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The kid who sticks out like a sore thumb

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I have a question for ski and snowboard instructors:

You have a group of kids to teach, one of whom sticks out like a sore thumb - they are either significantly above or below the general ability level of the group. You do not have the option of switching this kid to another group. How do you keep everyone safe, focused and learning? What specifically would you do - if you have real-life experiences of this situation, what did you do? Did it work?
I am facilitating a group discussion on this topic and would love to get some outside feedback.
Thanks!
kmc
post #2 of 19

Sore Thumb

With a guest that stands out is a challenge.
Better then the group., use as a example, double the demo, micro teach.
Not as Good., Same focus with different expectations.
One key is to keep the pace of the group the same. Challenge the better student with a task that will slow them down to the group. Alwasy keep them......
post #3 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by skimc2
With a guest that stands out is a challenge.
Better then the group., use as a example, double the demo, micro teach.
Not as Good., Same focus with different expectations.
One key is to keep the pace of the group the same. Challenge the better student with a task that will slow them down to the group. Alwasy keep them......
Overall good advice, but there are some exceptions sometimes...
You have to use your best judgement and make the resolution fit each "problem" as it arises, there is no one clear cut way to handle every situation. I think a key to answering your question is the area you teach at. I know at the small area that I work at instructors usually have the luxury of having an assistant available to them. This assistant usually roams from group to group to lend a hand as needed and has taken individual students from groups as needed. They get paid as if they had their own lesson group for each session they assist in. It works really well. At a larger area there may be a need for more than one assistant to help out.
post #4 of 19
Great question, KMC. Welcome to EpicSki!

The truth is, the moment you have two or more students in a class, you have a "split." No two people are identical, with identical profiles, aptitudes, needs, desires, dreams, and thoughts. Dealing with splits so that everyone in the group has his or her individual needs met is arguably the greatest skill of a good instructor.

And every case is unique. Your hypothetical "sore thumb" standout student happens quite often, I'm afraid, but you have to deal with each instance individually. There are few rules. But here are a few general thoughts.

"The strong get stronger and the weak catch up." If you try to run your lesson according to this directive, you can at least minimize the problem, even if you can't eliminate it. Many splits start small, and grow larger and less manageable, as the instructor tries to keep the faster student(s) inspired, losing the slower ones in the process. Once someone gets frustrated, or loses confidence in himself, any weakness tends to become exaggerated. On the other hand, if you cater only to the slowest students, the faster ones get bored. How can you keep them all on board?

Success breeds success. Everyone likes to succeed at something, and every time you do, it increases your confidence. The key is not necessarily to go "slow" for the slowest students--which again would probably bore the faster ones--but to provide many, many opportunities for EVERYONE to succeed. Have a great bag of tricks, so that you can, for example, have your class do many repetitions of essentially the same thing, but with a different little "twist" each time. The fast ones stay enthusiastic, without being "held back" by the slower ones, which they would not if you just repeated the same old thing over and over, and the slow ones get more practice, and more opportunities to succeed too--which they need. Af few successes, along with the inevitable confidence boost that accompanies them, and quite often the "slower" ones suddenly flourish!

Sometimes you just have to find the key for the "slower" students. Sometimes it's just a different movement cue, an alternate description, a new demonstration, a different teaching style, or an appeal to a different learning style or sensory preference that will do the trick. Sometimes a student who is weak in one thing has a particular strength in another, and once you discover what that is, you can exploit it to help him/her succeed. Sometimes it's finding out another sport or experience that they're good at, and "transferring" the similarities to skiing.

Personally, I hate to hand off a "slow" student to a "special" instructor, even if the opportunity exists. I'll do it if I have to, in the best interest of the student, but I'll question myself as to how I might have avoided losing him/her in the first place. While many "slow" students appreciate the special attention they get when they are handed to another instructor, presumably in a private or very small group of other "drop outs," they still can't avoid getting the message that they NEEDED special help, that they are not as adept as other students, and so on. And that thought can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, hindering further develpment even with the private instruction. I hate to send--or reinforce--that message!

