Friday, September 29, 2006

Caught rather than taught?

There are two course directors that teach at the same store as I do. The senior of the two course directors has been teaching for many years and has encyclopedic knowledge of dive theory, local dive sites, people in the industry etc. He is really one of a kind. However, the senior course director (SCD) has not taught confined water skills in any of the classes that I have attended so far. The two course directors divided up the work and each chose to teach a different component of the IDC (instructor development course).

The course director that taught me most of what I know about instructing is excellent and I have written previously about how I still feel like a student around him. However with SCD, I have not really built up that kind of relationship and was a little curious about what his teaching skills would be like in the pool.

In the current IDC that is being held, SCD is the only course director since the other CD has work commitments that prevented him from attending. So last week, I got to work with SCD in the pool and I must say I enjoyed the experience. His style is unique to him of course (like everyone), but I both found that I learned some new ways of explaining the same skills and also found that I found his style familiar. By being familiar, I mean that I could identify with how he was conducting the class and found that even though we were taught by different people in different generations, there were enough similarities that I felt that we were on the same page every step of the way.

The casual observer might say that since we are both certified by the same agency one could suspect or expect that we would be on the same page. But I would counter that although we are expected to perform up to the same minimum certification, there is a huge component of "stuff" that is only "caught" rather than "taught". This intangible quality could variously be referred to as culture, oral learning, affective behavior, etc. I am not a trained educator, but I know that in any organization there are written and unwritten rules, procedures and methods. The same could be said of how one conducts SCUBA instruction.

Sometimes as instructors we convey just as much by our behavior, dress, demeanor, enthusiasm, professionalism, patience, etc. as we do by the actual content of the lectures. This is obvious stuff really, but as instructors we need to always pay attention to the intangible aspects of working with students - for example by trying to get them to be as passionate as we are about diving. (ok - I made a big assumption about passion here, but I sincerely hope that each and every instructor is passionate about diving and has not lost the fire and passion for diving.)

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