Monday, August 01, 2005

Are you OK?

A few years ago, I had a student (lets call him Ed) who was from a foreign country. It does not really matter which, but he was not very fluent in English. I mention this only because of what occurred later. At the beginning of the class, like every other class I teach, we reviewed communications procedures and of course I always mention that the "OK" sign is both a question and an answer. Up to this point in my teaching experience, I thought that this statement was fairly self evident. "I ask you if you are ok and you respond ok". Simple stuff right?

The class was progressing along at a fairly good pace, but Ed was having some difficulty understanding my instructions. Sometimes he responded to the "OK?" and sometimes not. So trying to be the good instructor I remained patient and explained the importance of communication again. Unfortunately, Ed was having all kinds of problems, and at this point I was wondering if he really should be in the pool at all. He was trouble clearing his mask and it seemed like it was a poor fit. I advised him to try to get a replacement for the next class.

Eventually we submerged and moved down to the deep end of the pool to continue with the skills at the deep end. When we eventually all arrived at the bottom, I started going around the class with the "OK?" signal. All the other students indicated that they were "OK", but I was getting no response from Ed. So I tried three or four more times to get an OK from him. Nothing doing. At this point I was getting more than a little frustrated. I was thinking - how selfish of him - holding up the class like this. He is looking straight at me and is not responding! Is it that he did not understand what I meant with the "OK?". Was it due to him being from another country or was he just not cut out to be a diver?

In frustration I swam over to him and right in front of him I again gave him "OK?" sign. Nothing again. I was getting really steamed.

Then I took a closer look at this mask. His mask was completely flooded and he just sat there, quite content with a mask full of water. Obviously he could not see my many requests for "OK"! I felt really dumb.

Fortunately, with some additional work, Ed managed to complete all the required skills and later I heard from his open water instructor that he managed quite adequately with the open water dives.

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