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Phantom Student

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
Any other instructors do this??
Whenever I visit a new resort, I typically take a group lesson for at least 3 reasons:
1. To learn the area.
2. To explore diverse teaching styles.
3. To 'walk a mile in the moccasins' of
a Ski School consumer.

I usually join a level 7 group, and ski at that level, giving the instructor some issues to address. I do NOT identify myself as an instructor.

My experiences have been jaw-dropping, eye-opening, hair-raising- all the cliches.

Last year I did 2, Tremblant and Hunter Mtn, NY
At Tremblant, there were 2 of us in the group. The instructor was very personable, if a tad distracted. We had no warm-up, or evaluation run. In 1.5 hours, we did about 8 exercise lines, with no explanation of the purpose of each. He did not address any of the fairly blatant cues I gave in my skiing-excessively narrow stance, no inside ski activity and strong upper body rotation.
The other person in the group was utterly bewildered by the whole experience.
This was a Canadian certified instructor. He had just come back from a clinic, and spoke continuously about 'stacking' without any explanation to us.
The whole experience, from buying the lesson ticket to the end of the lesson was depressing.
At Hunter, I skied in a level 7 group with 3 other people. The instructor had a level 3 pin. The lesson was beyond awful. He did not ask us our goals(neither did the guy at Tremblant), made no effort to create a cohesive group. As the lesson started the instructor took off at high speed, waved his poles in a 'follow me' fashion, we looked at each other and followed.
When we stopped, he decided that we were all 'sitting back', that we should 'lean forward', then took off. Next stop he told us, that as level 7 skiers, we should be able to ski bumps! Off we went-2 of the group were older women who battled with bump skiing. It was not fun for any of us.
The lesson ended somewhere on the hill. The instructor looked at his watch, said "Oops, I'm running late", and basically abandoned us.
In prior experiences, I have had good to excellent lessons at Mammoth and Jackson Hole. The pro at Jackson inspired many of my teaching ideas, he was a true veteran who seemed to put a lot of soul in his teaching.
Maybe, resort management could hire Phantom Students a la Phantom Shoppers to evaluate true teaching behavior.
If this thread shows interest, I will post more of my experiences!! : : :
post #2 of 32
I was just talking about a very similar idea with my wife over dinner! I was thinking we should have 3rd party mystery guests evaluate our lessons. Nobody but the SS Director would know who they are, maybe even not him if possible. Perhaps even the other trainers and I could have folks now and then evaluate our training - we have so many instructors we train that it would be easy to slip one in by telling us "its a new part timer to help out over the holidays". I wouldn't be at all adverse to having myself evaluated in this way.

ASC does have secret auditors who roam about the resorts evaluating services, but they are few and far between. I think it would be beneficial to have more of this going on.
post #3 of 32
Actually, I think the secret shopper idea has taken hold and a number of resorts and organizations are doing it, and have done it. A guy named Dick Tappley has done this as a consultant for several years.

I have a question for skiswift: what is your level of cert? Are you a Level 7 skier or were you just demonstrating that level? Did you try to help the others in the class get what they needed from the instructors or were you acting your role throughout?

What do you think of the value of the certification process after your experiences? Does it make sense for schools to assign classes based on cert level? Does the guest have a better shot at a good lesson from a higher cert?

A lot of questions indicates a lot of interest, I guess.
post #4 of 32
A lot of what you have described has nothing to do with cert. level. It's just laziness. Someone who doesn't even ATTEMPT to communicate with the students is a selfish, lazy, useless bum, and will always be that way regardless of cert. level.
post #5 of 32
Thread Starter 
Nolo-thanks for the interest. I am a PSIA Level 2, would be Level 3 , but for an injury! I maintained my guise as a level 7 skier, I felt that saying anything to the other students would have been very unkind to the working instructor.
As regards how cert. correlates to good teaching, well, I think recent certification, and continuing education at least means that the instructor has the KNOWLEDGE, but there is no guarantee that they have the DESIRE to excel.
Too many of us get locked in a canned presentation, one-size-fits-all lesson plan.
Too many of us claim 20 years experience, when the truth is that we have had 1 year's experience 20 times.
To find the best instructors at a resort, ask the other instructors, not the ski school management. Their criteria are usually diametrically opposed.
post #6 of 32
Now I'm curious about your last statement skiswift. Why do you say that the "best instructor criteria" of the instructors and the school management are diametrically opposed?

