Teaching

  Buoys, posts or other markers on the water are great for teaching. You can use them for students to circle around doing figure eights, zig zag or another activity/game you can think of. The problem is that buoys often are placed in locations that are not ideal for teaching paddling. For some reason God always seems to place them near boat channels, shallow rocks or just to close to shore making it impossible to turn around. Because I’m always on the lookout for new teaching gadgets and aids, I was very excited to discover (courtesy of my friend, Bonnie Perry) the Lindy Marker Buoys. You got to check them out. They are essentially lightweight plastic dumbbells with 60 feet of thin line wrapped around the waist. Attached to the end of the line is a small lead weight. The great thing with the design is that when you throw it in the water and the buoy will spin as the weight unwinds. When the anchor hits bottom it will stop spinning due to a very cool counter weight built inside keeping the buoy in place even in a medium wind. With a set of three you can pass them out to pairs of students or create a triangle or line for zigging or zagging. When the activity is over get the students to wind them up to store in your day hatch until you need them again. I’m serious, they are fantastic tools. You can pick-up them individually or in sets of three. For example, Dicks Sporting Goods has them for $7.99 each while Bass Pro as a set of three for $19. Image credit: mantraplake.webs.com
Friday, 16 September 2011

The Limitations of a Paddling Class

Sometimes students taking an intermediate paddling class grumble that they wished they had learned the new skills during an beginner paddling class. Of course you can’t learn everything in one day and some skills can’t be taught to absolute beginners and must be taught tomorrow. Wayne Horodowich has written an interesting article over on paddling.net on these limitations and why an instructor needs to push some skills to an intermediate level class. Another factor to consider about learning is, "you don't know what you don't know." If you don't even know the possibility exists you may never perform certain actions. That is why formal education is so important. As you learn more possibilities your base of knowledge expands. As the base gets bigger you can build more upon it. As a side note, if an instructor can build creative thinking skills and experimentation into their curriculum I believe students will discover more options on their own. How does all off the above relate to a kayaking class? Obviously, as we learn our basic skills we are limited by what we have learned with respect to the points I was making above. At the end of your basic kayaking class your base of kayaking knowledge is what you have learned in your class unless you have had additional exposure to the sport. You are unaware of all you do not know about kayaking. Read the full article here.
Teaching can be a real double edge sword. On one hand you get the excitement of showing your students the coolest things about paddling but on the other hand if you are teaching a certification course you sometimes have to face the fact that not all your students will pass. I know there are readers out there who argue that organized certification programs might not the best environment to learn under and feel that that long-term peer-to-peer teaching and mentoring are better models for learning. While there are good arguments that different types of learning work for different people, lets set that conversation aside for another day as I want to focus on the thousands of certification courses run over the season. One of the good things about organized certification courses offered by groups like the American Canoe Association, Paddle Canada or the British Canoe Union is that they offer a clear syllabus with learning outcomes at each level. The benefit is that it provides a clear benchmark for the student to see how their their personal skills line up with the overall program. It also provides clear stepping stones of success as they work their way up the certification ladder. It’s human nature that every paddling instructor wants their students to succeed but sometimes you do all you can and still the the student still comes up short. For an instructor, telling somebody that they didn’t meet the requirements of the certification level can be one of the hardest things. Over the years I have seen fellow instructors break down in tears after giving the news and I once heard of a coach in the US who gave up teaching instructor courses for several years after one particularly upsetting encounter. Below are a couple of tips and random thoughts to help soften the blow of giving the bad news to your students: Think of Possible OptionsWhat options do you have to work with? Some programs the only option is to pass or fail the student while others provide the option of a conditional pass for some levels. Conditional passes…
Last week I got sent on a training course for work on how to manage information technology. The only thing that made the day interesting was watching the course instructor try to control his class and deal with a very dominating student. Within the first 10 minutes of the course starting the student took over the class with inappropriate interjections, challenging the instructor and asking a large number of questions (9 in 10 minutes). As I watched the instructor struggle to regain control; I started to think about how I would possibility handle the same difficult scenario if it presented itself in one of my kayaking classes. Here are a couple of random thoughts on dealing with two different types of difficult adult students. 1) The, I-have-a-million-questions-to-ask studentDon’t let student questions take over the lesson plan. If you have a student that likes to ask lots of questions not specific to what you are teaching at the moment (but planning to cover later), don’t fall into the time-eating trap of explaining your material twice. If it’s going to be covered later defer it until then if possible. Think of your other students and don’t let them get confused or frustrated by jumping around topics. Try to stick to your overall lesson plan and address the question later. Change your teaching style. Paddling instructors often use an interactive and informal teaching style when on the water but sometimes that doesn’t work if you are constantly getting interrupted. Quietly change over to more lecture style teaching to get through the material with specific points throughout for questions and discussion. It can help save time and keep the lesson moving. As a last resort (and using your best kid-gloves), tell your class to hold all questions until a set time for questions as it will help keep the flow of the lesson going. 2) The, I-Know-More-Than-You StudentEver had a student who challenges or argues constantly you? “That’s not how so and so taught me how to do it…” or “In my 12 years of paddling I did it this way…” It can be…
The Bow-rescue video posted on Paddling TV this past week is pretty decent. It clearly demonstrates the key steps to this quick and dirty rescue but there are a couple of suggestions I would make to the demonstrators to make their rescue quicker and more reliable.

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