Sunday, April 21, 2013

We Make it Look Easy

For the past two years I have been blessed to work with some amazing and talented colleagues. When I went to my new hire training last year, I sat next to a woman named +Sheila Monger, not knowing we'd become teaching partners, collaborators and friends. We ended up in adjacent classrooms and because my previous SpEd team had trained me so well ( thank you +Julie Paolini), and because my parents raised me right, I fully embrace an inclusive model of education.
From Day 1, Monger ( as she is known) and I collaborated and integrated our classrooms. We joined the iPad Academy, and worked with students across the school to film and edit content for CreaTV. Our students have been exposed to new ideas, new technologies and new ways of thinking.

This school year, I was asked to teach a combo - a combination of 4th and 5th graders. Due to space and budget constraints, our school, has a combo at every grade level split this year, my 5/4, a 4/3, 3/2, 2/1 and a 1/K. It is a lot to ask from teachers and students. We try to place independent learners (read: not behavior problems) into combos, which tends to place a disproportionate disciplinary, and sometimes an academic, burden on the non-combo classes. Nonetheless, combos are still a lot of extra work. We have twice the curriculum to teach, twice the grade level meetings to attend, and yes, we do have behavior issues in the classroom as well.
Since Monger teaches a 2/4/5 combo this year, we decided to team up and make it work the best we can. Sometimes we have all of our 4th and 5th graders in the same room. Sometimes, she takes one grade level and I take the other. Our kids fluidly move from one room to the other, from one teacher to the other. If you walked into our rooms, you would see all of our students working together, learning together, teaching each other. They make it look easy.
It looks easy because of the hours of planning Monger and I put in, like a calm duck on the surface, we are paddling like hell underneath. It looks easy because we have instilled in our students a sense of responsibility, compassion and accountability. It looks easy because we communicate regularly with our parents and administration, and have built a community of trust. It looks easy because we choose to be positive and happy and optimistic.


  1. Thank you McConnell. You make it easy to want to make this model work. Working along side you is a blessing and an inspiration. For all the lost sleep, hours away from home, and working lunches I am truly a better educator and human for knowing and teaching with you.

  2. Thank you for sharing this with me.. :)