What does the management value that the instructors do not, or vice versa?

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 22, 2001 05:12 PM: Message edited 1 time, by nolobolono ]</font>
post #7 of 32
Until about 100 things happen, one of which is that instructors make a lot more money, I'll stand by my quote:

"The worst thing you can buy at a ski area is a ski lesson".
post #8 of 32
Perusing the thread, suddenly a song pops into his head: that guy is "-Trolling- . . . -Trolling- . . . -Trolling- down the the river . . . "

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 22, 2001 07:47 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Todd Murchison ]</font>
post #9 of 32
Skiswift, I have also done what you have done. My reason was to see how other instructors teach. The last lesson that I took, was an instuctor's clinic. This was for skiers who wanted to be instructors. No hiring was done at this clinic.

The first two days were ok, but it was a canned lesson, ie no individual focus. Day three, the ski school manager takes the class. The first thing that was said was, "I want you to do..." Being a student of guest centered instruction, I countered with, "Do you have your own agenda here?" The answer was "Yes". At that point, I almost skied off. I didn't. I stayed and listened to the cheering of the manager everytime we did a task.

The prior two days, we had been working on short radius turns. Without asking what we had been working on, we were told that we would be doing short turns. We did that again. At this point, I wanted to work on teaching, as most in the group desired. I asked on a cahir ride and was told politely not to interfere. At this point I was totally turned off. I absolutely not want to work for this person, ever!

post #10 of 32
Someone may ask, "Who should be in control of what?" Does the instructor tell me what I really SHOULD want, or does the instructor ask what the CUSTOMER wants - and actually listens to the answer. Look, folks, we customers come to you to acquire something - something that WE want, not something that YOU want us to have. Someday, somehow, so help me, I will find a way to clue in the customers: WE CUSTOMERS HAVE THE ULTIMATE POWER. GIVE US WHAT WE WANT. DO NOT PRESUME TO DICTATE TO US WHAT WE SHOULD WANT. WE WILL NOT GIVE OUR $$$$ FOR SOMETHING YOU WANT. WE ARE PAYING FOR SOMETHING WE WANT - OR ELSE WE'RE NOT PAYING. Get it?
post #11 of 32
So either:

A) Everybody who takes more than one lesson is a stupid consumer.


B) Some instructors actually do give the customers their moneys worth.
post #12 of 32

Got it!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #13 of 32
Thank you for listening. I have been SO FRUSTRATED! I know it's hard to tell, so I thought I might mention it.
post #14 of 32
This is something we do try and train our instructors in. As long as what the student desires to learn is safe, we should teach it too them. If they want to learn to 'extreme-inate' (do jump turns on terrain that doesn't require it - because it looks 'extreme') - the instructor should accommodate them even if they know its a waste of energy. If they want to learn to ski with their feet locked together, it doesn't matter if the instructor feels its ineffecient and looks prissy . . . the customer should be able to set their own agenda. Again, the only exception is when the instructor feels that he would be endangering the student needlessly, and then they must express their opinion.

This is a common thread in all good teaching, not just skiing. Young and/or insecure instructors in any sport/endeavour sometimes try to teach only what they want the student to learn, this is the nature of ego sometimes. This is not a problem that is unique in anyway to skiing.
post #15 of 32
"This is not a problem that is unique to skiing".
You better believe it isn't!!

Apropos to what ski swift said, a micro manager of ANY sport will direct students to the instructor who is the best representative of the clone she wants the other teachers to emulate.

After all, its much easier to control a bunch of clones, than it is to control a bunch of free thinkers.

As for the teacher/ student interacion, I wonder how often students will do certain things just s that they don't "offend" their instructor. This is perhaps the opposite of what oboe is talking about.

having been on this forum for a year, I've noticed is a certain status that is given to people who have had ACL surgery. Tha seems to be an indication that you are truly a hot shot skier.

And if you fall all the time, you are not a klutz, you are considered cool.

But like I said in aother thread, I don't get to sit at a desk and answer phones all day And as a free lancer, I don't get sick days.

