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Ethical Dilemna

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
Let me pose a hypothetical situation. Suppose you have a friend, who you inspire, by your own instructing style, to become a ski instructor. This friend is actually very talented, and eventually becomes the ski school director at another resort. You are thrilled at this, because you realize you were one of the people who "lit the spark".

Then by chance, you run into someone who has taken lessons with you. They tell you that they went to the resort where your firend has just become director. But they totally disliked the class. {no, its not your friends class!} When prompted for reasons, you discover they are valid. You urge the person to contact the SSD, but they are uncomfortable with the idea, not wanting to seem like a complainer.

Question, since the student has told you the name of the instructor, do you relay this information to your friend? Keep in mind resort competition. If their instructors are less than perfect, that can mean more business for your resort.

But the broader question is TO WHOM IS YOUR LOYALTY, your mountain or your profession???

post #2 of 37
A person who cares about "teaching" should embrace "learning" , Even if it is about their own style or presentation. If not, they will likely not be good at "teaching" anyway. A small hurt now is better than a big one later.

Easy for me, I have no stake in the play.

Hard for you.

As you, I would not name names except perhaps the person who spoke to you, or specifics.
but would not hold back on the issues if the conversation turned that way.

This Other person should be the voice to your SSD friend. It is their experience not yours.

post #3 of 37
“But the broader question is TO WHOM IS YOUR LOYALTY, your mountain or your profession???”

I would disagree. The broader question is to whom is your loyalty, your job/employer or your friend.

The fact that this is a question at all reinforces my belief that ski areas, including the ski schools, do not follow even rudimentary good business practices, like surveying the school students or asking for student feed back as simple quality control. The result, SSD’s do not know why students take lesson, why they come back, why they don’t come back, what they like, what they dislike, etc. How can you run a business without this basic information? My point is that if the problem was consistent with the instructor, the friend/SSD should have already known about it. If not, then the problem was transient and really is not of significance (at least not unless it shows the beginning of a trend, and that is what the student feed back loop should show).

Regardless, for me the answer is simple. I would tell friend/SSD that a student in my class had complaints about an instructor in his school. I would say nothing more. It is friend/SSD’s problem to uncover and to correct. Nor would I have told the student to approach or discuss the issue with friend/SSD. I would have encouraged the student to continue taking lessons from my school or me and I would have questioned the student about his thoughts on the current lesson. I would also discuss the issue with my SSD and used it to promote some sort of student feedback loop if one was not in place at my school.

I know, it is impossible to get people to tell you what they really think. Offer something for the time spent by the student giving feed back, a free lunch, $$ off on food or lift tickets, something. Pay to have the questions designed for you by a professional. Bad question = bad responses. Use the information.

I know some ski schools must do this, but not one that my wife or child has attended has done so.
post #4 of 37
It happens all the time LM.

It's not my monkey, is how I see it. It becomes my monkey if I feed it.

Do not feed other people's monkeys.
post #5 of 37
this is not a dilemma. it's a monolemma. only one ethical choice.

you pass along the info. it's a true experience (the "bad" lesson) and you're just serving as a conduit.

why would you not?

I don't see the "loyalty" division at all.
post #6 of 37
So, you would tell your friend because you want everyone to like skiing, no matter where they are skiing.

If you didn't know the SSD, would you react the same way? Would you walk up to a stranger, but fellow professional, and give them the same information.

Ahhh, the illogical inconsistancies of being emotional.

Or you can be unemotional regarding the joy of skiing, and not enhance the skiing experience and leave an unenjoyable experience unresolved.

As for me, if I had the opportunity to talk with the SSD, whether I knew the SSD or not, I would relay the information. I feel we need to reduce the unhappy experiences for everyone.
post #7 of 37
What kind of feedback would you be giving?

Would it be specific? Timely?

Do you have any way of determining if this is a trend or an isolated instance?

Do you appreciate hearing vague negative feedback third hand?

If an acquaintance told you that your friend's kid smokes dope, would you tell your friend?
post #8 of 37
I wouldn't say anything. Not out of loyalty to my mountain, but rather out of reluctance to talk stink about anyone, especially secondhand.
post #9 of 37
The matter is trivial enough that it doesn't really make any difference. It's just skiing, for heaven's sake.
post #10 of 37
Thread Starter 
This actually happened recently in my own industry, but I have seen instances of this in the world of ski instruction.

