Teaching Double Acts – Where Are They?

When I was training to be a CPD provider I was mentored by two brilliant people – Stuart Naylor and Brenda Keogh. They were a formidable team and I learned so much from them.

Although they taught CPD events independently, they often used to team teach as a double act.

Their synergy and ability to anticipate what the other was thinking or about to say demonstrated the creative power of working as a pair. They were a great partnership who innovated and challenged each other and inspired those who attended their sessions. They had presence, confidence, chemistry and trust.

Joshua Wolf Shenk (2014) talks about this creative connection and couple identity as confluence and a “coordination of cognitive functions that some scientists even consider a shared mind.”

But teaching duos are rare in education because teaching is pretty much a solitary venture. You just don’t see the ‘powers of two’ in schools or on the CPD circuit. We have instead a lone genius culture or worse, egos on tour. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

But teaching double acts are needed because they have the potential to make teaching, learning and assessment far more creative. Practicalities make teaching in pairs difficult in schools but it certainly isn’t impossible. Team teaching does take place but not often enough and school leaders need to work harder to make it happen beyond just an experienced teacher and someone training to be a teacher.

Schools are always talking about collaboration and teamwork yet this isn’t visible in classrooms where for 99% of the time teachers work in the glorious isolation. But we need to move away from silo teaching and join forces with each other and form creative partnerships where we can bounce ideas off each other as they happen in the moment of teaching. Learners benefit from two non-competitive teachers teaching them compared to just one teacher slogging his or her guts out.

Working as a pair can raise your game. For those schools willing to experiment, Rogers and Babinski (2002) suggest allowing two first-year teachers the opportunity to share the same classroom because this has “the potential for each to teach at a higher level than she or he could if teaching alone.”

The same could be said for more experienced teachers too because no one has teaching cracked. In pairs, we can challenge, cooperate and use each other as a source of strength and new learning. So many assemblies are done by lone wolf teachers, sometimes as a rite of passage, yet the power of two teachers delivering an assembly together makes it less of a stand-up routine.

Clearly the economics of making this happen in schools is going to be an obstacle but timetabling some joint teaching is possible. Double Act teaching is less of a problem for inset and for CPD providers. Double act teaching in these situations make a lot of sense because two people can share the workload and free up more thinking time to be creative and help colleagues who need support.

The dynamism of duos in teaching is there for the taking. All you have to do is find your Ant or Dec.

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