I had an instructor moment tonight at the pool. One of those nights which both challenges you as an instructor, but also leaves you feeling warm and happy inside.
Im currently teaching the lower level snorkel diver group. A small group of keen students, each with their own needs and interests.
One of these students is the youngest in the group, smaller than the others, and is challenged by sight issues on top. Hes a fantastic kid, full of energy and is already very talented in the sport, but can sometimes struggle to keep up with the others who are bigger and older.
This evening however, the training we were doing, mask clearing, became too much for him. It caught me a little unawares, as I thought the lesson was going quite well, but even good instructors miss things sometimes.
The pool is not exactly a friendly environment at the best of times. Its loud, busy and above all COLD! This chap had been working on the skills, but because we werent really moving much, he was slowly getting cold. I noticed they were all getting chilly, so I did my best to ge them moving as much as I could, but the pool is unforgiving sometimes.
Eventually it all became too much, and I noticed my student was getting a bit overwhelmed by it all and eventually shut off. I was able to quickly bring him to one side to see if we could resolve his concerns and help him feel better about the session, but you could see it was still hard for him. We decided to shake it up a bit, try a new thing, and attempt an old National Snorkellers Skill Test (C Test). This involved a lot of swimming, and ditch & recovery. Guarenteed to warm you up and get the blood flowing. Something which I hoped would help them all feel a bit better.
As I watched them all hurtle off across the pool, I kept and eye on my guy. He may not have been the fastest, but he wasnt the slowest by any means. It was obvious he was finding it hard though. It was no easy task, he had been working hard already earlier in the session, he was already a bit overwhelmed and emotional, BUT he stuck at it.
Thats when I had my moment. My job as an instructor is to challenge my students, sometimes with difficult challenges, sometimes with fun ones. The key however is to make it achievable and educational. I had tried my best, but maybe this time, I had made it a bit too tricky. However, the thing I realised, was despite this, this young man was doing his best to work the problem. He just never gave up.
I was SO impressed by this young man. Despite the difficulty he had faced during the lesson. The cold, the overwhelm, the exertion, the challenges of learning new and complex snorkelling techniques. He NEVER gave up! Even when I offered to help him, and stopped the session. He still wanted to do things for himself.
Its rare to find students with such tenacity, a willingness to get stuck in, and to fight through the difficulties despite the challenges. That lad will go far.
I felt obliged at the end of the session to seek him and his dad out and tell his dad how much he impressed me. In fact, this is why Im writing this blog. I think everyone should know. Im not going to embarrass him by naming him, but it needs saying. If I had more students like him, Id be a happy instructor. Im pleased to say both he and his dad left the pool smiling.
Not everyone is good at everything. The true sign of a great student is one who despite facing difficulty, keeps trying and trying and even if he fails, doesnt give up. This kid has that.
Tonight was a good night. I hope he knows it too.