Written by: Tim Dyer & David Johnston
One of the toughest and greatest opportunities for any paddlesport instructor is to teach with another partner. This could be with a stranger that you have just met at a symposium or a fellow staff member at your local paddling school or club.
On the surface it seems to be a simple matter, after all you are only talking half the time but the reality is that the chance of a teaching disaster dramatically increases as soon as you add in a second instructor. Like a complex dance routine, you need to work together in harmony to ensure that your students are learning effectively.
Over the years, some crazy stories have come out due to co-instruction classes gone wrong including:
- Verbal arguments in front of students on the proper way to teach something as simple as a forward sweep.
- While one instructor was teaching a class at a symposium the draw stroke the other instructor felt it would be the perfect time to interrupt the lesson, jump out of his boat and give an impromptu lesson on how to stay cool in the afternoon heat.
- That time the senior instructor decided to arbitrarily change the lesson plan halfway through the morning and announce on the spot (in front of the students) that it would be more effective for him if he just split the group leaving the inexperienced instructor with half the students.
Don’t get the wrong impression that co-teaching is all doom and gloom. In fact, it can be extremely rewarding and the benefits outweigh the negatives almost every time. Co-teaching makes the day a whole lot more fun for both you and your students and they also benefit from seeing various teaching styles and personalities. Finally (and some say the most important), you get a great opportunity to directly steal and incorporate teaching ideas or presentation methods from your co-instructor.
To help make teaching with another instructor a whole lot more fun and effective we’ve compiled a bunch of random tips and ideas:
- Meet with your co-instructor before the class and map out exactly who is responsible for what throughout the day. Doing this is critical and can’t be stressed enough. Even if you are one of those types who can teach on the fly, deciding who is teaching what during the actual lesson itself is not only unprofessional but a guaranteed recipe for disaster.
- If it’s your partner’s turn to to engage the students and teach, be silent. Students can only learn from one person at a time so show your respect and allow the lesson to be completed.
- Check your ego at the door. Co-teaching is about sharing the spotlight so stay out of the way and don’t hog all the attention.
- Unless the lesson is sinking out of sight or there is a danger to the class, don’t take over the lesson unless invited. Everybody has a bad day on the water or maybe it’s the first time your co-instructor is teaching the skill and thus very nervous. Let them learn from the experience. If you do need to jump in do it gently so you don’t undermine your teaching partner.
- When you have completed your instruction segment always provide an opportunity for fellow instructors to add any tips or insights at the end. That’s a good place for them to come in and add last minute thoughts or show another way to do the skill.
- Like a car can’t have two drivers, you need to figure out who is going to be in charge of the schedule. That person ends up taking the role of ring master, dishing out the skills to be taught and keeping everybody on time. This works really well for instructors teaching together for the first time.
- Remember to share the teaching love. If you have new assistants out there helping, make sure you give them a chance to provide some input and build up their experience.
- When the day is done, take the time for a quick debrief about what worked and what didn’t. It will really help the next time you teach together.
When well coordinated, co-teaching can be a wonderfully rewarding experience for both you and your students so take advantage of it when you get the chance.