Team teaching is much like sailing with a bunch of pirates. First of all, you don’t want to fall asleep: you never know how, where or IF you’ll wake up. Secondly, you don’t want to miss anything especially your share of the loot or the provisions. Just like pirating on the high seas, when teaching many things can go wrong very quickly (and without notice). Just like pirates, working together as a team may determine your bounty as well as your survival.

REAL LIFE HAS COMPETING PRIORITIES

Let’s face it though, when a teammate is teaching, sometimes we end up ‘on the beach’: daydreaming, doing our e-mail or figuring out what we are going to say in our next session rather than actively listening. Sometimes we aren’t paying ANY attention to whatever is going on in the classroom or virtual classroom. And sometimes *we* get caught.

I’ve seen many teams of instructors fall into this trap, where one instructor is teaching (either in-person or talking on a teleconference) and the others are supposedly listening and waiting their turn to contribute. The instructor fumbles and there is no one there to ‘pick up the ball’. If the ‘on-call’ instructor (for lack of a better term) had been paying attention and realized this, he/she could have bailed out his/her colleague before the class realized what was happening. But he/she didn’t… How embarrassing for not only the instructor but the team of instructors.

CONSIDER THIS HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION: There is a one day workshop that is delivered by 3 instructors, each an expert in their own right. How much would you pay to attend each of the following options:

  • Option 1: There is only 1 instructor in the room delivering content for the workshop and the others are somewhere else. On many occasions an instructor, who is teaching, will contradict one of the previous instructors. When you question this contradiction, the instructor ensures you he/she is correct (and not his/her teammate).
  • Option 2: There is always at least 2 instructors in the room: one delivering content for the workshop and the other(s) listening and contributing when appropriate. On many occasions the instructor at the front of the classroom will quote a previous instructor or ask the audience about his/her content giving you a better ‘bigger picture’ on how the different concepts relate. During the workshop the 3 instructors deliver a ‘panel session’ and compare and contrast their preferences and approaches. The team of instructors agree that the correct answer really ‘depends’ and all perspectives have merit: just different pros and cons.

So, how much would you pay to attend Option 1? Would you pay more to attend Option 2? How much more would you pay to attend Option 2? What do you think of instructional ‘brands’ for each of the options? If you attended both workshops, which team would you become a repeat customer of: the folks that work together as a team or the bunch of individuals doing their own thing?

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM PIRATES?

Pirates always manned a watch and had a lookout: 24/7. The lookout kept watch on the horizon for other ships or signs of land. In other words, someone was always looking for dangers (to avoid) and opportunities (to exploit). If there were dangers or opportunities ahead he’d alert the crew. (That is just like having a team of trained professionals ’on standby’!)

So you need to be able to protect yourself and help your team. Remember if you do this right, the “whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. (Which ultimately means you can charge more for your session as it is of greater value!)

HOW DO I APPLY THIS TO TEAM TEACHING?

Consider these techniques:

Listen to each other. If you don’t listen this strategy will not work. However, if you contradict each other, it’s ‘game over’. Be assured that with experience you’ll get better at multi-tasking and you’ll be able to listen to your teammate while prepping for your portion of the session.

Link to each other:

    • Repeat each other, “(Remember what) Bradyn said…”, “Let’s build on Bradyn’s ideas…”
    • Ask about each other, “What did John say about…”
    • With all this repetition and linking you are reinforcing your content and contributing towards learning.

    Participate in each other’s sessions:

      • Ask each other to participate in each session, “Pat, you have some expertise in this area, would you care to comment about, {repeat the question in case he/she was ‘on the beach’}
      • Offer additional examples, references and advice. Just be sensitive how you do this.

      BRANDING FOR DOLLARS!

      Why do all this? You are creating a tightly integrated program versus a series of standalone topics or webinars. Working together, supporting each other will make you will look like partners, like a team, not adversaries. And the bottom-line is with a better product, your audience gets better value, your brand will be worth more and you can charge more for your sessions.

      You still don’t believe me? Go back to the Option 1 & Option 2 example I laid out for you. I’d probably pay ‘2x’ for Option 1 and ‘4x’ or ‘5x’  for Option 2. That’s right, I’d be willing to pay at least double for a team of experts who are collaborating.

      Listening and engaging in collaborative teaching is a great way to differentiate your instructional product against your competition. Execute this properly and then you can ‘feature’ it in your brand marketing and cash in on it with your price.

      ‘Handsomely now, friends!’:  Stay awake, stay alert, avoid obstacles, exploit opportunities, feature your team and you’ll create a strong brand that will rake in the gold and treasure! Until next time…

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      Flickr Creative Commons Image by Cayusa

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