So I'll do my best to keep everyone together, inspired, enthusiastic, and learning as much as possible. It is not always possible, and sometimes compromises must be made. But it's a worthy effort!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #5 of 19
Maybe my 10 yr old daughter falls in this category. She has been skiing now for 4/5 years. she skis approx 10 days a year. all 10 days in a year she is enrolled in a all day group lesson. But she seems to be stuck at level 3 for the past 2.5 yrs now. She can ski most groomed blues. whenever she goes down a slightly steeper blue or black - she is scared out of her wits. The instructor tells me that she lagged behind the whole day. And that she is slowest in the group.

What can i do this coming season to help her get past her current stage?

thx in advance.
post #6 of 19
Ski with her. If she skis ten days a year some of them should be with you. Make it fun and playful and don't push.
post #7 of 19
Don't push the girl onto the steeper stuff. She's probably reverting to very defensive skiing (a dirty great snowplough!) and she's embedding that movement and mindset.
Ask her where she wants to ski, and if she wants to puddle on the easy stuff, let her. And if she aspires to the harder stuff, maybe get recommendations of instructor and get her a private lesson, I've seen this make breakthroughs in the situation you describe. Get the right person though.
post #8 of 19
Sometime just time on skis will help this too. Skip the 10 week session. Give her some time to ski in a less structured setting..with you, with a sibbling, with a friend, etc. The most important thing you can do for her now is let her see that skiing is fun. All day group lessons are great, but there's more to skiing than having all of your time on the snow in a lesson. I'm not saying to abandon lessons, maybe an hour private or semi private here or there. I agree with Ant here.
post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado
While many "slow" students appreciate the special attention they get when they are handed to another instructor, presumably in a private or very small group of other "drop outs," they still can't avoid getting the message that they NEEDED special help, that they are not as adept as other students, and so on. And that thought can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, hindering further develpment even with the private instruction. I hate to send--or reinforce--that message!
:thumbsup:

Oh yeah!
I was always the student that stood out like a sore thumb.... & I really mean ALWAYS..... In academic stuff I was always told not to answer.... while when I appeared at the compulsory sports lessons the teacher always decided I should "keep score" (after all my maths was never in question).....

Until I learnt to ski I just did NOT have any success at physical endeavour....
I was lucky enough to get a great instructor to start with who picked the problem.... but I was still stuck in private lessons....

And I really never expected to even ski parallel....(or at least not well when I realised parallel wasn't too different)

Lucky again - I found a great instructor who put in the time to speak to specialist people & they decided that I COULD ski like every one else - it would just take more work & time to learn....

It has taken a LOT of emotional/mental support from very wise people to get me to the realisation I CAN ski without the support of an instructor (but I still LOVE the lessons).... Just getting to realise that I do in fact ski OK & do not really need special help any more.....

Has taken much work to start to overcome the many years of failures.... I would certainly support your idea of trying to minimise "pulling out" anybody for special treatment... Letting them "fit in" is far more useful to them long term...

Or as my brother always tried to teach in outdoor ed instructing... (paraphrasing tghe doctors)... First DO NO HARM.... neither physical nor emotional...
post #10 of 19
I tend to approach teaching differently than many other instructors, focusing on the skills and psychology and not so much on the task (for example, I could care less if the wedge of a level 3 student stays constant or gets a little edgy, what I want to see is good balance, control, and steering of the feet - never dwell on the bad and accentuate the positive). Often times I get splits, and sometimes they're dramatic and sometimes not. If its just a matter of one primary split in a group, I'll go back to focusing on skills that will benefit everyone (and sending a student to a new instructor is typically a last resort, unless they ask, and I'll never send a student down, only up, and I'll stay with the ones having trouble - it's one thing to ask for help teaching a remedial student, but can be psychological damaging to the student if they think they're not good enough for you group).

