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Oct. 28, 2005

Tag you're teaching!

by Varun Gulati, Page Editor
Algebra teacher Kathleen Robens instructs her sixth period class soon after the late bell rings. "We're going to be working on coordinate graphing," she says. But instead of starting the lesson, she hands the class over to the woman hushing her students fellow teacher Caroline Lesho.

This year, the math department is teaching Algebra classes with a different approach, called team or collaborative-teaching. As many as three to five teachers will instruct the students in each class; while one teaches, the others circulate among the students, answer questions and help the students with their work.

The structure allows students to stay on task. "It makes you do work more," says freshman Danny Pineda. "While one teaches, the other keeps order."

Team-teaching started in response to scheduling conflicts. In previous years, block scheduling allowed for double period classes to be held in the same time frame, such as periods one and two, on different days. Now, some classes are held at different times of the day, such as periods one and four. The awkward schedules necessitated the need for multiple teachers, explains student teacher Jack Stansbury.

The Math Department soon found other benefits of team-teaching. They could, in effect, kill two birds with one stone: solve the problems created by the scheduling conflicts and improve the students' performance. "Ultimately, we hope to raise students' scores," says Lesho, adding that team-teaching could play a crucial role in helping students meet HSA graduation requirements.

With team-teaching, the Math Department also accomplishes another goal that MCPS has sought for so long: reducing the student to teacher ratio. "We hope to create an environment that fosters good learning," says Robens.

Students get much more personalized attention, and they notice it too. "There's more help," notes freshman Cindy Romero, who says that, compared to other classes, the team-teaching helps her understand more material.

Teachers have also noticed that their schedule is less stressful. The teachers still teach the same amount of classes as they would taking on whole classes, but they don't have to take the burden of a whole class by themselves. Before each class, the Math Department teachers collaborate and draw up lesson plans, including warm-up, teaching, guided practice, independent practice and homework. "[Team teaching] is not only good because of less stress but because you have five minds thinking together," says Lesho. Different teachers take on different duties, such as updating BEN calendars and entering grades in the computer.

With AYP, HSA and other requirements creeping over students' and teachers' shoulders, team-teaching may offer the solutions that Blair needs for their problems less stress, more guidance and better grades.



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