How to Fix Education

To Confront or To Not Confront? Preparing for a Difficult Conversation with a Co-teacher

“That’s not what we usually do.” “Well, if it was me, I’d…” “In so-and-so’s class, we’re…” “I think of it this way…” “You’re a young teacher…” Some of these conversation starters can lead to effective dialogues and lesson enhancements. However, when your co-teacher is saying these things out loud during class in front of twenty students, the words only create walls of resentment.
Within five years of teaching, I have taught a Class-Within-a-Class (CWC) three times, and each relationship with my co-teacher has looked different. During one of those classes, I was constantly hearing the above words, which made me feel insufficient. Initially, the off-handed criticism was rarely spoken, so I ignored it. However, by the second quarter, my co-teacher said these phrases on a daily basis. At that point, I realized the effect on my students: confusion. Since I was a relatively new teacher to the profession and the district, I still needed to prove myself, and the students started to doubt my expertise. And then it trickled into other areas. My co-teacher criticized my practices in other classes, including ones she had never taught, and the clubs I sponsored. Eventually, I reached my breaking point. It was time to act.
I hate confrontation. I’m the type of person who explores all other options, and more often than not, I attempt to talk myself out of action (“You’re being too sensitive” or “It’s not that big of a deal”). Mostly, I’m fearful of the fallout, and since I had to continue to work with this teacher for the rest of the year, I was very conscious of the process. Here are the steps I used for a successful difficult conversation.

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