The value of learning when it comes time to teach


It should come as no surprise to discover that someone who works for International Training is a strong supporter of education. I have a vested interest in, and therefore have a tendency to promote, Teaching to our professional membership and Learning to our associate members and the diving community at large.
Indirectly, I also push the concept of learning to dive to any member of the general public who shows the remotest interest in the “scuba adventure.” I am sure you do much the same in your everyday business dealings with staff and the folks who drop into your store. However, I would like to switch the focus, and in this month’s business tips, promote learning as one of the most effective methods to improve your standing as a teacher.
Many of you have a strong background as instructors; you have been guiding groups of enthusiastic, wide-eyed new divers through the process of learning to dive for years. You know the ropes, and can cite SDI or TDI or ERDI standards as well as Sean Harrison, our v-p of training! You know the business of diver education, and sit in the teacher’s chair out in front of the classroom (or the in-pool, in-water equivalent) on a weekly basis. Here at headquarters, we take some considerable pride in the fact that the core of our success is that the most creative, effective and professional instructors teach our programs.
So that is your pat on the back, now let’s consider how you work at maintaining your teaching edge. One question I would like you to ask yourself is when was the last time you sat on the other side of the teacher’s desk out there with the students? When did you last participate in a course?
In the world of corporate training, there is a general rule that professional instructors are required to take “professional development courses” annually. One large computer services company mandates a minimum of six days of training for its corporate instructors every year. One of the largest hotel management companies sends its executive team members on corporate training programs for at least a week every year. The people who deliver that training to the executive team have to participate in at least THREE weeks of professional development training in the same time period. And of course university-level educators are expected to spend part of their professional work life, polishing their teaching credentials by taking courses themselves. Essentially, there is an understanding in the larger corporate world and among teaching professionals that the best educators are the ones who have experience being a student.
I believe the same is true for those of us who earn a living teaching scuba, regardless of whether your specialty is introducing new divers to open water training or taking experienced divers to the back of a cave one hundred metres deep on the latest and greatest rebreather.  In short, the message is that being a student makes us better teachers. It has the potential to kick us out of any ruts our teaching may have fallen into, and it may open our eyes to new concepts.
Participating as a student helps in many ways. Putting aside the obvious benefits that may come from the course topics themselves, and how learning about them can help us directly, let’s not forget that sitting in a classroom listening to lectures can deliver a bunch of indirect benefits too. For example, we can learn something from the lecturer’s delivery style, the way they use visual aids, and how the class is kept engaged. If we see a good idea, we can borrow it. If we see a bad one, we can make sure to avoid it ourselves.
Playing the student role can also give us valuable lessons on student relations. We can learn from the way information about the course was delivered, how detailed it was, how accurate, and how it related to what was actually delivered. We can also draw benefits from looking at the learning environment itself. One of the biggest complaints about an adult education course presented over several evenings at a local trade school was that the classroom was too cold! Surely there’s a valuable lesson there.
If your schedule is anything like most of the scuba industry pros I deal with every day, you are probably nodding your head right now, but thinking to yourself: “Great concept, but I simply do not have time!” Here are a couple of suggestions to help you find time.
Firstly, indentify what type of learning you WANT to participate in. The choices can range from business-related to pure fun. Obviously, the return on something directly focused on business is easier to justify. Any program that promises to show you how better to run your company, increase efficiency, grow sales, expand profits and so on, will be an easier sell to yourself. Chances are you are going to be more highly motivated to participate fully in a course that might have a positive impact on your bank account, than one about Renaissance Art. However, any program has the potential to help your classroom presentations and teaching methods.
Secondly, schedule the course, put the dates on your workplace calendar and commit. Do not let anything get in the way, and consider your personal development time as an important investment for your business.
Thirdly, apply yourself. Be serious and professional in the way you attack your personal training. Go at it exactly the way you expect your student to behave in the diver education programs you deliver.
Last of all, and perhaps most importantly, repeat as necessary. The benefits of a personal training regimen are important enough for us to make the conscious effort to reap them on a regular basis.
In closing, I’d like to make a couple of suggestions about courses that you might consider. Perhaps the easiest for any of us to justify are courses to improve our ratings as scuba instructors. These can take a couple of forms, but make your choices based on what your market is calling for. If you have to turn away customers looking for technical programs, think seriously about making the switch to TDI instruction. Intro-to-Tech is a simple and effective first step. Do not overlook diver-level programs either. Improving your personal options with regards to YOUR diving will impact what you teach and how you teach it.
Another path to take is public safety diving. Our ERDI programs have tremendous credibility in the PSD community and may have a multiple benefit to you personally.
In either of these cases, contact your local SDI, TDI, ERDI representative or National Sales Manager, Cris Merz and talk about your options.
I would also like to make a pitch for business administration programs as a terrific choice. These are typically delivered at local community colleges and business schools. Evening classes are common and many courses are available onLine through blended learning options.
Whichever road you take, as a professional educator, chances are good that you will take away many lessons from ANY program and it will be worth your time and effort. Good luck and be well. I’m off to beginner’s welding 101.


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