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XMas week is over... what a week!

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Wow, what a way to break in a new instructor. I almost broke on Friday, but I'm still here, and all of my kids lived. It was close for them though...

Now I know why the more senior instructors were saying "KIds... no way" or "better you than me".

I am working full time, and spent the last week teaching almost all 4 and 5 year olds with a 6 or 7 y.o. if I was lucky. It could drive a man to drink.

Every morning, I have the same group of 4 and 5 y.o.s. I will have them every weekend for the rest of the year as well as President's week. We pick them up at 8:30 (in theory at least, some parents are always late) and they leave us at 12:30 (again, in theory). Then it's off for kid's line-up at 12:45 where I invariably get a level 1 group. I won't give blow-by-blow, as it would take forever, but instead, just some highlights from my week.

I really like my morning guys, but since they all know each other, they don't hold back at all, and can be very trying. We have injury fakers. I had one little guy who was bawling like a stuck pig about his left leg being hurt. He finally got it together and skied to the bottom. As we approached the lift, he falls down crying again and says he hurts too much to ski anymore. He is starting to draw a crowd, and his instructor is looking pretty sadistic. I tell him he can ski another run, or we can stop the whole class and get ski patrol. He wants ski patrol. As soon as ski patrol arrives, they aks him what's wrong. He points to right knee. *slap* (I wish) He makes an instant miraculous recovery and is all smiles the rest of the day. Whatever....

Next day, one of the little guys arrives with two left mittens, no problem, his Dad goes and buys a new pair. The smallest thing they have is a ladie's medium. We strap them on and they look like seal flippers. There is no way that he can carry his skis, so I carry them all day. Not a problem... until the next day. All the kids decide that if they don't have their mittens on, they can't carry their skis, and I have to carry all their skis. There are 28 of them. Three instructors, and one is stuck in the Christmas snowstorm. Not all the kids have shown up, but I have 8 of them (I think). Every run on the gondola, we get to the bottom, and they throw their mittens on the ground so that I will have to carry the skis. No way am I able to do that, so I take about 10 minutes each run putting their mittens back on. We take the bus back for lunch, and I grab all of the skis and give them to the kids. "Let's go", I say. I hear a chorus of "I can't cawy my skis" and "I'm too tiwed". "Let's go". I look behind me. Every kids mittens are on the ground (except the two girls who are dutifully cradling their skis, standing behind me). I go over to the frst kid and put his mittens on. He is not cooperating at all. After several attempts, he keeps saying, "my thumb isn't in, you have to cawy". I pull off his mitten, and see that he is making fists so that they won't go in. He is busted and allows me to put his mittens on. I move on to the next one. After doing about three of them, the frst one starts chanting "I want my mommy". One by one, the other kids join in. All of their mittens are off again. All of the kids are loudly chanting "I want my mommy" (even the two girls who are still cradling their skis), and I am standing in a pile of skis and mittens. We're still at the bus stop with a dozen people waiting for the next bus. I'm infuriated, but holding it in. Approaching redline. I pull out my roll of duct tape, and tell them that I will duct tape their gloves on, if anybody takes their mittens off without my permission. They haven't tried me yet, but I will wrap them up like little boxers if they do it again.

That same day, we end up with a bit of a food fight. Nobody gets desert, except the girls.

The next day, only one kid goes dessertless for throwing food or name calling.

Yesterday, we made it all through lunch without incident. I sent them off to the bathroom before suiting up to ski again. Boy X comes out of the bathroom with his snowpants around his knee and says "Y and Z peed on me". I had to have him repeat it about three times because I wasn't sure I could trust my ears. Sure enough, his insulated pants are soaked as are his long undies. Y and Z don't deny it. My God. That was the end of skiing for them. An hour and a half of time out for each of them and whatever their parents may have done about it. Hopefully, they dealt with this harshly, but who knows?

No problems with them today... for once.

Oh yeah, I even had one kid who's Dad asked me if I could do a private lesson next week. "Hell yeah", I said, thinking that it would be a great way to get out of doing 4 y.o. level 1s. "I'm free Friday". "How about Thursday", he asked. I thought about it, it is my day off, but I like skiing with his kids, and if I start booking requests, they might start giving me non-requests. "OK", I said. He looked at me quizically, "Will you be able to ski on New Year's Day?" I don't really drink anymore, so I thought some more and said call the desk and book it, and I'll be there. Which is when he said, "why get them involved, if it's your day off, why not do it under the table?" I made some excuses and got his number to call him later. Tonight, I guess. I decided that I just can't do that. It's unfair to the other instructors and the ski school, and I'd be using the free pass that they gave me. In addition, I think that if I were the SSD, and I found out, I'd fire me. I could tell you a sory about a similar situation where I used to work, but this post is too long already...

Then there are the afternoon classes.

