Let’s Call It Dive Educator, Not Dive Instructor

By Paul Montgomery

Besides talking about the NFL’s New England Patriots here in the United States, one of my favorite topics to talk about, deliver opinion on, and develop passion in others – is the role of student and mentor. And let us be clear, when I say student, that can mean the SDI open water diver, up to and including, TDI Instructor Trainer candidates.

A short time ago during a meeting, I saw a proposed title for one of our eNewsletters, it was: “Be a teacher – Don’t expect osmosis to happen. Actually teach”. What I was thinking was, “Okay, here’s my chance to voice opinion again” but what I said was, “I’d be happy to take that article”. Sort of a good Paul/bad Paul type of thing.

Student Point of View

It was then pointed out to me, and accurately too, that it could be written from a student perspective. Fair enough. As I thought more on the subject, I realized that this whole topic is a two way street. Both the student and mentor/instructor have responsibilities. As a matter of fact, during my dive center owner days, we utilized a ‘Student/Instructor Agreement’ when all other paperwork was completed such as medical statements and liability releases. This Student/Instructor Agreement merely stated what was expected of the student and what we as instructors would be doing. As instructors, we pledged that we would teach – yes, that was the word used – the student all skills, information, and knowledge pertinent to the course the student was enrolled in. As instructors, we stated that we would make every effort and go beyond to assist that student. That agreement also outlined what was expected of the student as well: prepared for classroom or academic review, prepared for skills learning and practice, and prepared for accepting the service the instructor would provide. Pretty simple, huh?

For many, if not the majority, of instructors, we started teaching scuba because we wanted to share our love of the underwater world, the beauty of marine life, or the amazing structures of hidden geology deep in terra firma. Now that I think about it, I’ve yet to meet an instructor who started teaching scuba because they wanted to lug dive cylinders, retrieve weights (dropped or simply missing), or work 7 days a week in a resort setting.

Instructor Point of View

From an instructor viewpoint, sharing and teaching comes the responsibility to impart on your students the knowledge needed to dive safely – the mastery of scuba skills. It simply is not good enough to have a student “demonstrate”, after you’ve demonstrated, that they can perform a diluent flush, clear a mask, or use an alternate air source, and then move on to the next skill and on to open water evaluation. Your responsibility as instructor is to teach that skill through demonstration, through evaluation of the student’s ability to perform , correcting technique or preventing bad habits for each and every skill; along with positive reinforcement and ample water time. We simply can’t expect that the student will “absorb” after a simple demonstration. We also must keep in the front of our collective minds that this student has enrolled in a scuba course to have fun. Period.

From the student’s standpoint, they too have responsibilities. And it starts from the very beginning, before an SDI eLearning code is entered into the system or an Open Water manual opened. It starts with seeking the best instructor they can find and be comfortable with. In addition to the usual mask, fins and snorkel requirements, our new student needs to begin this adventure with an open mind. After all, we are teaching them to survive in what is a hostile environment, beautiful as it is. Not all will gladly remove their mask or the second stage of the regulator underwater. While the motivation may be that I am learning scuba in order to accompany my spouse on diving vacations, participate in this adventure of being immersed in marine life, or simply earning a college credit, I as student do have the responsibility to receive and accept knowledge and skill.

Now for some opinion. The initial working title of “….don’t expect osmosis to happen…” really does apply at the student/mentor level. We have to teach. We have to educate. After all, we are Dive Educators.

On the other hand, in reality, we as instructors and instructor trainers do mentor upcoming dive professionals. And there is a degree of osmosis that occurs. It occurs with the mentor acting, teaching and educating in the most professional manner possible. It occurs by counseling when necessary, positive reinforcement, and correcting bad habits. We are imbibing into our mentees those values that make a great dive educator.

After all, when one of our family members decides to learn how to scuba dive, who do you want teaching them?

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