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Co-teaching pilot program a learning, bonding experience

June 11, 2013

Ed Szucs has been an English teacher for 41 years -- 20 years at Adam High School in South Bend. Through those years, he has had his share of student teachers in his classroom. There are many stories to tell. This spring semester was a great experience, he said.

Ed Szucs and Ray Ramirez

Ed Szucs and IU South Bend's Ray Ramirez partnered in a pilot program known as co-teaching.

He said he never enjoyed working with a student teacher more. This spring, he and his student teacher, Ray Ramirez, from IU South Bend, were involved in a pilot program known as co-teaching. 

Both were in the classroom, involved in the activities, planning and learning process. 

In the past, student teachers observed the classroom teacher. The student then took over the classroom and the teacher observed the soon-to-be teacher at work. For several weeks, the student teacher was on his or her own and the classroom teacher was out of the room entirely. 

Now there is more emphasis on testing and accountability in the classroom, Szucs said. Teachers have to stay involved in the classroom activities. “My hunch is that co-teaching is the way student teaching will be heading in the future.”

IU South Bend’s co-teaching pilot program this year is leading to a full rollout in the fall 2013 for teaching candidates, said Linda Young, director of student teaching.  Ten elementary teacher candidates were in the program in the spring. “The feedback we have received regarding (the spring placements) and the moved to full co-teaching in the fall has been overwhelmingly positive.”

There are a number of reasons for moving to co-teaching, Young said, including flexibility in grouping of students, collaboration, cooperation, classroom management, and lesson preparations. Students participate more and have a better student/teacher ratio.

Ramirez agreed that he learned and got a different perspective on the classroom from Szucs. “Basically we split the classroom into two small classrooms.” Students received more attention as they read Macbeth and Hamlet. Ramirez said he learned a lot about management from Szucs as they worked together. 

Szucs agreed that it worked well with having one preparation plan and two different styles of teaching. For a classroom teacher, he added, they need to cooperate with the teaching candidate. “Allow them to be their own person, experiment, succeed or fail.”

Szucs said he learned a few things along the way from the young guy. “He had a different approach. Ray helped me keep it fresh. Teaching is changing with technology. Ray is part of the change. You need to stay one step ahead of the students. The students take technology for granted."

The pro said he was proud of his student. “He has energy and commitment. He will make a wonderful teacher.”

Both said the co-teaching model worked. “I encourage the universities to use the model. It makes sense," Szucs said. "It can only make the classroom better.”

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