Often times, I'll actually teach 2-3 different lessons at the same time to groups, so long as I can utilized the same terrain. However, there have been times that the split ended up so defined that my students needed to be on different terrain and some were having extreme problems (honestly from the head/brain - these were foreign national students who had never previously been exposed to snow). So in this case, I taught the lesson the best I could, let everyone go, and called the ones having trouble over and asked if they wanted some extra help. I talked to them like people, telling them it looked like they were really struggling and affraid to ask questions (I was very careful not to single them out in front of the group). Needless to say, I spent an extra hour and a half (while the lessons are only 1 hour) with these students, just to make sure they didn't feel lost. I've never seen people so appreciative in my life.

Now to the other concept at hand (a 10 year old who seems to have plateau'ed). Be careful not to burn her out on lessons. With my students, once they get to level 5-7+ I recomend to them they go out and ski, explore, get comfortable on the snow and learn to ahve fun. In my opinion, from this point on the students typically need specific instruction (i.e. a 5/6 that is stuck with that little bit of wedge, a 6/7 exploring bumps and having a hard time, a 5-7 having balance issues, etc) and if they keep focusing on lessons only, they lose sight that skiing is supposed to be fun.

If you (and your daughter) are only skiing 10 times a year, I would either not do more than 1 or 2 all day lessons, and stick with 2-4 hour lessons, so it allows freeskiing. Also, set a couple days where there are no lessons, just the family out on the snow having fun, together. I find that people that plateau at that low a level lose the motivation to get better (typically because they aren't having fun or feel forced to be there), and the trick is to make them want to learn again, and to do that you ofte nhave to teach them to find the fun again.
post #11 of 19
Related question running through this thread is of interest - what to do with kids who've skied a few years, had enough lessons to plateau at intermediate level?

Last year I didn't push 'em into lessons at all and found after 10/12 days just free skiing various NY / New England hills that all 3 kids were really just where they started -- level 5 - 7, depending who's counting and which kid. Various issues for the various kids: bumps for all, steeps for some, getting out of the back seat for one.

Was planning to several group lessons for each kid, but how to get them into the RIGHT group lesson?
post #12 of 19
something to keep in mind is did they plateau or were they just stuck for some reason. Something you might want to do though is to ask them individually whatthey want to do on skis, "if there is one thing you want to lran/do on skis what is it?" Then you can take that answer and push them to try harder in more lessons. If a kid can understand why the lessons they are taking (no matter how boring they can be sometimes) and they understand that the lessons are going to eventually bring them to where they want to be, they typically desire to learn.
post #13 of 19
the thing parents have to realize is that its next to impossible to teach someone who is unwilling to learn (and their is very little more annoying than trying to teach someone who refuses to learn). The trick with kids is that they have to want it. You can only push em into the sport and try to tweak their interest so that they want to continue skiing and learning (kinda like the old saying about leading a horse to water but not being able to make em drink).
post #14 of 19
Great posts all!

Disski--I am always interested and inspired by your story. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Marty--your daughter might well be ready for a private lesson from a GOOD children's instructor, to help get over that next threshold. Do be sensitive to the concerns that have been raised here about pulling a student from a class to a "remedial" group or private lesson. This isn't quite the same situation, but I suppose your best intentions could still backfire. You might want to ask your daughter what SHE wants out of skiing. She is old enough now to express her own motivations. Does she feel frustrated with a perceived lack of progress? Does she want to make the breakthrough to the steeper blues? Or is there something else that she'd like to accomplish with her skiing (or otherwise)? Once you know, you can work with her on a plan to achieve her goals--and she might relish the thought of a private lesson! I suspect that this would be a much better tactic than just pushing her into a private lesson, which she might well interpret as a sign of failure.