But sometimes I get the feeling that instructors feel that if their students are not skiing mogul fields and double black diamonds at high speeds, that they themselves as instructors have failed.
post #16 of 32

Now you have left me in a dilemma.

When we finally get to ski together do I:

a) Not answer any ski related questions

b) Charge you double the VA rate

I can't turn till after the 6th January. I am booked solid with clients getting value for money in a deserted resort with heaps of new fluffy white snow.

Stop your moaning everyone, get on a plane to the west and get amongst it.

Oz :
post #17 of 32
I'm a teacher in two school districts, but this is nothing compared to teaching little kids to ski. Maybe I am expecting too much improvement. I felt lost today. The kids showed improvement, but I wanted them to get down the little hill with more than one turn before they would crash and burn. Most of them had an attention span of a nat. Copius amounts of encouragement, me not even puting on my skis, even down on my stomach to guide their little skis in a walk or side step on almost flat ground. One father joined one of my groups. He helped a bit. Then I helped him out with some stuff after we were through with his kids. He is a beginner Nordic skier. He was enthrauled with what I helped him with. i.e. Kids are tough! Surprisingly one of the little 5 yr olds gave me a big hug in the lodge in front of his parents and grandparents. I guess I did something right, but I surely don't know what!
This is a commission type job. I'm still studying my books. The area manager wants to get me certified over at their parent area soon. I'm trying many suggestions in the study guide, but it's so cotton-pickin' tough when you are showing a kid something and you find he's looking off somewhere else. One little girl was doing fine. To get forward I told her to squish the bug. As she skied away, she said, "But I like bugs!" So I yelled, "These bugs LIKE to be squished!" It worked! (I had to think of something fast!) is there any tricks out there I can use? Or do we just plug away and soon they get it? I liken this to learning to ride a bike. They fall all over the place for thelongest time; then suddenly, one day- bingo! They are riding! Some call this the A ha! theory. The brain is puting it all together along the way. When it has it all figured out, A ha! We got it! We are riding (skiing). Yes? No? After each lesson I went back in the employee's hut and worried if I had given these kids anything. Todd, et al- is there an elixer I can get the kids to drink, and aha! they're skiing like Picabo? Hmmm. I didn't think so. Rats!
post #18 of 32
Hmmmmmm, interesting thoughts here but let me ask you this re: instructors not teaching to the student.

Isn't it up to us to communicate what we need and direct the instruction to where we need it?

I just took a private last Wednesday. I needed the instructor to listen to what I felt were issues for me and then offer feedback and he did just that. I guess I was lucky in that he and I hit it off with my learning style and his instruction style.

However had he not answered my questions to my satifaction or addressed issues I had, I would have ended the lesson and sought out another instuctor for my next lesson.

We all learn differently and communicating movement is a bit of an art. What may be a good visual to you might not work for me.

The instuctor and I worked it out. He explained what he wanted me to do - I paraphrased it back in a way that helped me visualize and if I hit it right he confirmed that I understood what he wanted. If not we tried again.

Can you really blame an instructor for not helping you if you don't communicate? (Isn't this what men complain about with women? (hee hee))
post #19 of 32
Being a teacher for 12 years I am fully aware of this. Good teaching is an emphasis on learning, not teaching. 5 year olds can't really convey what they think they need. They don't have the verbal skills nor the knowledge of skiing, being on skis for the first or second time in their lives. As I know only thus far is to watch what problems they are having and take it one step at a time and not flood them with information or tasks; have fun with them and encourage greatly. We even started off with just one ski on. This seemed to help. Also I seemed to keep their attention better by staying low to the ground rather than standing up and looking down at them.
post #20 of 32

You'll be to out of breath to talk, so don't worry. Besides, I can't understand a word you say anyway - ya friggin Aussie.

I was there yesterday, gettin milk runs all day. Where were you? I think you're ducking me.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 23, 2001 08:41 AM: Message edited 1 time, by SCSA ]</font>
post #21 of 32
jyarddog, have you considered teaching in a big purple dinosaur costume? [img]tongue.gif[/img]
post #22 of 32
Thread Starter 
Nolo--the difference between the criteria of Ski School management and the criteria of other instructors is the difference between 'In and Out'!
As in, Income and Outcome. The SS is looking for the most profit, while other instructors can see the outcomes of their peers. Don't forget certified, experienced instructors are paid more , i.e cost the resort more.
Also, newer instructors tend to be more maleable, i.e. the 'clones' to which LM refers. Favoritism also rears it's ugly head.