It took until Friday for me to get a class where I didn't have at least one student that was crying BEFORE the class even started. Talk about depressing. Half the class wants to learn to ski, and the other half is in the fetal postion crying, or maybe even throwing a tantrum, and it wasn't just me. I've never heard so much crying. Not even in a pediatrics clinic. You'd think we were torturing them. Not me, I'm not gonna make someone ski. I got rid of the cryers as fast as I could. I got some of my guys skiing pretty well, able to stop and turn, and not wanting to stop when the lesson was over. Some of them were even smiling. Some told their mom's "I want to do this again". I've seen some of them riding the lifts in the full day lessons and coming down the big kid's slope. So ther is that.

Thank God it's over. But it's really not, back to work tomorrow, and I don't get my morning guys. What's in store for me at the mountain? I guess I'll know in 12 hours.
post #2 of 15
It does get better! Great stories to share! Thank goodness you are only a rookie once...

Keep smiling and learning.
post #3 of 15
Great post, Epic! The sad part is--I know you're not even exaggerating. Sounds to me like you're doing great. Keep it up!

And keep those stories coming. It's easy to laugh at the trials and tribulations of teaching skiing--when it happens to someone else. It's like a Warren Miller movie. Daily! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #4 of 15
Sorry, but I didn't think it was a great post. I hope that you are exagerating for the sake of humor.

Three instuctors for 28 small children is a terrible ratio. How much are the parents paying for that kind of unsafe overcrowding?

What kind of a shop, at an area that supposedly caters to litle kids' programs, wouldn't have childrens sizes in gloves?

In properly run kids lessons there is not a lot of crying and screaming. It's time to stop characterizing children's classes that way.

Teaching children should not be condsidered a kind of initiation that must be endured by rookies so that they can earn the right to teach "real" lessons.

Running successful children's programs is an art form. Ski areas that can't treat it as such, that don't see small children as valuable customers and the future of the sport, that employ instructors who have no skill with children, should not offer children's programs.
post #5 of 15

Were you expecting Fred Rogers for $10.00 per hour. I think you need a reality check. It sounds like Epic had a fairly standard day, gave an honest description, and is doing a great job.
post #6 of 15
I don't neeed a reality check. Our Christmas week ends tomorrow. We've had approximately 250 kids, ages 6 to 12, for five days, without any of the horror stories like those in Epic's post. We also had about 100 4 and 5 year olds in single lessons. Next week about 3,000 kids of all ages start in after school and daytime toddler programs.

No Fred Rogers, but we do have an incredibly talented and enthusiastic staff of high school and college age instructors who love kids and see teaching skiing to kids as far preferable to flipping burgers or selling CDs at the mall.

But you are probably right about Epic having a fairly standard experience, and that's exactly my point. Too many ski areas treat children's lessons as a necessary evil OR as a no-brainer money maker that doesn't require any specialized skill or expertise. And too many instructors believe, or are led to believe by unenlightened ski schools, that teaching kids is a punishment that rookies must put up with.

Under the right circumstances, with the right attitude on the part of everyone from the area management all the way down to the individual instructor, children's lessons can be satisfying, fun, challenging, and very rewarding.

[ December 29, 2002, 09:23 PM: Message edited by: David7 ]
post #7 of 15
Originally posted by David7:
We've had approximately 250 kids, ages 6 to 12...We also had about 100 4 and 5 year olds in single lessons. .
Ummm but Epic had a CLASS of 4-5 year olds

big diff between 4 & 6 y.o.

& a group not a SINGLE
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
David7 - just for you I checked my enrollment list. There are actually 21. I think we've had all of them show up at the same time maybe once. No mittens, we were meeting at a smaller satellite lodge that day, and I couldn't tell you if they normally have smaller gloves or not. But it's more of a lip balm and neck warmer sort of place in there.
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Oh, by the way. At your program, if the four year-old kid (or maybe he's a three year-old and his Mom is lying about his age. It happens all the time) is crying and clinging to his Mom's leg, and she pries him off and leaves him there for you to teach skiing, what do you do? If you have some way to salvage that situation, I'm all ears. It really is depressing to have to try and teach that class.
post #10 of 15
Reading my posts from last night in the light of day this morning I realize I came across a little harsh. Sorry. It's just that I have some very strong opinions about this subject. I believe that an area has to make a strong commitment to children's lessons to do them right, or should not do them at all.

I should explain - our ski area is a 200' vertical municipally- run operation within city limits with the retail and rental shop AND the ski/snowboard school run as concessions by the same company. (So, although the school is somewhat profitable, the real income comes from the equipment rental and sales side. We don't overload our class size.) Over 85% of our students are children, with more than half of them in school groups. So our existence depends on how well we teach kids and on how we handle groups. The program has been running successfully for 25 years, continues to grow every year, and new enrollment is almost exclusively through word-of-mouth advertising.

Disski, you're absolutely right about the big difference between 4 and 6 year olds. Our group programs for preschoolers, done during the day on weekdays, would probably be better characterized as games on skis. Other 4-6 year-olds we only do as private lessons. We also have a "mom and tot" program that is exactly what it sounds like. The moms, and an occasional dad, are right there helping out, learning how to ski with their kids.

