Today my daughter made up a game around the pool table. There were so many rules to the game that we lost sight of the point of the game. And even though we wanted to play the game, we were lost in the minutiae. We played anyway, and half way through the game she stopped us. Then proceeded to add more rules to the game, as well as adding a new objective. My son lost interest, and I listened and followed along politely.
“Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler” – Albert Einstein
This a wonderful goal for a teacher, or maker of rules.
Copy, Choose, Create
As a teacher of skiing develops they go through these phases of presenting information to their students. PSIA-RM Document
Copy- New instructors are taught a progression of steps to bring a student from a to b to c. If the instructor runs into a stumbling block they either continue to try to tell the student to try the same thing until the student either succeeds or quits. Or they look around to see what somebody else is doing, then they interpret the movement and share it with the student. And often inefficient movement patterns are created.
Choose- The teacher has a few progressions and quick fixes in their bag of tricks. This level of instructor can teach to several types of learning styles.
Often an instructor will move through one progression and find that the student will be performing well, yet still in need of practice and mileage. The experienced instructor realizes this is a natural part of learning and is willing to offer modest coaching of existing movements. The less experienced instructor desires to add new movements prematurely, or pile on another progression immediately. This is know as “puking on the student” or “downloading” on the student. Everything the instructor knows is given to the student. It rarely is beneficial, yet the student rarely realizes that it is detrimental.
Create- This is a first level of mastery in an instructor. It is the ability to draw upon progressions, “tricks”, terrain, lesson timing, movement pools, psychological understandings, etc to customize the experience to the student or class.
The lesson may or may not follow an order ever shared by the instructor, or it may be a plain “vanilla” progression. The Mastery of this Creation is in the simplicity it is delivered and understood. When a student says, “Wow, nobody has ever told me it that way before.” you can be quite certain you created a special lesson.
The expert instructor has a desire to create, and build simplicity into the lesson. The first few times you create may get messy, it may cause you to backtrack or restate things during your lesson, that is ok. This is part of the process. To accelerate the process, talk with an experienced pro about your ideas, this can help you through your learning process. Most pros are happy to talk shop.
Simplify, simplify, simplify, but no simpler. There are only a few things worse than teaching “dead-end” simple moves to an eager student. Do the creations translate to movement patterns shared by an expert skier? They should. Even a wedge turn has movements an expert uses.
Jonathan Lawson is an instructor and staff trainer at Loveland Ski Area in Colorado. He has been teaching skiing since 1991, and teaching in Colorado since 1993, and a PSIA-Rocky Mountain Trainer since 1999. He continually works at making skiing easier to understand so that students can ski more.