I bring it up for a specific reason. With all the latest discussion as to how ski instructors are viewed by others, I realize that this is an issue that is pertinent to anyone who teaches any sport or fitness.

There are two ideas at stake, here.

Every bad lesson is a reflection on the rest of the industry.


Sports and fitness instruction is competitive. Do you take advantage of your competition's weaknesses?


Inspiring others to teach, or even direct a program is extremely fulfiiling for a teacher. Do you have a vested interest in the sucess of a protege?

I occaisonally take a private lesson with someone who is a ski school trainer. This particular resort gives out free group lessons with lodging. She always wants a very detailed opinion of the group lesson. Sometimes, the instructor was a really lovely person, but has some teaching flaws. I always feel a bit funny relaying that information, but I guess its ultimately important.

[ May 01, 2002, 06:20 PM: Message edited by: Lisamarie ]
post #11 of 37
If the management wants the information, there are much better ways of getting it than grilling customers. It's unethical to make a customer "feel funny."
post #12 of 37
Every bad lesson is a reflection on the rest of the industry.
Sorry, there are no "buts". Not if you want people to take more lessons in the future.
post #13 of 37
I think that relaying second hand information does no one a favor.

If the student was to complain right after the incident, the instructor has the ability to at least respond to the accusation and management could respond accordingly.

There are two sides to every story and I have had a few folks in class that I wish had taken up fencing or knitting. It seems that the instructor is always presumed to be wrong and the customer/guest, always right.
post #14 of 37
There is absolutely no ethical or professional reason to pass on this comment to the SSD.

If I heard that an instructor was molesting or sexually harrassing students I would definitely pass that on. Beyond that, it's not my responsibility to pass on gossip.

True success (in business and life) comes from capitalizing on your own strength, not on your competitor's weakness.
post #15 of 37
True success (in business and life) comes from capitalizing on your own strength, not on your competitor's weakness.
Absolutely right. But, assuming this was not an isolated incident, how many people is this instructor turning off taking lessons in future? If LM didn't know the director I would say it would be inappropriate to make any comment, possibly right, but inappropriate. But the fact that she does know them provides an opportunity to mention something.

I find it extraordinary to see two threads running side by side, one of which is bemoaning the state of the industry in terms of ski instruction, the other is essentially saying poor instruction should be accepted, or even questioning if some sort of competitive advantage can be gained from the situation (with all due respects LM). Consider another industry, if a person mentioned to you that they’d seen a pilot downing a beer before a flight. Do you think it should be mentioned to somebody? Would YOU feel happy getting on a flight with that person in control? Would you feel happy putting your children on that flight? So what’s the difference, both actions are unacceptable for each industry.

We all have different judgements in these situations, which is why there can only be opinions. However if it were me, the next time I was in a position to casually mention to my friend (the SSD) that they’d had a person complain about one of their instructors I would do so. The SSD can investigate themself. If they do find a problem, the instructor is out where they belong, if they don’t find a problem there is basically no harm done. Maybe it was an isolated incident, who knows, that’s the SSD’s job to find out.

Sure this is a pretty hard line to take, but few things peeve me off more than people who take an irresponsible approach to their profession. Imagine being on an operating table and having a surgeon with the attitude “ergh, near enough” as he removed the wrong organ, or being innocent but charged for murder and having your lawyer say “Hey I ALMOST got you off”, or a pilot that lands 1/2 mile short of the runway … not a bad job after navigating 5000 nautical miles across the world. Sure mistakes are made, but the point is we all expect, and in most cases receive, what we payed for from the above professions. Likewise, when a student pays for a lesson they deserve the best you are able to give. You are there for them, they are not there for you. Sure you may wish they’d “taken up fencing or knitting” but they didn’t, they took up skiing. And if they continue to receive poor quality lessons it will be a short stay in the sport.

Whew, well I’ve used up my 2/100 of a dollar!
post #16 of 37
Thread Starter 
Just to clarify, I am not a ski instructor, not even close! This situation actually happened while waiting for one of my own classes to start.

An interesting thing: When someone takes a "bad" lesson, they like to talk about it in a rather loud voice in front of other students, and they will usually "name names".

