09 Sep, 2016
10 : 00
One of the Yew Chung International School of Beijng's most unique aspects is its bilingual co-teaching model, powered by brilliant and devoted Western and Chinese teachers. While adapting to a co-teaching model may seem daunting at first, our teachers find themselves able to not just survive but to in turn thrive in their new system. In the interview below, Year 3 Team Leader James Sweeney reflects on his first year at YCIS Beijing and his successes with the school's co-teaching model.
Please introduce yourself as well as describe your teaching background and experience.
My name is James Sweeney, I am from the UK and have taught in China (at YCIS) for one year. Last year I was in Year 6 but now lead the Learning Community in Year 3. I taught for several years in England prior to moving to China.
What was your understanding of “co-teaching” prior to arriving at YCIS Beijing?
Although my understanding was somewhat limited and I was unsure of what to expect, I had read a great deal into the subject online. I was excited to undertake such a role because it meant that there were two teachers in one room. Two heads are better than one, after all!
How did the actual implementation and teaching using YCIS Beijing’s co-teaching model differ from your original understanding?
I was surprised with how natural it became in such a short space of time. I could see the benefits immediately and found it inspiring when experiencing the impact it had upon the students.
Please describe how you and your co-teacher have experienced success in the classroom.
The real key to successful co-teaching is constant communication between the teachers. We had to converse a great deal at the start of the year ensuring we had the same expectations of our students and the learning that we wanted to take place in our classroom. We are extremely lucky in Year 3 that we have dedicated time throughout the day to meet as a group of co-teachers and ensure we work collaboratively and communicate effectively. This communication has been vital to our students’ learning and the effectiveness of our lessons!
Has it been difficult to get used to the co-teaching model? What challenges have you had to face during the adaptation process?
It wasn’t as difficult as I first thought due to the amount of communication. The biggest challenge personally was my lack of Chinese language skills. Even though I had a great deal of trust in my co-teacher in ensuring our children were making progress and understood the objectives, it was still strange to not understand the actual words that were being spoken.
How has working with your co-teacher enhanced your own growth as a teaching professional?
It has enhanced my understanding of different learners and teaching styles. I am exposed on a daily basis to how my peers work. It keeps me fresh and I am continually developing my practice by working closely with other professionals. I am not constricted to just my ‘room’ and my own thoughts on how to deliver the curriculum, as the case can be working as a single teacher.
What are some examples of how the co-teaching model benefits students? (please list specific experiences from your classroom if possible!)
There have been countless times where a child could not access the learning and make progress due to a language barrier. Co-teaching has solved this problem as the students have access to both languages. These language barriers are brought down gradually as well thanks to constant reinforcement of the student’s non-native language in almost every class. It has also been also very interesting and rewarding to expose children to different points of view on topical issues. I particularly remember a heated debate amongst the children about Emperor Puyi stemming from the differing co-teachers points of view.