Sugar-the phrase 'what he wanted me to do' is interesting. I know I respond extremely poorly to a 'command' style of teaching, and avoid using it wherever possible.
IMHO 'command' style teaching vests control in the teacher, whereas, other more creative styles of teaching such as Guided Discovery give the student more control.
I respond to 'I want you to', the same way Oboe responds to someone who smokes on the chairlift with him! :
post #23 of 32
Hmmm! A Barney suit! Good idea! Command style and Montesorri style. There has to be a balance. If there is no input from the teacher, the student has nothing to learn, however the input does not have to be authoritative. Basic steps are review, input, modeling, guided practice, independent practice, evaluation, review. The first review is done to go over what has been learned in the previous lesson. This can be a form of assessment to see where your students are in their skills. Input is the new skill being taught. Modeling is showing them how to do it. Guided practice is taking them through it one step at a time, helping along the way. Independent practice is them doing it all by themselves. Evaluation is 'test on Friday'. This can be done in many forms. It can even be done without the students knowing you are doing it. Final review is going over what was just learned. HOW all this is accomplished depends on the teacher. He/she can be authoritative, laisse-faire (never could spell that), or interactive. Being authoritative just puts up a wall between you and the student. The L-F(can't spell it)which means 'hands off' basically, leaves the student wondering 'What are we learning?' Interactive works with the student with specific problems he/she is having with the task at hand.
The little kids just don't have the attention span. it's frustrating, but you do the best you can. Ya gotta love it!
Had a kid yesterday, neat little guy. During assessment he was doing his wedge, but bent over like crazy. I got him to stand up, but then he started sitting back and I mean sitting back! It looked like he was sitting in a chair. Of course then, turns were out of the question. So... I had him put his hands on his knees. This makes him bend over too much but he wasn't bent over as before. it was a good half way measure. Then, after a few runs, he asked if he could try it without hands on knees. if I were authoritative I'd said no, but this told me he was gaining balance and confidence. I said, "Sure! If you find you are leaning back, put hte hands back on the knees until you have your balance again and then take hands off knees when you feel like it." He did this. I saw his hands go on and off his knees now and then during his runs. Watching him (independent practice) in just a couple of runs he was actually going twice as fast as at the beginning of the lesson, no hands on knees, and standing up (ok... a little of sitting back which at his level I cnosidered acceptable and normal). His mom came back and saw him. She was ecstatic! He's ready for the big hill now! Seeing his improvement is my true paycheck!
Oboe is right. If I had used a command model (authoritative) there would have been very little learning taking place. But then ... the Barney suit might work!
post #24 of 32
Here's a point I should have made in teaching. Balance in teaching is jsut as important as in skiing. If someone comes to you and says they want to learn this or that, so By God, you better teach that... can be a hinderence. After assessment if the basic skill level is there, you teach the request. If the skill level isn't present do you teach the request anyway because that's what the student asked for?
Many moons ago, while in college, i took a racing class. After assesment, our instructor realized we were nowhere ready to learn racing! It would have been a waste of time and money to do this. We were all level 7 at best. What we did learn was invaluable, and we all ended up much better skiers because of our instructor's insight. i.e. it can be futile and even dangerous to let the patient diagnose himself. On the other hand, if one has enough knowledge and skills and realizes what he/she needs such as SugarSnack stated, the wise instructor will attend to that need. SugarSnack made an excellent point. She put what was being discussed into her own words as a feedback to the instructor. This shows learning has taken place! A good instructor listens for this kind of feedback. Thanx to SS for bringing this up!
post #25 of 32
There's lots of stuff here about finding out what the customer wants, asking them what their goals are, etc. I've just come back from a week's holiday with 4 mornings of group lessons. It would have been a total waste of time asking what I wanted at the first lesson - the answer is just 'to ski better'. What the instructor did instead was take us out & explain he was watching us. He then told us where we had problems and suggested various exercises to help.

