Settling In


The week of 5/6 I started another Open Water Diver course with 16 students in the classroom on Monday and Tuesday.  It actually wasn’t that hard to do the knowledge review portion of the course with 16.  I did sense a few of the students were intimidated about asking questions about the RDP (recreational dive planner).

I’m absolutely loving this class structure!  Wednesday and Friday we spent in the pool as myself and another instructor broke the group in two.  I had 7 students and managed to move them all through the confined water dives.

Our open water dives were scheduled for 5/11 and 5/12 but ocean conditions prevented us from diving from shore and not everyone wanted to pay extra to go off the boat.  So, instead of last weekend we did our dives this weekend.

I was joined for this class by a divemaster candidate.  At first, it was kind of odd to think of teaching someone to be a divemaster when I was just a divemaster candidate myself this time last year.  But, the more I talked with him and helped him with the little hurdles the more I realized how much I have learned and how far I really have come.   When asked about tying knots I was able to show him a technique I learned during the IDC that really helped me.  It also highlighted all the things I didn’t know a year ago.  This DMC hasn’t had much shore diving or north shore experience so I’ve really been able to help him learn to assess conditions for shore diving.  I found myself telling him the very things that I heard last year from my mentors.  This weekend I told him to be closer so that he wouldn’t have to work so hard to get to the students.  I also told him that he should try to let the students work through their problems on their own.  I heard both things this time last year.

As a professional I have a fine line to walk.  Being too hands on doesn’t necessarily do my students any favors.  Yes, I’m helping them learn to dive but I’m certifying them to go out in the ocean with a buddy.  Letting them work out the kinks is often more useful than doing it for them.  One of my mentors told me, watch, show, act or something to that effect.  Basically he said the first thing to do is to watch and see if they will get it worked out on their own, as long as no one is in danger of course.  If that doesn’t work then show them what you want them to do by demonstration.  And last actually step in in physically help them.  I can address the concerns gently after the dive by reminding the entire group of the technique I’m looking for.  Often, not only does that one student learn something, but the group learns also.  This way when they rent equipment and head to the beach they are better prepared to work out the kinks.  I chuckled to myself several times this weekend as I offered the feedback thinking “I sound like…”  I’m working with my DMC toward finishing his divemaster and it’s actually a really cool feeling to think that I will be making someone into a divemaster.

No class is perfect though and we had a couple of casualties this week.  At first, I really wondered if I was doing something wrong during my classroom sessions when I had a couple of students fail the final.  I soon realized, though, that the ones that failed either hadn’t read the material or watched the video or they were shy about asking questions in the group setting.  I worked with one and he passed his exam the second time with flying colors.  Another one, though, just didn’t do the work.  When he failed the exam for the second time I asked him if he had read the book and he said no.  He admitted he hadn’t watched the video either.  I found myself thinking of the mentor that taught my IDC.  He once said sometimes you get students like that and “you can’t want it more than they do”.  I don’t like it because this kid is smart and he understands the concepts when we went over them but he just didn’t do the work.  Our last casualty was someone who hurt their back probably because of the awkwardness of the equipment in the water at first.  I’m still trying to encourage her to finish the course.

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It amazes me that, after only having taught 2 open water courses, I’m starting to find my rhythm.  I’ve found things that work and things that don’t and I expect that will continue to be a learning process for as long as I’m teaching.  The first time I took a student in open water I just panicked and I called the whole thing off.  I was scared and I admitted that to my boss.  But, after jumping in head first, I’m finding my footing.  I’ve realized I can do this and that I’m actually quite good at it.  I’m not scared anymore but I wouldn’t say that I’m super confident either.  I think that those who think they have the perfect system are fooling themselves.  I’m constantly learning and it makes me a better diver, a betting instructor and a better person.

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