Sunday, August 19, 2012

Moving from Guest Speakers Toward Team Teaching

I fully agree with the integration of team teaching, particularly with the aim of real-world context for 21st century learning. Bringing professionals into a classroom not just as presenters, but as teachers and mentors provides a level of engagement lost when kids see lessons as “school work” and not applicable to their future. 

My superintendent has worked tirelessly to market our school district to surrounding businesses. A benefit to his hard work has been a surprising interest in business collaboration with our classrooms. There are professionals who want to help us. We just need to open our doors to them.

I’ve had a few opportunities to bring professionals into my 7th grade language arts class. One notable experience came during a debate exercise for our social justice unit. A student enthusiastically shared that her dad is a lawyer. I was already planning to bring guest judges to determine debate winners. However, I was limiting this to our principal and colleagues with a free period. A few emails back and forth provided a great guest speaker. The student’s father spoke to how he uses debate tactics and then served as an insightful judge. 

A major benefit to this experience was motivation. When students heard a professional debater would hear their arguments, a high stakes mentality pushed the prep time into high gear. Motivation skyrocketed. 

Now, this experience was helpful, but I don’t necessarily consider it team teaching. Chen refers to his daughter’s experience with poet Grace Grafton, part of California Poets in Schools, actually guiding student poetry writing (2010, p. 260). This is a prime example of team teaching and motivates me to take the debate experience a step further this coming school year. I’d like to bring lawyers and other persuasive professionals into my classroom to sit with debate teams, acting as sounding boards for new ideas and improvements. As an English teacher, I certainly know the principles of persuasive speaking and writing and the elements of a debate. But a professional can bring an element of expertise I cannot. 

That professional insight is the opportunity afforded by team teaching.


Chen, Milton (2010). Education nation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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