Tips for Teaching Paddlesports with another Instructor

Tuesday, 31 July 2012
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One of the toughest challenges for canoe or kayak instructors is to teach with another partner. This could be with a stranger that you have just met at a symposium or a fellow staff member at your local paddling school or club.

On the surface it seems to be a simple matter, after all you are only talking half the time but the reality is that more teaching disasters take place as soon as you add in a the second instructor. Like a complex dance routine, you need work together in harmony to ensure that your students are learning effectively.

Here is a very small selection of some of the crazy stories or situations I witnessed over the years:

  • Verbal arguments in front of students on the proper way to teach something as simple as the forward sweep.
  • Once teaching with two other instructors in a large group, one of the instructors decided to jump out of his boat in the middle of a class to give an impromptu lesson on how to stay cool on the water. All this happened while the other instructor was teaching the draw stroke. Totally derailed the lesson.
  • I heard of an instructor who once decided to arbitrarily change the lesson plan half way through the morning and announced on the spot that it would be more effective for him if he just took half the students and split the group.
  • I once took over my co-instructors boat design lesson because I really, really, really wanted to share some newfound knowledge. He was pissed and I still feel bad about it. Sorry Andrew!

Here are a bunch of random tips and ideas to help make teaching with another instructor a whole lot more fun:

  •  Meet before the class and map out exactly who is responsible for what elements of the lesson. This is critical and I can’t stress this enough. Even if you are one of those types who can teach on the fly, deciding who is teaching what during the actual lesson is not only unprofessional but a guaranteed recipe for disaster.
  • If you are not on stage teaching the stroke, keep you’re your trap shut. Students can only learn from one person at a time so show your co-instructor some respect and let her teach the lesson.
  • Check your ego at the door. Co-teaching is about sharing the spotlight so out of the way and don’t hog the attention.
  • Unless the lesson is sinking out of site or there is a danger to the class, don’t take over the lesson unless invited. Everybody has a bad day on the water or maybe it’s the first time teaching the skill and very nervous. Let them learn from the experience while you look for a place during a break in the conversation to gently help out.
  • When done your teaching segment always provide an opportunity for fellow instructors to add their tips at the end. That’s a good place for them to come in and add last minute tips or show another way to do the skill.
  • Like a car can’t have two drivers, you need to figure out who is going to run the lesson plan. The lesson plan driver takes the roll of dishing out the tasks and keeping everybody on time.
  • Finally, remember to share the teaching love. If you have new assistants out there helping you so make sure you give them a chance to do some teaching and build up their experience.
  • When you are done, a quick debrief about what worked and what didn’t will really help the next time you teach together.

 

You have a teaching tip? Share it in the comments below. 

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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