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Instructor focus

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
A while back LF mentioned a catch phrase. The Safety, Fun, and Learning phrase gets a lot of play but sometimes in the process of defining it many different interpretations occur. My version comes from our training and may not represent how other schools interpret that saying.

It really come down to class handling and how you set up each learning segment. The easiest way to address safety concerns is to ask the following question. Is the task terrain, traffic, and tactically appropriate? While this may seem simplistic, most other concerns can be traced back to these four T's.

Fun on the other hand is more complex because leading others to enjoying something is a combination of our actions and their reactions. Showing up enthusiastic, energetic, and excited for the opportunity to help others is a well worn idea but compare that to a coach content to show up and deliver a lifeless, disconnected lesson. My goal during a lesson is for the other groups to see my folks having so much fun that they want to be part of that excitement.
When those two factors are in place, learning is much more likely since the students are actively engaged and interested.

Which leads to the idea that good decisions made by the coach are the key. Hurt folks, or bored ones are far less likely to buy into the learning process.
post #2 of 16

Building "fun" into adult lessons is something we as instructors rarely discuss here on Epic.  I hope this thread gains traction, as I'd like to hear what others have to say about that fun factor.


Right now there's an active thread in which people tell the story of their first day ever skiing.  



So far, most people posting in that thread started skiing with parents at an early age.  Some started on school trips with little or no instruction; others went with friends and got left to fend for themselves at the top.   You know how people remember important teachers in their lives?  No one posting so far is remembering an important professional instructor; parents maybe, but not instructors.  I hope some posts do tell the story of great instructors who helped them fall in love with skiing, but maybe that won't happen.


On the other hand, It is notable that not all of these stories, told by people reading a ski forum in August, are memorable for the "fun" involved. Some are painful to read.  They involve falling over and over and feeling hopelessly inadequate.  But these folks went back to try again another day and are here to day to tell the story.  What can we do with that information?

post #3 of 16

The complexity is compounded by the fact that not everyone regards the same things as fun. But everyone needs motivation.


Some (usually young and male) regard flying down the hill out of control as "fun." As long as they didn't die on the way down, and they experienced some speed, it was fun. Their assessment of risk is different from us old codgers, and they actually want to scare themselves a little bit. Or a lot.


Those of us who chose to become instructors often want to develop the necessary skill and precision necessary to overcome particular challenges that interest us, and we regard managing those challenges, as well as getting a little (or large) thrill along the way, as fun. We tend to believe more skill leads to more fun. We support that belief with the many skiers who at least appear to be having more fun as their skill level increases. The nervous novice becomes the confident intermediate.


The confident intermediate stage, though, may be a dead end for some just as surely as the out-of-control straightline method. They make long, sweeping turns on their heels down the blue boulevards, and they are content. They're having all the fun they want, and they don't want to scare themselves. At all.


There is no one size fits all. Our challenge is to figure out what concept of fun motivates each person, and help them move in that direction, safely. We've got to find that middle ground so that some will have the control they want, however slow, while others can enjoy the speed and the air without killing themselves or anyone else.


For some, it's "Wow. I'm motoring along and steering and everything, and I don't even have to walk. Easy!"


For others, it's "I like going straight and fast, but if I learn a couple of things, maybe I can go into the park and get major air!"


If people are motivated, they will have fun. If people are having fun, they will be motivated.


Yeah, it's vague, I know. Sorry.

post #4 of 16

When I teach the "safety, fun and learning" concept to other instructors my main point is that it is all about tradeoffs in the decision making process. Even though a lot of fun things are not safe, it doesn't mean we don't do them. But we do take steps to minimize the dangers when we do risky acts. And getting injured is not fun. Although having 100% fun from the student's perspective is ideal, squeezing some learning in usually means a tiny bit less fun. The trick is doing fun things that also result in learning as a byproduct. Safety, Fun and Learning does not tell you what to do or not do in lessons in terms of tasks or terrain choices. It gives you extra things to do or not once you've chosen task and/or terrain. It gives you some criteria to score your options against when you are deciding what to do next in your lessons. It tells you when you need to be strict with your students and when you need to let go of the reins. And on and on.

post #5 of 16

I just have to get this out of my system about "safety, fun, learning": If you're more interested in creating fun than in creating learning, you may be more suited to a career as a comedian, entertainment director, or actor. As a ski instructor, if you haven't created learning, you've failed. I'm not saying fun is unimportant. I haven't had a good lesson that was unpleasant. But once your focus moves away from creating learning, you're no longer a ski instructor. 


When it comes down to running a fun lesson, it's important to be your authentic "best you". The best me cares about my customers, and values their development. The best me is also quirky - because that's just how I am. (The best you is probably different!)


I see the learners as my "skiing friends in my care" for the lesson. They're going to get some personalized coaching and feedback; they'll try some new things. I also expect each of them to either feel some new sensations they might never have felt before, or feel more confident on their skis.


Each learner gets at least one (achievable) measurable challenge for the session, since adult learners do well with challenges. And "for fun" they're going to try out a thing or two that's really "out there", like spaghetti legs or 360s or the crab walk - but there's really a secret goal that I'll let them in on after the fact. 