By coincidence, a student of mine, who is a ski instructor, heard the conversation, and asked if I intended to inform my friend . She had been in a similar situation involving another ski school.

In another thread, Oz mentions how easy it is for someone to get a job teaching skiing. Unfortunately, similar things are happening in fitness, with all these one day "certifications" coming up.

So as teachers of any sport, is it our job to uphold quality throughout the profession?
As we see, there are many opinions. Not really an easy question, although some may find it trivial.
post #17 of 37

Yes, it is your job as a professional, to uphold the integrity of the profession.

NO! this case is second hand gossip. If it happened to you, then talk about it.

It is not your experience. What could you offer regarding the real events. Nothing!

post #18 of 37
Hey Lisa, Haven`t been on line for a while. Good to see you. You have worked hard to achieve
your goals in your profession as a teacher. Informing the SSD of the particulate is a protection of the professional standards. Your friend the SSD should utilize the info to enhance
post #19 of 37
Originally posted by ant:
...because after my first few weeks, they rarely made me do below level 3! I got better and better levels.

This is a perfect example of one of the biggest problems in ski instruction. The "pros" look upon beginner and lower level classes as somehow below their dignity when, in fact, these are the most important clients.

In the context of this thread...if I overheard an instructor from another area expressing this attitude I probably WOULD pass this on to his SSD.
post #20 of 37
It is so difficult to separate what we want from what is"best". The expression of our preference is natural. Unfortunately, what we want and that which is truely "good" are often at odds. Social "problems" everywhere attest.

I often don't know what I "want". Heck! I'm still trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up.

I want peace, but "I" want my stuff. opps.

Let's not be hard on each other or ourselves because we say what we feel. The professional puts on the hat and does the job. Their feellings and "druthers" may be different.
On this list, Words are everything. In the real world (not cyber) actions speak.

See ya

post #21 of 37

In the "real world" we are herded by speeches just as on this site.

As a society, we are not too concerned with walking the talk.

Appearance is everything. In fact, action is to be avoided because that would make you accountable. Sticks and stones will break my bones but words may be deflected, redefined, and spin, span, spun.

Action requires commitment. "Putting some skin into the game." There are not many willing to take a risk. Those that do lay it on the line embarrass the rest of us, so we pelt them with stones or pretend they don't matter.

EDIT: It occurs to me that Harald Harb probably feels he was subjected to this type of mob reaction. Could it be that what we felt were attacks on PSIA were actually counter offensives?

[ May 03, 2002, 09:35 AM: Message edited by: nolobolono ]
post #22 of 37
David7, you are right in that high level instructors would benefit beginners most, but the reality is that when a customer asking for a mogul class or carving instruction, you just can't haul the best instructor for that from a beginners class s/he is teaching at the moment, so then they would have to give that high level customer an instructor with marginal skills in that maneuver.

Though I got mostly higher level classes, occasionally I would get a class of new skiers and I would spend most of my time with students crossing their skis, drying tears of kids, even teenagers, with ice all over their knit mittens and hands freezing to the point where they couldn't grip a pole, and many more non-skiing emergencies.

These classes can be handled by first year instructors-in-training without tying up an instructor who is actually teaching skiing, as in controlling sliding. Trying to make any level class fun for the students should be paramount but isn't easy when equipment doesn't fit, feet hurt and clothes are too flimsy to keep them warm.

This may sound callous but it is the SSD's job to match the instructor to the lesson, and yes, it does the high level instructors a lot of good to get back in the trenches now and then with beginners, if just for a reality check.

post #23 of 37
LM , intructors in most cases are employees of the area , they represent the company and are expected to act and perform under the companies rules. There has been for years a mindset (that a part of the community still believe to be true) they are there for the free skiing and the party or their ego is getting in the way of teaching beginners , could this be the case ? . These people are usually not the good instructors and do not give the industry a good name,reporting the problem no matter how big or small is what the SSD wants . If the instructor in question is in need of some lessons this is how they will get them , by not reporting them they go on undoing what good instructors in the industry have been striving for . This is a bussiness and should be treated as such , if they don't want to take it serious then they should become a ski bum.
post #24 of 37
I have been told that there are no fringe benefits.

Everything is right in the middle.

