or other skills) and the other “local” teacher teaches the other class.

Benefits of Co-Teaching in ESL Classrooms

The benefits of an effective co-teaching team include:

  • A lessened workload and stress for teachers

  • The needs of the students can be met more effectively

  • Learning from each other

  • Enables reflection and analysis of what works well, what doesn’t, and how you can improve each lessen

Tips for Co-Teaching Success

Working with a co-teacher isn’t always easy or natural for either party. Follow our tips to make a success of your co-teaching partnership in an ESL environment.

#1 Respect & Rapport

Mutual respect is key to any successful relationship, and this is, of course, the same for a co-teaching one. So, part of respecting each other is establishing a rapport. If possible, do this before you have to start teaching together. Get to know each other and find things you have in common.

If you are comfortable with each other, the students will also be more comfortable with you two in the classroom. Students can easily sense tension and harmony and this can affect their ability to learn from you.

#2 Define Responsibilities & Roles

It is important to know what structure of co-teaching is prescribed at your school so you can easily define roles and responsibilities. Try to understand where you can support each other. It is also recommended to sit down and discuss:

  • Discipline and classroom management

  • Classroom rules, dos, and don’ts – a consistent learning environment is better than an inconsistent one

  • Classwork and homework policies

  • Grading

  • Communication with students (and parents)

#3 Flexibility

As a teacher, and one who continuously wants to improve and teach better, flexibility is key. Yes, you may have some comfortable, tried-and-tested teaching strategies and activities that work, but what if your co-teacher has an idea that could work even better for the class you are teaching? One key benefit of having a co-teacher is getting another perspective on how to teach, resources to use, etc.

#4 Planning

Where possible, do your lesson planning together. Pro Tip: Use Google Docs so you can feedback on each other’s lesson plans in real time.

This way, you can focus on each other’s strengths to teach the most effectively to your classes. Perhaps one of your strengths lies in finding great examples for understanding or teaching grammar, while your co-teacher’s strength lies in teaching writing and using effective teaching activities. Use that to make awesome lessons!

#5 Communicate

Communication is another key component of a successful relationship. Here are 5 useful communication tips for you and your co-teacher:

  1. Use inclusive language as much as possible (OUR students, OUR classroom)

  2. See your co-teacher as a partner, an equal; use language that reflects that

  3. Talk about specific students – those that are doing well, those who are struggling, those who continuously disrupt the classroom

  4. Talk about assessments and different things you can bring to and do in the classroom

  5. Update each other about important things that happened during your lesson

Final Thoughts

In summary, having a co-teacher can make your life easier in the classroom – that is, if you two have a great relationship. It is worthwhile putting in the effort to make working with your co-teacher easy and seamless for an effective ESL learning environment.

Key takeaways from today’s article on working well with your co-teacher are:

  1. Mutual respect and building a rapport

  2. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities

  3. Being flexible and open minded to new ideas

  4. Planning together

  5. Communicate with each other regularly about your classes, progress, and ideas

Do you have any other great tips for working with a co-teacher? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Author’s Blurb

Denine W is a freelance EFL teacher, writer, and editor/proofreader. She taught EFL to young learners (from kindergarten to high school students) in Taiwan and to adults and young learners in an online EFL environment. In whatever free time is left, she likes to read, plan her next trip abroad, scrapbook, and do online grammar quizzes.

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