Twenty-eight divers, including Ken and Victor from Bermondsey BSAC, gathered at Trinity School, Croydon, not – as might be assumed – to learn to speak proper, but for a two-day Instructor Foundation Course, the first step in BSAC’s instructor training.
The day started well – there was a catering truck, breakfast room, make-up trailers and wardrobe all laid on in time for our arrival at 8.45am. It was almost as if we’d walked into a telly set. Most importantly, the heating was on and the front doors were open. Sadly, we soon discovered that there was indeed a TV crew on site that day making a pilot for a Sky sitcom and that no, the catering wasn’t for us.
After following the BSAC signs around this labyrinthine, well-resourced private school, we found our instructor trainers, classrooms and classmates. Attendees were from various London branches, or came from more exotic places such as Southampton and even Switzerland. Everyone was qualified to at least Sports Diver level, but people’s range of experience varied significantly – among us were seasoned divers, people from university branches, and school kids from Trinity School’s own dive club.
The excellent (and slightly Eddie Izzard-ish) Ben Thompson from Exeter branch was leading the course, assisted by seven instructor trainers. The day began appropriately with a look at what makes a good instructor, and how people learn. Next we were given lectures on planning, preparing and presenting a diving theory lesson, and a demonstration of a well-done 10-minute lecturette. After watching a video explaining how to conduct a practical lesson, we broke up into groups of four students (and an instructor trainer) to plan our own attempts at a theory lecturette and pool lesson, which we’d be delivering the following day. The last main activity of the day involved us moving to the school’s pool, and each group’s instructor trainer conducting a short lesson (on rescue breaths) which we then assessed and discussed before spending a further hour in the water, seeing how various skills can be taught – this itself was revealing to those of us who’d crossed over from PADI and hadn’t done the Ocean Diver pool lessons, or who’d learnt certain variations of each skill in our clubs.
We went home with heads filled of useful acronyms/mnemonics – SEEDS, STEP, REAP, PAVE etc. Our evening in Peckham involved a takeaway curry, marker pens and syllabus summaries, all put to good use as the fireworks went off outside. Homework done, Ken went off to find props for his theory lesson, and an early-ish night was necessary.
Beginning with another pool session on Sunday, we delivered our practical lessons in the same small groups we formed yesterday, each time reviewing what we’d got right and what we’d change, and getting very useful feedback from our fellow students and instructor trainers. Ken’s lesson was on snorkel surface dives (or rather, waving your legs about above the surface), while Victor attempted to teach buoyancy, which went well despite running over time.
Back in the classrooms, we bravely took off our coats (the heating was off) to deliver the 10-minute theory lecturettes we’d prepared the night before, with a lot of what we’d learnt yesterday making sense and proving useful when put into practise. After lunch and the last lectures and group work (on open water lessons, which covered everything from how-to-teach-in-poor-visibility to what-to-do-if-your-students-are-distracted-by-Manta-Ray-in-Wraysbury), we were done. Congratulations and thanks were dished out, as were Assistant Diving Instructor logbook stickers, and some healthy networking went on before home time.
This course is well worth doing. We got a lot out of it, there were plenty of laughs, we now have a huge amount of ideas and resources to make use of in future lessons (much of it contained in the comprehensive instructor’s manual and CD-ROM), the instructor trainers were excellent, and the entire course was a brilliant confidence-booster and provided a thorough grounding in the essentials of diving instruction.