Team Teaching is just like old fashion pirating on the high seas. You are combining resources with others who are experienced and perhaps used to being in charge. Sometimes the seas are rough and the shoals rocky… How can you find the treasure and avoid bloodshed? Just look at how pirates did it!

Granted the other experts that you are combining resources with are not outlaws or bandits. But let’s face it: each of you is different, possibly strong willed  and all of you know your stuff.

So, how to you ensure a well-run and harmonious ‘ship’?

You use ‘the code’!

What’s ‘the code’? Here’s a great excerpt from an Elizabethan website which talks all about ‘the code’:

“A Pirate ship required a level of discipline and a Pirate Code of Conduct. The Pirate Code of Conduct was an important agreement between the Pirate Captain and his crew. The Pirate Code of Conduct consisted of a number of agreements between the Captain and pirate crew which were called Articles. The Pirate Code of Conduct was necessary as pirates were not governed by any other rules such as Naval regulations.”

Like the Pirates’ Code of Conduct you need to define some rules of engagement for your team. Here are a set of rules, or guidelines that I find helpful:

1. Focus on the common treasure. If you aren’t on the ‘same page’ you are never going to get there.  Decide on a high level ‘design points’ by:

  • Defining a purpose or goal for your session. Decide on who your target audience is and what knowledge or skills they will walk away from your session with.
  • Decide whether you are selling or teaching. Don’t advertise a session as a tutorial and deliver a sales pitch.

2. Adopt a Pirate mindset by:

  • Keeping it simple, it is easier to learn that way.
  • Using language that your audience will understand.
  • Finding the treasure (i.e. the million dollar tip) and featuring  it.

3. Chart your journey. Decide on a reasonable path. If you don’t do this upfront, there will be many opportunities for disagreements. Charting your route should include:

  • Deciding how you will make decisions during session development.
  • Agreeing on the architecture of workshops, of modules.
  • Planning the development steps and time-line.  This should include allowing time to review, to create a common look and to practice.

4. Elect the Captain(s). Decide on roles (& responsibilities) for before the class. You will need someone to:

  • Architect the session by deciding what content is included or excluded.
  • Edit to ensure a common look and feel and ensure consistent level of detail.
  • Manage and integrate delivery and make quick decisions regarding course corrections.

5. No fighting! Set up some delivery rules of thumb:

  • Let the Captain have the first and last word. Whoever is managing the delivery of your session should kick it off and wrap it up.
  • Create your own ‘language’ or signals. Sometimes it is difficult or impossible to communicate verbally in the heat of the moment. Valuable signals include: time to break, hurry up, running out of time, acknowledge a fellow team mate, etc.
  • Don’t correct whoever is at the wheel, unless it is a life or death (so to speak) situation. You can offer advice to whomever is teaching by putting your hand up but don’t interrupt. S/he should acknowledge you with a nod. But don’t take it personally if you are ignored.

Sure all of these techniques are all good management and team skills, but when egos are involved and your team is up against a deadline some of these skills get ignored or forgotten. I’ve seen it happen time after time.

You should personalize these guidelines to your own situation; however, it is important to discuss and agree upon these points upfront you, as the pirates would say, before you ‘go on account’.

Just remember, if you don’t follow ‘the code’ (rules of engagement): there could be a mutiny, murder or meltdown.

Arrgh! Follow the code!


Flickr Creative Commons Image by Country_Boy_Shane