How To Make Team Teaching a Smashing Success

by James L. Rubart

Last week I team taught at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference with Susan May Warren and Jeff Gerke. (Great conference BTW.)

Susie and Jeff coming up with brilliant ideas

Even though I’ve known Jeff and Susie for years I’d never presented with them. I was interested in how it would turn out. Why?

We had only seven hours of teaching time. (Yeah, I know that sounds like a lot, but when you have three people who would have no problem filling those hours by themselves I was curious how we’d adapt to each other.)

The Key to Our Success

It sounds simple, but here’s why it worked wonderfully: While we shared our opinions passionately while we brainstormed how the class should work, none of us had any ego in the game. Extremely refreshing. When we taught the class the same attitude prevailed.

I’ve team taught in the past where it became clear immediately that my co-teacher had a King Kong plus Godzilla size ego, and if I was going to say anything I had to forcefully interrupt.

With Susie and Jeff, it was the opposite. We encouraged each other to jump in with an agreement, disagreement, and color commentary at any time. We didn’t care who was speaking as long as it had an impact on the class.

The Awards Banquet–Another Chance to Collaborate

OCW has an awards banquet every year and the three of us decided to amp things up with a running gag about me crashing Susie and Jeff’s MC-ing duties. Looking back at the creation of the skit, I can’t tell you who came up with what and I’m guessing they couldn’t either. It was a completely collaborative effort. None of us cared if their idea was used, we just wanted it to work.

Completely Smooth? Kind Of

Did we ever disagree? Of course. For example, when Jeff or I suggested an idea that Susie wasn’t keen on, she’d say, “I like that idea, but I think we can build on it …”

Jeff’s translation: “Susie doesn’t like it, thinks it’s stupid, but is too kind to say it that bluntly.”

Then we’d laugh and move on. The point is, we disagreed with gentleness and consideration.

Can we work this way with our editors? Our publishers? Our marketing people? Other authors? Hope so. I know it will produce a better product, and better relationships as well.

One More Memory From OCW

This has nothing to do with the rest of my post, but it’s too funny not to include. You know the cliché when a room is cold that goes, “This place is like a meat locker!” The room we taught in was colder than a meat locker. I kid you not. So at one point Susie did the logical thing and went to her room and grabbed a blanket. 

“Here’s how to beat the cold.”

Only Three Rules To Follow For An Outstanding Team Teaching Experience

1. Get your opinions out there.
2. Get rid of your ego.
3. Get a warm blanket

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, Christy award winning author of seven novels as well as a professional speaker. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps authors and publishers make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife in the Pacific Northwest and loves to dirt bike with his two sons, hike, golf, take photos, and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at