The Instructor Trainer Workshop is a very rigorous and rewarding program; however, it is not something to be taken lightly. As an instructor trainer, one has reached the top of the food chain, so to speak. That being said, one must realize the weight that comes along with the rating. You hold the responsibility to create the next generation of instructors – and they better be good! Additionally, you are seen as a representative for the agency and considered the best of the best. I’m not going to lie, that kind of responsibility is intimidating, but by the end of the program it seems much less so. In fact, there are many preconceived notions you will have about the ITW that are going to change drastically by the end of it all. My ideas of how the program works, which aspects hold the most importance, and my role in it, were very different at the beginning than at the end of the course.
I am pretty new to the game when it comes to the world of scuba. I have been diving for just over three years and instructing for one and a half. I have been working for Headquarters since May, so up until the ITW nobody in the company had really witnessed my teaching abilities firsthand. I was also going into a program consisting of outstanding dive professionals from around the world. I had one primary focus for this course – to show everyone what I could bring to the table and make sure that my first impression on my coworkers and professional peers was top notch.
On day one, I walked in those doors confident and ready. I hadn’t been nervous at any point in the process; only determined to prove myself. The course started as any does: everyone filed in, materials were handed out, and a description of the course was given. After a short time, we made our way to the introduction portion. There were ten candidates in the program and I was the last to introduce myself. I listened to nine other people talk about their impressive and diverse diving histories, some had been instructing since a couple years after I was born, but one thing was certain about all of them – they were outstanding instructors and had much more experience than myself. Then it was my turn and all of that nervousness that wasn’t previously present rushed in all at once. I was just short of petrified. To be honest, I don’t even remember what I said about myself, but I remember having so much difficulty with such a simple task. My first classroom presentation went pretty similarly. When I stood up in front of the room, all I could think about were the nine candidates and equal number of evaluators watching me, and fearing their evaluations. Here I was, a year-round diver from the Northeast, struggling to talk about drysuits! It was silly, I knew I was better than that, and hadn’t been this nervous since my IDC! I was frustrated to say the least, but the next day there was a very clear turning point that shifted the entire atmosphere of the program.
There are two things that I vividly remember happening that put everything into perspective. I was talking with one of the evaluators about my frustration with my level of nervousness and she said, “It doesn’t matter what your history is or how much experience you have compared to the others – each one of you earned your right to be here.” This really stuck out to me and what happened next was the icing on the cake. Before class started, we were all sitting around the table and chatting. One of the other candidates mentioned how he was really nervous during his presentation and was frustrated because it was a topic he had presented on countless times. This sparked a discussion revealing that everyone else was feeling this way too. I realized that all of these seasoned instructors that I had been so intimidated by were in the exact same situation as me! From there on out, everyone seemed to be much more comfortable and we all started stepping up our game.
After this, there was a change in mentality too. It was no longer about impressing the other candidates, but how we could all work together to make each other better. The ITW does help you fine-tune your teaching skills, but that isn’t the primary focus. If you earned a spot here, there is no doubt that you can teach divers. The goal is to learn how to teach an instructor how to teach that material (which is very different), appropriately evaluate a new instructor, and work together with other evaluators to present a consistent message.
My strongest misconception was that this program was about personal performance. It is set up the way it is for a reason; without the others, neither I nor they would have made the progress that we did. I am truly appreciative to have learned so much from and grown alongside these individuals. I can say with confidence that each one the candidates and the evaluators are nothing short of amazing. Each ITW builds a micro-community; the others involved in the program become your friends and will remain as professional references for years to come. You help each other grow over the course of the ITW week, but don’t let it stop there.
For anyone who is making waves in the world of professional diving – give us a call when you are ready to take things to the next level. The diving community needs individuals like you to usher in the next wave of leadership and shape the direction of the industry. I can say firsthand that the program is an invaluable experience and will transform you into a training master! International Training conducts ITW’s twice a year; I look forward to seeing you there.