We are in to our ankles...... andwe dove in!

post #25 of 37
I think ski schools should be pretty active in both surveying guests, to find out how they tick, and they should also be monitoring what their instructors are doing up on the hill! My resort did a lot of surveys throughout the season...they had people running around with little handheld computer thingies, and they'd bail people up on the bunny hill and ask them 6 questions. They also had quite detailed paper surveys but those were kept in the office. I encouraged my classes to go fill them out if they had a spare 5 minutes - the more feedback the better, I reckon.

But also, they should be conducting regular monitoring of lessons. It was easy enough to monitor the level 1 and 2 lessons on the bunny hill, but once people moved off that, it was open slather. My old Vermont resort monitored our lessons (it was very well done, too, by the training staff). I'm in favour of it because after my first few weeks, they rarely made me do below level 3! I got better and better levels.

Monitoring by taking customer feeback only is a very flawed way to measure staff performance.
post #26 of 37
Interesting situation, but not really unusual.

This type of situation comes up fairly regularly. When I have friends/ acquaintances tell me about a particular lesson they have had, if it's a negative experience, I direct them to the SSD. If the incident was significant enough for them to comment to me, I challenge them to make it right by commenting to the appropriate individual. In fact, we should encourage it! The best way I (or any pro) have of improving as a professional is to hear what my failures or shortcomings were in a lesson.

To comment upon the fact that unsatisfied people express themselves loudly- isn't it fairly common knowledge that a dis-satisfied customer will tell 7-8 people, but a satisfied one will only mention it to 2-3? In this particular forum, it's easy to extrapolate the outcome. Therefore, the negative stories are heard almost 4 times more often than the success stories!

Generally, it is not my place to pass on second hand info, except in the most serious of circumstances. If the student in question will not make a comment on their own behalf, why should I stir the pot? If I see a potentially dangerous situation occur, or observe a fellow instructor struggling, I will try to be as discrete as possible to help alleviate the situation. If that can't be accomplished, then I will make appropriate comments to the right ears.

Good luck with your decision!

post #27 of 37

Now, If LM were to talk to the mentioned instructor as Vail Snopro suggest, then real communication could be shared. Good!

post #28 of 37
David7, you make a very valid point. However I think I'm with Ott here. I would rather see a relatively inexperienced, but enthusiastic instructor with new skiers, than a very experienced but disgruntled instructor. You’re right, all instructors should be enthusiastic regardless of the level they’re teaching but human nature being what it is I don’t know if that can always be expected.
post #29 of 37
I see two, maybe three, separate issues here.

The first, and I think the simplest to deal with, is an issue of professionalism. I would summarize it with the following: Being "disgruntled" because of being assigned to teach beginners is grounds for dismissal. That was my policy back when I was a SSD and it is the policy of the SSD that I work for on weekends now. And it applies equally to experienced certified instructors and to first-year rookies.

The second, as you and Ott have pointed out, is not quite as simple. It's an administrative problem, and ego problem, and a problem of definition. I agree that you must assign appropriate instructors to upper-level specialty classes. That doesn't necessarily mean the "best" instructors, it just means the ones capable of skiing at the highest level. I suspect that the topic of whether the best skiers are automatically the best instructors has been beaten to death in these forums.

I know very well the importance of not getting new instructors in over their heads. But I seriously question the age-old conventional wisdom that the best place for rookies is teaching beginners. I find the following to be very troubling:

Originally posted by Ott Gangl:

...I would spend most of my time with students crossing their skis, drying tears of kids, even teenagers, with ice all over their knit mittens and hands freezing to the point where they couldn't grip a pole, and many more non-skiing emergencies.

...Trying to make any level class fun for the students should be paramount but isn't easy when equipment doesn't fit, feet hurt and clothes are too flimsy to keep them warm.

This, to me, is a terrible description of a beginner class. It troubles me because of the suggestion that that's just the way it is.

I believe that beginner lessons should be, and can be, the best lessons on the hill. I believe that it takes much more skill to teach a good and effective level 1 class than any other level. And I think that a poorly taught level 1 class can be a disaster for both the students and the instructor.

And, as has been stated so many times, the future of skiing, as a sport and a business, is in the beginner classes. Do you really want to trust that to an inexperienced instructor-in-training?

I welcome your comments.

[ May 03, 2002, 08:29 PM: Message edited by: David7 ]
post #30 of 37
I basically agree, but how do you know that the person is not giving their best?
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