Personally I'll never be able to start a cult of personality. But to be a good instructor, I don't need to. When my learners have a ton of fun, which seems to be most of the time, it's generally due to their accomplishments, rather than due to my comedy routine. And when you prioritize the learner over yourself, you're doing the right thing for the learner. 

post #6 of 16

If I paid good (a lot) of money in an attempt to improve my skiing and the focus seemed to be on having fun vs learning I would not be happy.  I always have fun skiing and don't need to spend xtra money to do that.  The safety, fun and learning motto has been around PSIA since at least 1989.  That said, if I am learning something new I will be having fun.  If I am not learning, not so.   YM

post #7 of 16



That should be part of the instruction process: finding out what makes things fun for your students. I can usually tell a lot more from how a student answers my "What is your goal for today" question than the specific what in the answer. I've had plenty of students who want a "no nonsense" instruction session. I've yet to have someone wants a "drill sergeant" instructor. If someone wants me to yell at them "Maggot! Your momma makes a better turn that that!", we have another pro on our staff who can do that lesson a lot better than I can. I believe in the concept of "whatever floats your boat".

post #8 of 16
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post


 And "for fun" they're going to try out a thing or two that's really "out there", like spaghetti legs or 360s or the crab walk - but there's really a secret goal that I'll let them in on after the fact.

Quite a few of you here know my opening speech at The Gatherings I have run and likewise in my teaching career it was ALWAYS safety first.  That doesn't mean not having a great time, or ripping it up in "interesting" locations.....it just means use your head with regards to being safe.


Given that,  as far as I'm concerned Metaphor's approach that "there's really a secret goal that I'll let them in on after the fact" is the Holy Grail of ski teaching.

post #9 of 16
I'm back. I know my fan base grows less by the post. :-) but that's the idea. If we all just saw eye to eye, imagine how boring.
The holy grail of teaching IMHO is not to have folks do stupid human tricks and the surprise them with the purpose and meaning of that task. I used to hate that. In all accounts. The "goal" of all teaching is to give folks information and experiences that allow them to walk away and have tools and information to analyze their own skiing, begin to organize ones thoughts to have an effective outcome, and be able to positively impact future thinking. Why is ski instruction some form of trickery. It's teaching. I have gone over how folks learn in past posts. The brain works by this process. Stimuli in, association with past stimuli, abstract association with this stimuli and it's potential for future or increased reasoning, and then testing that abstraction for collection of more stimuli. That's about it. So, strangely enough, the brain lives this, and joy is the result. Fun occurs when learning happens.
A secret goal that I will let the learner know about in the end is just odd. I haven't taught in about 8 years. So maybe I shouldn't post under instruction. But I am a skier and a product of teacher think. Just sayin. Safety is great. Most students are so involved in doing what you asked them to, you need to watch their back. They will usually ski right into traffic with all that focus. Fun happens when the brain is happy. Not because the instructor is jocular.
post #10 of 16
The brain actually dislikes drifting with inconclusion so much, that it will actually form conclusions in an attempt to close the learning cycle. Imagine that! ( get it ?)
Now imagine this. Teaching is a way to disassociate ineffective brain pathways with faster more direct ones. One of the goals of teaching is to reinforce those faster pathways. Not create random confusion to a task and suprise the learner in the end with the purpose. IMHO a lot of confusing slower pathways were just reinforced and now actually physically exist. They are not lost by the grand conclusion from the instructor. They will be opened and contemplated as actual fact by the student, until a very long time. The brain will spend lost of time questioning the abstraction prior to the holy grail of instruction. The point is to deliver clear effective and positive fast pathways. That's it.
Ok I'll add friendship, trust, and memories plus embassador to the hill and industry too. Oh thats why I don't teach. I just like to ski.
Edited by james123 - 8/28/14 at 9:04am
post #11 of 16



Whether the motivation is fun or challenge or learning or (as is most often the case) a balance among the three, motivation is absolutely necessary.


Some need to know how the crab walk applies to their skiing right up front. If they know that, they'll be motivated to play with it.


Others might just find it fun, and if they find out afterwards that it's good for something besides just messing around, that's gravy.


Address the motivation.

post #12 of 16
Originally Posted by Uncle Louie View Post

Given that,  as far as I'm concerned Metaphor's approach that "there's really a secret goal that I'll let them in on after the fact" is the Holy Grail of ski teaching.

Does this create motivation?
post #13 of 16

Cognitive dissonance is a big attention getter.  

Enigma and mystery are great motivators.

Preaching, well, that gets the job done but you lose the excitement of wondering what comes next.

post #14 of 16
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

Cognitive dissonance is a big attention getter.  
Enigma and mystery are great motivators.
Preaching, well, that gets the job done but you lose the excitement of wondering what comes next.
Cognitive dissonance is not fun. Can we learn from challenging of beliefs, sure. After all everything new does this. I think it can help, but shouldn't be the holy grail of instruction. That's just ehh.
Motivation and excitment comes from accomplishment, or understanding, a self evaluation, self perception.
It's important, first to get someone to experience something, if they have no particular view of something. So yes, leading into a unknown feeling can have a positive change. Alternatively, if someone has a strong view of something, you need to show them disconfirming examples. This too can be, not fun, but changing.
Either way, it's experience, discovery and awareness.
Generally when I have fun learning it's all about associations and new connections. Not guessing blindly into mystery and dissonance. If I pay for something with a limit both in time and interpersonal exposure to the instructor, I just want information, not mystery, maybe that's just me keeping it fun.
I remember a trainer telling us, do something new today in a lesson. Could this work once in a while to just change things up once in a while. Yes. But is it a student centered approach. Or me just living another day on the hill instead of free skiing.
post #15 of 16

Hey James, did you enjoy teaching back when you did it?

Some people get a rush from teaching.

post #16 of 16
Sure I did. I just don't like teaching, because it takes up way to much of my freeskiing. But yup. Fun stuff
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