Why Two Is Better Than One

As all of you know, my focus for this year is on math instruction and on increasing the amount of problem-solving in my math program. Yesterday, our math facilitator, Kelly McCrory, came into the classroom to observe a math lesson. It was stressful. I know that she wasn’t there to observe me, but when anybody is coming into watch the class, I feel like I’m being observed. I can’t help it. I start to question myself. I listen to every word that I say, and I want to go back and take back at least half of them. 🙂

I think that reflecting while teaching is a good thing though, and having another teacher in the room to teach and learn with you is even better. When Kelly came into observe, I was doing an introductory measurement lesson. The other day, the students learned how to measure length using non-standard units, and they’re now learning how to measure perimeter. The Grade 2 students helped define perimeter for the Grade 1’s. Students then applied what they learned last week about the size of non-standard units to this perimeter activity, and they made some predictions about their results. They went off into small groups to start measuring objects around the classroom.

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I took the video camera, and I recorded some of my interactions with students, but I also listened to the conversations that Kelly was having with them. Wow! She was really making me think. Not only was she questioning students, but when they gave her their answers, she had them, “prove it.” She was taking the questioning piece one step further. I often stop once the answer makes sense to me, but Kelly keeps pushing their thinking. It made me realize where I need to go next too.

I then watched her talk to some students that were measuring a sticky note using teddy bears. One of the students realized that the bears all needed to go in one direction, and she also realized that she needed to eliminate the spaces between the bears. I listened to Kelly asking her questions about her choices, and then I looked at another student that was leaving spaces in between the bears. After hearing the questions that Kelly was asking this other student, I was able to use some of these same questions to the student that was having difficulty. I now knew what to ask. Being able to listen in on Kelly’s conversation helped me with my own.

It was then time for the reflect and connect piece. I had the students start by sharing some results. I was going to ask the questions after I got all of the results down, but I’m glad that Kelly helped me change this plan. One student started by sharing how many Bingo chips she needed to measure the perimeter of another student. Many other students shared that they didn’t get a final answer because they ran out of time. Kelly asked, “why?” This got them talking. We then started to compare using playing cards to using Bingo chips for measuring different objects. Which ones are better in which cases? Why? We needed to get out the visuals again. We needed to try out some examples with the class. We needed to be patient, and we needed to keep on asking follow-up questions. We needed to reword the questions to get more information. It was a long process, and no, we didn’t get all of the other results recorded, but we did get some very deep conversation. We got meaningful math talk.

I think it was two teachers that made this difference. I think that having us build off of each other’s questions, helped. I think that we pushed each other forward as much as we pushed the students. Yes, it can be initially stressful to have another teacher in the classroom. And yes, I was initially hesitant. But would I have Kelly come back into the classroom again? Absolutely! Together, we’re better!

Have you experienced a similar situation before? What do you think: is “two” better than “one?” I would love to hear your thoughts!


6 thoughts on “Why Two Is Better Than One

  1. It’s funny that when I read this post I think about how much I learned in the time I spent in the classroom. I had to laugh at myself because when the first student gave their answer, my comment was “good job”. This is something that we had talked about earlier – moving away from praise for every answer. There I was doing it myself. I think it’s because the students are just so darn cute (I have been in a lot of jr/int classes lately). After I got over my blunder I started to ask good questions again and the student thinking was amazing. Many of the concepts we touched on were ideas that are explored well into later grades. Good questions are such a powerful learning tool.

    As for “is two better than one?”. When I work with people for the first time they often feel as though it is an evaluation thing but that feeling goes away quickly and most people enjoy the experience because you often get to see your kids in a different way. We all have a lot to learn from each other.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Kelly! It’s great to hear your reflections too. I’m glad that you found this visit to be useful as well. I really thought it was beneficial to have two of us in the classroom, and it’s clear that we learned a lot from each other. I can’t wait to work with you again!

    And yes, questioning is incredibly powerful, and I can’t thank you enough for helping me ask better questions!


  3. Two is better than one in my classroom where I teach alongside an ECE. In my opinion, once trust in our partner is established a far superior teaching model is achieved by having two teachers instead of one. The team is effective because each individual has the potential to motivate, encourage and challenge their partner. In my experience, observing a respected partners teaching practice can benefit my own practice and teaching philosophy. In terms of working with math facilitators in our board, I am also impressed with how they can support us to take our thinking and, in turn, our children’s thinking to the next level. Observing someone when they have the expert ability to be able to ask the right questions at just the right moments is an insightful experience. Thank you for inviting feedback. I enjoy reading your blog.

    • Thanks for the comment, Emma! I love hearing about your experiences too. As a previous Kindergarten teacher, this full-day, everyday program intrigues me, and it’s great to hear that you’ve had such a successful experience. I love how much we can learn from working alongside the math facilitators too. This has been a great experience for me and for my students.


      P.S. Glad that you like my blog! Thanks for reading it!

  4. This is an insightful post!

    Over my career as an educational publisher and in a variety of other fields, I have always wondered why teaching is such a solitary endeavor. Clearly social media is working to deconstruct the isolation of working alone. Professional Learning takes on many faces, but I must admit that watching a skilled individual conduct a meeting, share her/his approach to solving a challenge, engage in a well-executed interview have been invaluable in my learning journey.

    Both educators and business leaders talk about the impact and value of collaboration. Isn’t observing good practice and reflecting on what makes it good a form of collaboration. In the latest postings of http://www.postdewey.ca I explore the issue of collaboration as a way to understand and learn from others who look at things differently. This post shares an insight: Collaboration can be about working and observing a peer to learn and grow.

    Martin Goldberg

  5. Thanks for the comment, Martin! Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m going to check our your website link for sure. I think that collaboration is so important, and I just love how much I can learn from working together with my peers.


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