by Jeremy Riss, originally printed in the Winter 2009 Issue of the NW Snowsports Instructor
I often hear the comment from instructors that they don’t have time to train for exams because they are too busy teaching lessons. Going out and clinicing with your coach is a crucial part of training but so is experience teaching lessons of all ages and abilities. Some of the biggest breakthroughs I have had in my teaching and skiing have happened while I was teaching lessons.
Whatever feedback you are getting from your coach during clinics, applying that feedback during low speed maneuvers all day while you are teaching students is ideal. This will allow you to dial in the change you are trying to make at slow speeds and will be a benefit to your students since the accuracy of your demos will improve.
The movements you are trying to change in your dynamic skiing are generally the same movements you want to change in lower speed maneuvers. At the beginning of last season I was really focused on trying to get my outside leg to soften through the second half of the turn in order to flatten my outside ski and move smoothly into the next turn. I was able to make some progress on this in my dynamic skiing but I struggled with getting the timing right consistently. It wasn’t until I practiced it over and over again in slow speed wedge turns that I could really make the movement consistent every time.
There are different dynamics in play while you are doing a teaching segment in an exam vs. teaching a real lesson, but the same fundamentals apply in both and you are likely to have the same strong areas in your regular teaching that you do during exam teaching. You need to make safety a priority, use the teaching cycle, stay focused on building one skill at a time, work on each step until your students are successful at it, keep your descriptions simple and to the point, give accurate demonstration, and keep the atmosphere productive and fun for those you are teaching. Take the feedback that you get from your trainers during your mock-exam teaching segments and try to improve on those same things when you are teaching lessons.
Even if you are teaching kids the things that will make you successful in exam teaching will also get those kids making turns and heading off to the chair lift. One common error I see during exam teaching is people moving from one focus to another before students have mastered the original focus. I often see the same thing when people are teaching first-time 4 year-olds. They will work with the kids on side stepping to climb up the hill but not all the kids will be able to do it right away. The instructor will move all the kids to the next step of riding up the magic carpet even if they weren’t able to do the first step successfully. The lesson suffers because the kids that can’t side step up the hill have to rely on the instructor to pull them up the hill every time. The same thing happens in exams where candidates move to the next step in their progression even if the group did not perform the first step accurately.
To make the best use of all your time when preparing for exams, get accurate feedback from your coach and use every opportunity, especially when you are teaching everyday lessons, to apply that feedback and improve. Remember the ultimate goal in training for certification is to improve your ability to instruct your students.
Focusing on the areas in your teaching and skiing you need to improve on while you are working will make you a better instructor for your students and help prepare you for your exam.[connections_list id=16 template_name=”div_staff”]