I really felt I'd improved by the end of the lessons - and I was certainly going much much faster (in control) which I thought must be a good sign.
post #26 of 32
Frances- There's a good example of good assessment from the teacher and the subsequent help. He tailored the specific needs to each student.
The flip side of this would be if someone knew what he/she wanted to do but didn't know exactly how to achieve it. If I wanted to achieve better carving, my teacher would probably have me work on better edge pressure, balance, and angulation, not a stem christie! Either way the lesson is tailored to the student's specific needs and wants.
Merry Christmas to all, and ya'll be cool now, ya hear?
post #27 of 32
Skiswift, I love your "In and Out" analogy. I think you have hit upon the reason why someone can be a level 3 instructor, and still teach a pretty bad class. If they have been cloned to the level of complete maleability by their SSD, they will ultimately be an ineffective instructor, because nothing they are teaching will be heartfelt. The problem will get even worse if the director is jealous of an instructor, and tries to curtail their creativity, in order not to be "shown up" by her "employees".

So if you do not allow any instructor to be superior to others, you can then assign private clients to any teacher despite their level of mediocrity. Sadly, this is where we seem to be going in most industries in this country. We are all gradually being turned into some varient of the Big Mac.

I just found out that our assistant group exercise director is throwing a major hissy fit, because the director is allowing us to do a ski conditioning workshop using some of the new "toys" our gym has purchased.

The director's argument was Let's show the members that are instructors are stars. "If we allow our teachers to shine, we will retain them for a longer period of time."

Assistant director: "They are not special!! I do not see what's so special about them. Why treat them like they are special when they are not!"

Director: "They came up with this workshop idea. You did'nt. That's what makes them special."

Although I have never been a fitness director, at times, I've been asked to assist by conducting class evaluations. Often, it can be of a type of class I do not teach. I may simply be evaluationg teaching skills. For this purpose, I have a checklist of criteria.

If I am taking a ski lesson, and this check list comes into my mind, it usually means that I am not enjoying the lesson. Especially since for skiing, I am there as a regular student, not a phantom student.

First, we "cancel" all the micro managers.....
post #28 of 32
Skiswift: We all use command style, especially when teaching first-timers. However, the "I want you to...", as you say, doesn't work. I soften the commands by starting a task by saying, " How would you like to try .....?" The emphasis then goes to the learner, who now has an option, ie yes or no. It is much more palatable and acceptable.

Discovery is great for upper level classes. For instance, convergant discovery can be used for developing a project that has but one outcome. The teacher give the desired outcome, let's say, an external cue for a poleplant. The class then, has the task to experiment with variuos cues, and come up with one outcome. The teacher is there, only as an advisor. Sometimes the outcome really amases the teacher! But, the learners really own the outcome.
post #29 of 32
Thread Starter 
Rick-please note that I said that I avoid using 'command style' wherever possible, meaning that I accept it's necessity in certain situations. Even in a convergent or divergent Guided Discovery model, there might be a place for commands to be effective, especially where safety issues might arise.
Frances-a good Instructor can keep an innate control over the 'goal setting' phase. 90% of the time, my students agree that a quantifiable goal is to ski 'with more control', obviously, with absolute beginners they have no frame of reference so it seems appropriate for the Instructor to analyse the students and create a lesson plan.
Co-operative goal setting is just as important, IMHO, as any portion of the lesson. It creates 'OWNERSHIP' of the lesson by the students, just as guided discovery creates ownership of a skiing move.
The importance of creating a 'quantifiable goal' is that, at the end of the lesson, we all can agree that we have met 'OUR' goals.
post #30 of 32
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by skiswift:
Sugar-the phrase 'what he wanted me to do' is interesting. I know I respond extremely poorly to a 'command' style of teaching, and avoid using it wherever possible.
IMHO 'command' style teaching vests control in the teacher, whereas, other more creative styles of teaching such as Guided Discovery give the student more control.
I respond to 'I want you to', the same way Oboe responds to someone who smokes on the chairlift with him! :

Getting back to this post late....

"What he wanted me to do" are my words. He wasn't using command style and I agree that would have not worked with me. How about if I put it this way......

"He explained what it was I should be experiencing - or what it was I was trying to acheive and how best to get to that point."
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