It is safer to teach classes kneeling.
There is no aspect of negatively buoyant teaching that is safer for the student or instructor. During the class, the student has less ability to swim, a higher chance of touching hazardous marine life, and the same chance of an uncontrolled ascent. A negative student might stay in the same place and seem more secure, but they have the same possibility for an uncontrolled ascent as a student who can hover. The difference is that the student who knows how to hover can correct those problems.
People default to their knees regardless of how they’re taught.
When swimmers hop in a pool they go horizontal. Divers taught horizontal and neutral rarely, if ever, drop to their knees to problem solve. It’s the perfect example of primacy.
You cannot teach large classes while hovering.
Teaching to maximum class ratios can only be done under certain conditions, discretionary to the instructor. Low visibility, currents, surge and other factors play into this. A stationary hovering student and a stationary kneeling student are similar in the control and monitoring techniques for education purposes.
It is against standards to teach skills while hovering.
All agencies require neutral buoyancy to be taught in some fashion. SDI leaves the specifics of when and how to teach neutral buoyancy to the instructor, to accommodate our flexible teaching philosophy.
There is no single correct way to teach an open water class. Pool sizes, time restrictions, class attendees and other factors make each course unique. We’ve got a list of “How Tos” here but don’t see them as absolutes. Modify and adapt to your teaching environment and always reference course standards before conducting a course.
Although we allow flexibility in how our instructors teach a class, we expect them to be able to do all of these skills themselves. This means that during a Dive Master, Instructor or Instructor Trainer class, the candidate must be able to demonstrate the ability to perform all relevant skills neutrally buoyant. This is the minimum level required. If a DM or instructor candidate cannot perform these skills neutrally buoyant, they shouldn’t be in the course. However, the challenge is then to teach them how to teach others these skills neutrally buoyant, so the following contains some of the tips and tricks that we teach in our instructor courses.
Teach Hovering First (well, kinda)
The standard scuba class usually starts by dropping to the bottom of the shallow end, equalizing, clearing the regulator, and clearing the mask. Sometime (usually much later) a neutral buoyancy skill is introduced.
To have the most success with teaching neutral divers, they need to start with hovering. On the first descent, don’t brief any skills other than equalizing and breathing. Have the students fall forward horizontally to land on their stomachs underwater. Then signal “inhale/exhale” and monitor their breathing. If needed, have the students add small bursts to compensate for weighting.