Disagreeing With Your Co Teacher

Disagreeing with your co teacher can get you in hot water pretty quickly. Your co-teachers can be the biggest assets that you have in your ESL classroom. 

[48/365] Professional DisagreementThey know the students’ personalities and quirks; they can help translate anything you can’t quite seem to get across; they can communicate with parents when there is too much of a language barrier for you, and they support your lessons and classroom management. 

However, if you don’t get along, they can also be one of the biggest sources of frustration and tension.  Disagreements can lead to you undermining each other in the classroom and creating an environment that lacks cooperation and openness.

If you feel that you and your co-teacher don’t get along – whether it’s just the occasional glare that you pick up from the corner of your eye, or full-blown arguments about how to handle a certain student – here are some ideas for identifying the problem and figuring out a solution.

First, try to understand the reasons for the tension

It’s hard to solve a problem if you don’t understand it.  Maybe it’s an on-going conflict between you and your co-teacher, maybe it’s just a vague sense that you have that she doesn’t like you for some reason – but whatever is bothering you, spend some time observing interactions and asking yourself if there is something you are doing that seems to upset your co-teacher, or a common point of contention between you two.

Instead of disagreeing with your co teacher, consider their point of view

Often, your co-teachers will have worked for years with the same students.  Some of them have advanced teaching degrees, and a lot more experience than you do; and here you come with a 120 TEFL and a native accent and make twice as much as them for working half the hours.

Be aware of the fact that you are an outsider with a limited perspective on the students’ culture and background, and be willing to seriously consider that your co-teacher’s point of view and opinions may be more valid than yours in some situations.

At the very least, ask yourself if you are imposing your ideals and culture onto the classroom, instead of truly listening to and respecting what your co-teacher is telling you.

Be vulnerable and ask for help building better rapport

Your co-teacher doesn’t want to work or teach in a negative environment, either.  She may be just as frustrated as you are, and just as clueless as to what to do about it.  Remember that both of you have the kids’ best interests at heart, and it’s in the kids’ best interest for you to work together as a team.

This might mean humbling yourself a little bit and simply admitting to your co-teacher that you feel there is a lot of tension between you two and that you’d like to know what you can do to create a solution.

Make it clear that you’re not trying to throw blame around, but that you genuinely want to know what it is that is causing her so much frustration, and genuinely want to work on it.  This can open up the doors of communication and cooperation to allow you to both be up front and work together on better cooperation.

Be willing to make compromises

Most of us come to teaching with a lot of grand ideas and a lot of our own philosophies about how a classroom should be run.  There’s nothing wrong with being an idealist when it comes to education, but remember that you are working within a culture that has its own very strong ideas and customs around education.

Be willing to pick your battles carefully, and compromise on the things that you need to to keep the classroom environment stable and free of tension for your students.

Having a good relationship with your co-teacher is going to make a world of difference in how smoothly your class runs and how much you enjoy going to work on a day-to-day basis.  Invest some time and energy to fix any problems and work through any disagreements, because when you and your co-teacher work as a team, everyone will benefit.

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