Team teaching puts new spin on classroom subjects

Courtesy photo Terry Pipkin and Tarmara Lopez’s seventh grade class staged an archeological dig at Marshall Middle School. The exercise was part of a new team teaching program.

By Penny Bailey: Local columnist

Have you ever attended a function or event just because you were being polite to the host or hostess, and you felt obligated?

Well, I have to admit that is what happened to me when a teacher at Marshall Junior High School, Terry Pipkin, invited me to observe the archeological dig scheduled for her 7th grade class. But, was I glad after I went. I did not realize learning could be so much fun.

First, I observed a teaching method that I did not know existed…team teaching.

This is a method where two (or more) teachers are in a classroom teaching different things, but at the same time. I know this might be confusing, but stay with me and I’ll explain.

You see, when I walked in to the classroom, there were two teachers…one on each side of the room. Pipkin had drawn a grid on the white board and was reviewing what the students had already learned about grids; X and Y-axis; longitude and latitude; and positive and negative numbers. Each student had a piece of paper and they marked the center of the grid so they would know the starting place for their dig.

Next, the second teacher, Tamara Lopez, spoke up and reminded students about the ancient cultures in the Western Hemisphere they had been studying. Students had read “Tuck Everlasting” the adventure of a guy who travels to different times and places.

I have to admit, I was a little confused having two teachers in one room at the same time so when I had a chance, I asked Ms. Pipkin about this.

This is a relatively new approach to teaching.

Pipkin teaches math and science while Lopez teaches social studies and English.

Since there were only two teachers in this classroom of 60 students, this is considered a small team. There are other teams with four teachers and 120 students.

Their goal is to teach students what they need to know and show them how it applies to real life. And, from what I observed, it works.

Not only did the learning of various concepts complement each other, but it was never boring and all the students were engaged in the teaching going on — they didn’t have time to get bored or daydream.

After a quick review of math, science, social studies and English, we were on our way outside for the archeological dig. There we found four stringed grids on the ground and two Eastern New Mexico University students to assist us with the dig.

The ENMU students showed students how to carefully excavate, measure and document their findings. Then, the Marshall students began to search for their treasures.

I had so much fun watching and learning myself that I didn’t want to leave. But, isn’t that how it usually goes…once you get to the event you were invited to attend you usually end up having a great time.

Thanks, Ms. Pipkin and Ms. Lopez.