Wednesday, August 05, 2009

One from Column A
One from Column B
Is this the way to teach?
We certainly see it at symposiums, but it occurs at group lessons as well. Students, having been presented with a menu of what 's available, choose which class, trip and/or workshop they will attend. For our purposes, let's say it is a trip.

For safety and other reasons the menu annotates the description of each trip by labeling it for beginners, intermediates or advanced paddlers. But, just as one's eyes are often larger than one's stomach, some students over order; or, at least, they over estimate their level of competence. So, a less than advanced paddler signs on for an advanced trip and...you know what happens. They slow the group down and possibly require rescue as the conditions exceed their skills.

And it's not just symposiums. How many times have one of us gone to teach a rolling class only to find that some of the students have precious little time in their boats and don't have basic edging or bracing skills. Their horse is ahead of their cart. Predictably, they fail to learn to roll and are discouraged with the sport because they can't do the big trick.

I must admit that I find it far easier to describe the problem than to fix it. Given endless help and time, I suppose we could "audition" paddlers or put them through an entrance exam and then recommend what would be the next best thing for them to learn. Doing so would allow for a smoother and more gratifying experience for the student and avoid spoiling the class for those ready for the next level. Perhaps symposiums could begin with everyone on the water doing this and that while the instructor staff observes them and sorts them into levels. This, of course, risks the wrath of the paddle who is insulted by what they might perceive as a battle field demotion.

Maybe it is time to ask a few more questions on the applications for these activities. Ask them how long they've paddled, can they scull and whether or not they are comfortable in 3 footers. What about 4 footers? And what boat are you bringing...is it really a sea kayak?

I love teaching, and I can dream. When I do, I dream about those groups that were well matched for skill levels and what a great experience they and I had afloat learning together.

Paddle safe...
DS

5 comments:

steve said...

I remember when going to ski school, before the lesson they made us all ski downhill and the instructors graded us and divided us into different level groups. This makes it easier to get homogenous groups. Maybe thats the answer.

Silbs said...

Swell idea,but I don't have time to teach them to ski :)

DaveO said...

A lot of unusual things can happen when people overestimate their skill level. I've even heard of people having to be towed back to the launch and then throwing up on their savior's boat in gratitude......

Silbs said...

I wonder how gel coats stand up to stomach acid.

JohnB said...

Paint your deck with the same stuff used on the poop deck--that held up pretty well.