Northline ES co-teachers find classroom success with tag-team tactics

Elizabeth Webster and Caitlin O’Brien

Children need firm boundaries and clear expectations in order to feel safe, and those needs don’t stop at the schoolhouse door.

That’s why teachers Caitlin O’Brien and Elizabeth Webster use a “tag-team” approach to discipline with their students at Northline Elementary School. O’Brien teaches English language arts and social studies to a group of 35 fifth-graders, while Webster teaches that same group math and science.

“Ms. O’Brien and I have nearly identical rules and expectations for our two classes,” explained Webster. “And each group has a clipboard where notes are made throughout the day, so if students misbehave in my class and are moved to the ‘warning’ level, the notes reflect that, and they remain on that same level when they move back to Ms. O’Brien’s class.”

“Part of our rewards system involves outside activities where we develop strong bonds,” added O’Brien, “such as taking them to see a movie or playing soccer with them at recess. These activities help our students feel loved and valued, and through positive behavior recognition, they see that when they do kind things, someone notices. We also both make a conscious effort to remind students that none of us will settle for mediocrity, by calling them ‘math masters’ and ‘global leaders’ instead of students.”

“Above all, what allows us to work well as a team is the fact that Cait and I keep in nearly constant communication,” notes Webster, “even if it means we’re texting back and forth all Sunday afternoon about current reading levels, what our schedule looks like for the coming week, and who got in trouble for starting a spitball fight during ancillary period.”

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