Congratulations – you have nailed the interview, passed instructor training, and formally become a ski instructor. Now you are going to take a group of ski learners to the beginner trail. If this is their first-time skiing, they are nervous. But they probably don’t know that you might be even more nervous. Hope the tips below are useful for your teaching.
First, timing matters. Your trainer as well as the PSIA guidelines may repeatedly tell you to build relationship with your students. In reality, if you talk a lot, they could be restless because what they want the most is action – SKI. Don’t spend too much time doing monologue. Instead, talk about their sports experience, personal preference, etc. while walking to the beginner area; talk about your view of skiing while correcting their problems on snow. Plus, conversation is only one way of building relationship. Your body language and skiing skills are also important for rapport-building.
Second, priority matters. You might be a serious instructor, having read the PSIA alpine technical manual and teaching handbook carefully. That’s lots of information. Once you are with your students, you simply cannot cover that many things. Even for the same drill, you cannot cover every detail. You have to manage the flow of your class by focusing on the most important things, which largely depend on students’ learning progress. Be well prepared but always be adaptive.
Third, progress matters. Beginners could be impatient because they don’t fully understand the complexity of skiing and want to enjoy the whole mountain as soon as possible. While it is true that fundamentals are critical, if you spend too much time on a single drill, your students could be bored. If after one hour, you still haven’t taken your students to magic carpet, your students may question your use of class time. Sometimes letting them feel different terrains is as useful as fine-tuning one skill on the same terrain. It is easier for your students to see their improvement by experiencing various terrains than repeatedly working on the same drill. Be flexible; don’t be a perfectionist. And of course, safety first.
Fourth, creativity matters. Even the most experienced ski instructor cannot predict what is going to happen in a lesson. For example, one of the most challenging problems is that students in the same group have different capabilities, even though they might have reported themselves as same-level skiers. Overestimation happens more than underestimation in self-assessment; and the definition of skier levels could be a bit ambiguous. If this challenge happens to you, you need to quickly find a solution. For example, do Wedge Christie drill but let the less skillful do the basic version and the more skillful do the advanced version. After a while, you may find yourself smarter by improvising on snow.
Below is a nice illustration of beginner teaching by Deb Armstrong. Note she was teaching a private lesson which is usually less challenging than teaching a group lesson. But the way she communicated with the student and the precise problem identification/solution are absolutely useful for all new instructors.