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Lynne Cook: Groundbreaking Text on Teacher Collaboration Published in Fifth Edition



Photo by Gary Kuwahara

Lynne Cook: Groundbreaking Text on Teacher Collaboration Published in Fifth Edition

Considered the definitive text on this topic since 1992, Interactions: Collaboration Skills for School Professionals, was published this summer. The book was co-authored by Lynne Cook, dean, College of Education and Marilyn Friend, chair of specialized programs at the University of North Carolina. An internationally recognized expert in the area of teacher collaboration, Cook co-taught a summer session titled “Advanced Consultation, Collaboration and Communication” with Adriean Mancillas, associate professor of graduate education, and DeAnna Hurley Chamberlain, a graduate student from the University of North Carolina.

“In education right now, the inclusion of students with disabilities into the general education classroom is a really high priority,” says Cook. “In order to do that, all educational and healthcare professionals need to collaborate, and we need to collaborate with parents as well. Historically, teachers haven’t been taught to collaborate, but to go into their classroom, shut the door, and do their own thing. More and more students with disabilities are getting much of their education in the general ed classroom, and that changes the role of the special educator.
This summer we combined our counseling, general education and special education candidates, to learn to work together - including learning the specialized terminology that each group uses.”

Cook and Friend were inspired to write Interactions as they hoped to be “agents of change, to help educators find ways to include more students with disabilities in general-education classrooms.

“Co-teaching, which is now a central feature of the text, wasn’t even a concept at the time of the first edition; we added it in 1996 after developing such approaches while working with teachers in schools,” says Cook. The law
always required that students with disabilities have access to the general education classroom and curriculum, but the emphasis on inclusion of students with disabilities has increased dramatically in the past few years. All school
districts require their teachers to include increasing numbers of students with special needs - and that requires collaboration. Most of them are not prepared to work together.”

The authors of Interactions drew from business, medicine, and other fields. Cook notes that “People in these professions know that you’re not as successful when you don’t bring diverse thinking together and work collaboratively. The whole
field of special education was going into this consultation model that said, ‘We’re the experts and we’ll go in and tell the general ed teachers how to teach.’ There’s an arrogance to that thinking that made me uncomfortable. As special
education teachers, we may have expertise about different ways of learning and new learning strategies. But that doesn’t mean we have the same expertise about how to teach 9th grade science, and I think it’s most inappropriate to go in and
pretend that we do.”

While running the learning center for students with disabilities at Jefferson Elementary School in Lennox, Cook began collaborating with the general education teachers there in order to give students with disabilities the opportunity to
be in the general education classes whenever possible. She eschews the term, “mainstreaming” in favor of “inclusion.” When asked how other students in general education classes are prepared for the inclusion of those with disabilities,
she notes that “The problem is usually with the adults, not the students. There are things we do to orient the very young children, who haven’t been around people with disabilities. The problems are rarely with the students, but with
the adults who don’t think they know how to accommodate that range of learning needs, or sometimes with special educators who believe they should have 'their' students in a separate class.”

In the late 1980s, Cook worked as a Congressional aide, and was on the Senate committee that made extensive amendments to the Older Americans Act, including assistive technology for the aging. Later, she assisted with the first draft of
the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 while working for Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).

“The real world is such that you always will work with people with disabilities in your job, no matter what it is,” Cook points out. “We make efforts to promote understanding of the different orientations and cultures of ethnically
diverse people who work and live together. We should do the same for people with disabilities.”

- Joanie Harmon





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Last updated Tuesday, September 5, 2006, 12:25 p.m., by Joanie Harmon