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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

4 teachers, 135 students

Ninth-graders at Mesa's Westwood High share four teachers and one classroom. Photo: Matt York/AP

Team teaching is helping Mesa, Arizona schools deal with the teacher shortage, writes Neal Morton on the Hechinger Report. At Westwood High, four teachers and 135 students work in a large classroom.

A teacher in training darted among students, tallying how many needed his help with a history unit on Islam. A veteran math teacher hovered near a cluster of desks, coaching some 50 freshmen on a geometry assignment. A science teacher checked students’ homework, while an English teacher spoke loudly into a microphone at the front of the classroom, giving instruction, to keep students on track.

Arizona State education professors helped develop the classroom model, which includes lots of time for planning. Teachers give each other feedback and help less-experienced colleagues.

Encouraged by the high school experiment, Mesa is spreading team teaching to a third of its schools.

“The pandemic taught us two things: One is people want flexibility, and the other is people don’t want to be isolated,” said Carole Basile, dean of ASU’s teachers college, who helped design the teaching model.

English teacher Jeff Hall returned to teaching for a chance to work as part of a team, collaborating with other adults.

“Why don’t we do this for every teacher?” Hall said. “Why was I — a student teacher with zero experience teaching English — handed the keys to an entire class of kids on day one? All alone? That doesn’t work for anyone.”

Of course, some teachers don't like the team approach. Mixing the traditional and team models in the same school can be a "scheduling nightmare," reports Morton.

My first reaction is: I bet it's really noisy. It reminds me of the classrooms-without-walls trend that teachers quickly came to hate.

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