Like all primary classrooms at BASIS International Schools, my Grade 2 Math and Science class has an SET (Subject Expert Teacher) and an LET (Learning Expert (or Engagement) Teacher).

I try to foster a collaborative atmosphere in the classroom, where both SETs and LETs share ideas and work together–we don’t draw lines to say “this is my job” and “that is yours” — we are all there to support the learning for our students, and our mutual trust and respect makes this happen.

As the SET, I am primarily responsible for delivering the transformative education experience for our students. My charge is to instill the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills our students will use to excel. But our model is designed to share that responsibility and blend two diverse educational and cultural backgrounds (SET/LET) — this helps create a broader experience for students.

Ms. Allison Li is a perfect example of our collaboration. As the LET for 2Er (second grade class named for the element Erbium), she is with the students all day long and has a great pulse on daily ups and downs; she communicates with parents more often, and without issues related to language barriers; and she provides an extra set of eyes and ears to monitor the classroom. Yet she is also a trained teacher with the common goal of student excellence.

When planning lessons, I get feedback about content from Ms. Li–our lessons are from a U.S. curriculum, but sometimes they need to be adapted to local culture. If there is a misunderstanding about a math skill, it’s not always clear if it’s a language issue or a math issue–my LETs are typically attuned to each child’s language and math strengths, since they see the students in all classrooms. Together, we can support our students.

My experience as a mentor for teacher candidates in the U.S. prompted me to give my LETs more direct teaching experience in the classroom. Ms. Li delivers direct instruction for about 15 minutes every day. This allows me time to work in targeted small groups (reinforcement or enrichment), observe student strengths from a different perspective, collect data, and analyze and calibrate instructional levels.

Sharing a classroom benefits everyone–students get a richer educational experience as our LETs get experience as a classroom teacher, and I support students with more individualized attention. Win-win-win!

James Rock is an Elementary Math & Science teacher at BASIS International School Shenzhen. Originally from the United States, this is his second year teaching abroad.

Mr. Rock and Ms. Li together celebrating Chinese New Year.

In Math class with Mr. Rock, my role is to provide additional classroom management oversight and focus on individual learning. Each day, Mr. Rock gives the students clear explanations for each class activity and I circulate around the classroom to make sure every student’s work can meet his expectations.

When necessary, I also give the whole class some disciplinary reminders to ensure a positive learning environment. It is important for me that we listen to Mr. Rock’s instructions. This lets us know what the students need to do and I can determine how I can offer the greatest help. I also encourage the students who are off task to stay focused, listen attentively, and follow directions–which I believe will create a better teaching environment and provide effective learning engagement.

I also circulate the classroom to know where I can best support some students with their learning. Many times my focus is on the students who are having difficulties academically, and to check their understanding, work one-to-one without disturbing the class. I also reteach the content using the words and language our students may be more familiar with hearing, if necessary. That way, they can have better comprehension.

At the same time, I try keeping an eye on the whole class to know what is happening. When I notice some common problems in students’ classwork and homework, I will have a discussion with Mr. Rock to find out how we can help solve these problems. It’s fun getting familiar with each other. We echo each other, which engages the students and reinforces the questions and topics requiring their attention.

Mr. Rock is experienced in interacting with LETs during class activities. He often asks me to choose well-behaved students to answer questions. This can be tricky because I sometimes call on the role models to inspire others to try harder. Meanwhile, I also like to call on the students who may have difficulty understanding the content, which I think is a good way to check their understanding. It depends upon their learning and understanding of the lesson.

Recently, Mr. Rock invited me to lead the morning meeting, which has been a wonderful experience. The morning meeting is a daily activity in math class, which lasts about 15 minutes. During this time, students practice basic math concepts, including number patterns, money, time, number sentences, and story problems. Every student has a worksheet to write their answers independently, then I’ll guide them to go over the questions and correct their worksheets. This allows Mr. Rock time to do differentiated teaching with some students while I hold the morning meeting with other students. This also makes me feel valued as a co-teacher; as he trusts me with our co-teaching. One of the advantages of our co-teaching models is that, since there are two teachers in the classroom, the students can get help from either one of us, which helps the students solve their problems in a timely manner.

I benefit a lot from the SET/LET co-teaching model. One thing I enjoy about working this way is that it gives me a chance to learn about teaching and classroom management from different SETs. It is easier to have good classroom discipline when the SET and LET stay in tune. More importantly, I can ask for input from SETs when I communicate with the parents. SETs always give professional feedback and detailed suggestions to help the kids study, and they can also convey the issues the students are having in a particular subject to the parents.

The SET/LET co-teaching model can be challenging when working with different teacher personalities. However, no matter what different teaching philosophies you have, or what different values you hold, good communication with each other and a focus on the students’ needs will help them to have better growth both inside and outside the classroom.

Ms. Allison Li is an LET (Learning Expert or Engagement Teacher) at BASIS International School Shenzhen. 

Learn more about our primary co-teaching model on our website.

Check out our post on the BASIS Primary Program FAQ here.

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