Epic, we make it clear that we're not babysitters. Children who aren't ready for the separation or the socialization of ski lessons are not forced to participate. And our rationale is that we won't turn any child off to skiing by making it unpleasant or scary.

When it works it's a fantastic investment in the future. My best testamonial to that is my son who started when he was 2, is now 18, a level 1 instructor, would probably really rather go to Cannon Mountain or Loon Mountain today, but has a level 4 group of eight and nine year olds and a request private lesson with a 4 year old scheduled this morning. And he loves it. And he's good.

I could obviously go on and on about this. I've gotta go wake up the boy, pack up my boots and my tuna samwich, and get off to our last day of Christmas week. Have a great day everybody.

[ December 30, 2002, 04:56 AM: Message edited by: David7 ]
post #11 of 15
I agree, "what a week." Sometimes the pleasure in teaching kids is a clear understanding of what your successes are. Unlike teaching adults, your successes are not necessarily measured by turn improvements or ability to challenge new terrain. Quite the contrary, sometimes merely getting a kid on the slope is a major accomplishment that could take weeks. Your goal should be to try and view each kid indiviudally and measure thier (and your) success accordingly.

In my view, you had an amazing week and are hopefully very proud of your accomplishments. By way of disclosure, I'm not a ski instructor, but I teach three and four year old swimming and have coached young kids for years.

Some highlights:

The "injury fakers." Unless you live with the kids on a daily basis, you will never be able to tell when a kid is faking an injury. You handled the situation perfectly. You attempted to get the "injured" skier back on his feet with encouragement and, when that didn't work, you called in the ski patrol. Ultimately, this kid, and every other kid in the class, now realizes that faking an injury may get you some attention, but it won't get you off the slopes.

Carrying skis for kids. Kids are masters at getting other people to do work for them. Your patience in putting the gloves back on and making them carry their own skis sends an important message. (I'd watch the duct tape on gloves punishment. Better to find a way to get them to put on their gloves voluntarily than that type of force. One possibility, Just keep putting them on and inform the parents at the end of the day that they won't be able to keep skiing if they continue to take their gloves off as its delaying the entire class."

"I want my Mommy." Distraction is an instructors (and parents)best weapon. When a group sings out the "I want mommy" chorus, do a 180 degree turn from whatever your doing. In coaching sports, I start a freeze tag game or a funny relay. Something that is so fun and so not necessarily skiing (or whatever sport) at that time to distract them from what they're doing. As I'm not a ski instructor, I don't have a bag of games for this particular issue. The point is to catch them by surprise with something they don't expect.

Finally, the early morning cries at drop off. For this one, their is no quick solution. Overtime, kids will learn that crying doesn't get them out of the situation. They will also become more comfortable with you and, accordingly, have less apprehension. Also, I assume you learned this at your ski school, but make sure you get down on your knees and talk to the kids at their level. A big person wearing full ski gear can be an imposing sight to a small child.

You had a great week success-wise. I hope you realize your accomplishments. The next time the injury faker doesn;t fake an injury, that's a success for you. The next time the kids don;t take their gloves off, that's a success for you. The first time a kid hugs you, you've probably made skiing a part of his/her life forever.
post #12 of 15
Skidmo and Epic, that makes two great stories in this thread, thank you...

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Skidmo - I'm happy to say that my ski pants DO have knee pads!

I had 6 level 2s all day today. Two of them were wanting to hold my hands in the liftline and were hugging me and didn't want to go home at the end of the day. So that's nice. First half of the lesson sucked big time, but the end was nice.

Anyway, here's to hoping for some privates. I might consider selling my soul for some.
post #14 of 15
Keep going, epic. As a ski instructor, your book of crazy stories will get thicker and thicker! As the sands pass through the hourglass, you'll come to laugh at all of them.

I had a series of privates with a little guy a couple years ago. He was 8 years old at the time... we're riding up the chairlift, just the two of us. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

"So, Jeff.. whaddaya wanna be when you grow up?"


Y'know, Bill... I think I wanna be an inventor."

"Oh yeah? Whatcha gonna invent?"

"I think I wanna invent a special kind of airplane with seats on the outside, so people can watch the landing gear go up and down."

"Wow, that sounds pretty cool. But, isn't it gonna be pretty windy out there? The seats will need really strong seat belts, won't they?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

"Sounds pretty expensive. How you gonna pay for all that?"

"Yeah.... I guess I'll have to get a job."
post #15 of 15
Wow, that brings back memories, lmao. Believe it or not, even after being reminded of that...I still want to teach again. I think. :

No matter how bad your day was, think of this. Thank god it didn't happen to me, but to an instructor in front of me on the chair:

His students pees her pants on the lift...by the time they get to the top...frozen pants, frozen to the chair...not a pretty sight!

[ January 02, 2003, 09:34 AM: Message edited by: Taylormatt ]
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