Keep Things Interesting to Prevent Instructor Burnout

Wednesday, 16 September 2009
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My Grumpy Geography TeacherRemember that grumpy old teacher in high school you wished had retired 2 years before you started class? For me it was my geography teacher. She should have quit decades earlier and ended up being a terrible, ineffective teacher that sadly turned me off to geography for a long time.

That sweet little walk down memory lane got me thinking about instructor burnout.

Being a paddling instructor is a bit like being a rock star. You get the glory of being on stage but the reality is; you end up playing the same hit songs over and over and over again. After a while you sound like a tape recorder when teaching the sweep stroke and before you know it you are yelling, “Hello Cleveland!” while in really you are in Tacoma, Washington. Trust me; it’s happened to the best of them.

Below are a bunch of tips and ideas to keep burnout at bay:

  • Figure out your motivations for teaching. Why did you start in the first place? Keep working to discover or figure out new reasons why you should be out there on the water.
  • Keep taking courses – Just because you are an instructor doesn’t mean you know everything. Get out there and take more padlding courses and broaden your knowledge. Dump that new knowledge and enthusiasm back into your lessons. Your students will appreciate that.
  • Get out and paddle in more advanced conditions – Most instructors really only paddle in the conditions you teach and that gets pretty boring fast. It would be like a ski instructor running the bunny hills all day. Push yourself and bomb those double black diamonds.
  • Get out and paddle for yourself – Don’t let your hobby turn into your job. Ask any former instructor and that is one of the top reasons why they quit. Reread the tip above then get out and paddle for yourself on your own time.

Advanced Skills Clinic at Paddlefest 2009, Toronto OntarioI also asked my friend Tim Dyer from White Squall to send some tips as well:
  • Go learn something you know nothing about, and then you’ll have an idea of what your students are going through.
  • Take a deep breath and listen - take another deep breath and listen again - too often we get caught up in having to talk, demonstrate and generally carry on when all we have to do is stop and listen to the student.
  • 6P’s - Proper prep prevents piss poor performance - but it also is a great stress reducer because you have a plan to fall back on.
  • Not every lesson will go well....that’s ok.
  • Try teaching in completely different ways - mix things up in terms of timing, modality, tempo.
  • Discovery learning is way more fun than anything else - use it to give yourself a break.
  • Have you got ideas to keep things interesting for yourself as an instructor? Post them in the comments below.
Photo Credit: sladery.blogspot.com

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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