I'd love to hear how this goes--please keep us posted!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marty
Maybe my 10 yr old daughter falls in this category. She has been skiing now for 4/5 years. she skis approx 10 days a year. all 10 days in a year she is enrolled in a all day group lesson. But she seems to be stuck at level 3 for the past 2.5 yrs now. She can ski most groomed blues. whenever she goes down a slightly steeper blue or black - she is scared out of her wits. The instructor tells me that she lagged behind the whole day. And that she is slowest in the group.

What can i do this coming season to help her get past her current stage?

thx in advance.
Ensure that her equipment is good. Skis should not be highly shaped, nor too long or stiff -- no plates! Boots too may be too upright, or too stiff. Or just poor fitting.

Does she do any other sports?

Regardless, I would let her develop at her rate, and keep her away from those steeper runs. Hopefully, she does equate skiing with being afraid.

Bear in mind also, that 10 days a year is not alot of time. Are they 10 days in a row? Or are they once every two weeks? It makes a huge difference. Does she ever ski outside of the lesson times? Does she feel her skiing is being closely scrutinized? (performance anxiety perhaps?)

I've been teaching my eldest some things on inline skates. The kid was getting worse each time out. We changed the game plan and went bicycling, and had a lot of fun. Then we carried that fun over to the inlines -- there was some hesitation at first. We had lots of fun, when we made up a game -- the inline skating improved beyond measure. I won't teach my kids ever again.

I have to ensure they have fun -- they won't if they measure success with their ability to do what I say....
post #16 of 19
Firstly, thanks for all the feedback, suggestions. I will try them this upcoming season. let me respond to some of the questions.

1. Equipment - she rents her boots and skis.
2. 10 days are not consecutive. 6 days during christmas, 2 days each during MLK and Presidents weekend.
3. other sports - She plays soccer.

She does love skiing. The last few times we went skiing - I skied with her the first day - I guess I was a little too pushy - and she did not enjoy skiing with me. So promptly, to everybody's relief, I enrolled her in group lessons for the rest of the vacation.

However - let me follow the advice in this thread and I will report back on the progress at the end of December after our first ski trip.
post #17 of 19
Excellent! It's always nice to get what happened next. Remember, kids' motivation is seldom the same as adults. They don't give a stuff about improving technique, their goals are related to technique, but they don't see it like that.

If you get her a private, remember to ask around and get recommendations...can't stress that highly enough.
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado
Great posts all!

Disski--I am always interested and inspired by your story. Thanks for sharing it with us!
Yes - I am told watching me process new stuff is an interesting insight into how we learn movement....

The fitball guys at the AIS were quite interested in how I started unable to sit on the ball with 1 foot off the ground.... yet a few weeks later they could watch my brain/body start to work out which hand should move when then ball started to rollover while I was kneeling on all fours.... That obvious conscious effort was quickly replaced by a more automated response as I kept going to classes.....


As you described the instructor was SMART. he would not play into the "I can't do it" mode for anyone.... So he simply would mark where I was able to do stuff & commend me for each improvement I made each week (& for another 15 or so students also)
Having a very safe enviromnent helped a lot too (wrestling room - very soft floor falling does not hurt)

Being taken OUT of that class would have been EASIER for me - but not BETTER!
After I got better he used to use me to show the new people how you could improve - anyone who wanted to give up got a description of how bad I was to start with....
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
[quote=Bob Barnes/Colorado]Great question, KMC. Welcome to EpicSki!

The key is not necessarily to go "slow" for the slowest students--which again would probably bore the faster ones--but to provide many, many opportunities for EVERYONE to succeed. Have a great bag of tricks, so that you can, for example, have your class do many repetitions of essentially the same thing, but with a different little "twist" each time.


thanks for your feedback. I like your idea about not necessarily going slow for those slower students, and developing a bag a tricks is exactly what I'm trying to do here. Do you have any specific suggestions for what should go into that bag?

Anyone else out there used any particular tricks?

looking forward to your response

kmc
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