What’s the best way to train a new trainer? Instead of throwing inexperienced people to the wolves by asking them to teach a class by themselves, it helps if you can let the new person sit in on at least one session with an experienced trainer. Here are some tips for making sure the train-the-trainer process goes smoothly.

Don’t play it by ear
When you’re bringing a new trainer up to speed, the one thing you don’t want to do is throw that person into the class at the last minute. It’s unfair to both the new trainer and the experienced instructor to expect them to “wing it” without some prior planning.

Ideally, you want the lead instructor and the new person to establish a plan for their tag-team teaching well before class starts. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Know each other’s names. To begin, the lead instructor and the new person should make sure they know how to pronounce each other’s names.
  • Establish a rapport. The co-instructors should also decide whether to use first names or address each other more formally with Mr., Ms., or Mrs. Either way, the instructors should always treat each other in a professional manner in front of the students.
  • Give the new person an assignment. The co-instructors should meet in advance, go over the material to be covered, and find at least one section for the new person to teach on his or her own. Make sure that the new instructor is comfortable with the subject matter.
  • Introduce the new person. The lead instructor should introduce the new person to the students at the top of the class and explain the new person’s role. If you don’t make that introduction, your students will be distracted, wondering who “that stranger” is. Come right out and say that the new instructor “is here to help as well as learn.”
  • Establish a roaming policy. The best thing about tag-team training is that one person can roam the room and look over the shoulders of the students while they’re working on exercises. Whoever is roaming can quietly answer any minor questions that students may have while the other instructor is lecturing.

Have a plan to avoid embarrassment
In my opinion, the worst thing that can happen during tag-team training is when the new instructor makes a mistake or runs into a question that he or she can’t answer. To avoid embarrassment, the instructors should have a fallback plan for these two scenarios:

  • If the new person can’t answer a student’s question, the new instructor should NOT say, “I don’t know.” Instead, the new instructor should have a pat line ready, such as, “That’s a good question. Let’s check with our senior instructor.”
  • If the new trainer misspeaks, the senior instructor should avoid saying something like, “Hey, that’s wrong!” A better approach is to have a polite interjection ready, such as “I hate to interrupt, but I’d like to clarify something here.”

The goal, of course, is for the co-instructors to avoid embarrassing each other. With a little pre-planning, you can make sure the students never see you sweat.
To share your thoughts about tag-team teaching, please post a comment below or send me a note .