I just had my very first private lesson yesterday and (after a rough first ski the week before) left the mountain grinning from ear to ear and eager for the next trip! I credit my instructor for making the experience so memorable. So what made him so great?
Small amounts of information at a time: He explained one discreet skill at a time, starting with the basics and working up from there. He also used metaphors to help me better understand what my body should be doing. He communicated clearly and repeated himself when necessary
Modeling: He showed me how to perform each skill before he asked me to do it.
Goals: He had me set my own goals at the beginning of the session, then gave me small, attainable goals for each run.
Skill: It is clear that he is a seasoned skier and that he loves the sport. He knew how to break a skill down in smaller increments and how to give constructive feedback.
Passion/Excitement: This was his best quality and the one that made me want to learn more. He celebrated every good run and every improvement. Often, I would look at him after a good run and he'd be smiling, cheering my name, and waving his arms around excitedly. He was truly happy to see me do well and his excitement was contagious. When he saw me on the mountain later in the day, he'd wave excitedly and compliment me or give me a few more pointers. It clearly wasn't about the paycheck for my instructor.
The bottom line is that I had a great day on the slopes after my lesson. I feel confident enough to try more challenging runs and have a clear idea of how to control my speed and direction, which is exactly what I need as a beginner. Whenever I was successful at a challenge (the first time I got off the lift without falling, the first time I made it all the way down the run without falling, etc.), I thought about my instructor and how proud he'd be. Now THAT is the sign of a great teacher!