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Old 11-20-2012, 10:22 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Lessons Complaints and Compliments

Me and thugit both got accepted into Snowboard School Instructor positions at Bogus Basin (provided we can pass the riding portion of the hiring clinic). I was wondering, and im sure he is too, from people who have taken both private and/or group lessons, which mainly are new riders their first couple of times, what were some complaints and compliments about the lesson. Things the instructor did well, things that you left complaining about, if they explained something really well, if you were lost the whole time, if your kid had fun in the lesson and what the instructor did to make it fun, how much did you learn, what did you find was the best way for you to learn this sport...stuff like that. So lets hear the stories
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Old 11-20-2012, 10:50 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I've taken lessons at a variety of levels and my general almost across-the-board recommendation would be to talk less when on the snow and show more.

I understand about different learning styles, etc., and I am a verbal person in general. But excessive explanations while sitting on the side of the slope just don't do if for me.

Also, yeah I realize that sometimes goofy images work and stuff, but other times I want an actual strategy. In other words, when I've requested a lesson in the bumps, don't tell me "imagine you're water trickling down the hill," tell me instead "I want you to try hitting the bump 2/3 of the way up its side with the board flat, then pivot fast. Here, let me show you."
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Old 11-20-2012, 12:33 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I started the sport two years ago with a lesson. I literally didnt even stand on the board before the lesson. I took a private lesson (which I cant recommend enough) and was up doing greens by the end of the first hour. At the start of the next season I took another private lesson geared more at intermediate riding as I was doing blues and backs by then and wanted to make sure I didnt pick up bad habits, learn switch etc.

I cant recommend private lessons enough. What you spend in extra fees you will save in time, frustration and extra list passes to get to the same level.

Personally id like a little more choice and specifics for intermediate and advanced lessons. Perhaps its just my local mountains, but it seems lacking in this area.
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Old 11-20-2012, 12:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Also, yeah I realize that sometimes goofy images work and stuff, but other times I want an actual strategy. In other words, when I've requested a lesson in the bumps, don't tell me "imagine you're water trickling down the hill," tell me instead "I want you to try hitting the bump 2/3 of the way up its side with the board flat, then pivot fast. Here, let me show you."
LOL. My wife had a similar problem during a lesson with an instructor who was into metaphors. She finally told him to fuck off with the stories and just tell her what to do! (My wife can strip paint with her language)

For a positive suggestion when teaching non-beginners, even when you're trying to teach them "big" things like carving or dynamic riding, throw in the occasional mini-lesson for something small like sameways or buttering. It'll make them feel like they got some extra.
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Old 11-20-2012, 03:23 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Personally id like a little more choice and specifics for intermediate and advanced lessons. Perhaps its just my local mountains, but it seems lacking in this area.
It seems like a lot of resorts don't do much in the way of private lessons in terms of dialing the lesson to your needs beyond beginners. Often when I sign up for a lesson at the desk or over the phone I say I'm interested in working on this or that and on the advice of staff I've even specified can I get an instrucutor with a specific level of certification.

Then you show up at the meeting point, and there's somebody with a clipboard who might ask you a question or two, and then he looks over at a lineup of instructors and picks one. You have a chat with that person and then off you go, with mixed results. Of course if you find someone you mesh with you can request them going forward, but it's all pretty ad hoc.
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Old 11-20-2012, 03:36 PM   #6 (permalink)
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It seems like a lot of resorts don't do much in the way of private lessons in terms of dialing the lesson to your needs beyond beginners. Often when I sign up for a lesson at the desk or over the phone I say I'm interested in working on this or that and on the advice of staff I've even specified can I get an instrucutor with a specific level of certification.

Then you show up at the meeting point, and there's somebody with a clipboard who might ask you a question or two, and then he looks over at a lineup of instructors and picks one. You have a chat with that person and then off you go, with mixed results. Of course if you find someone you mesh with you can request them going forward, but it's all pretty ad hoc.
I agree with Lamps - unless the resort you're working at is REALLY well known for their instructing (I don't think I've ever heard of one better than the other...) its a crap shoot.

I've worked as an instructor for a mid-sized resort in NH. The number one thing they told us was to help the clients have fun. Doesn't matter if they learn a little or learn a lot, as long as they have fun then "you have done your job." Seriously, I had a group of three or four eight year olds last winter and all they wanted to do was screw around and play in the snow. We probably did about 5 minutes of snowboarding for an hour lesson - the rest was snow balls and sliding around on the mounds of shoveled snow (our beginner area is near the parking lot). Of course, where you're working may have a different motto...

My advice? Find your niche. I found that I worked best with younger kids who were either JUST learning or had a small amount of experience. Probably ages 8 to 18. I couldn't do the older folks. Not sure why - maybe its because they already have pre-determined take on how a snowboard should be ridden, instructor be damned.

I'd be respectful and let your supervisor know what you prefer. You're probably not going to get that type of person every time around, but if you're in his/her they'll remember you when your ideal client comes along. Keep in mind that instructing is very seniority based. The instructors that have been their years are gonna get the "better" lessons. At least, this is what I've found.
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Old 11-20-2012, 04:56 PM   #7 (permalink)
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As an aging adult who still takes lessons one night a week (one night of guaranteed riding and no cat-herding of friends), I'll echo a few of the above comments:

1) less talk, more rock. If you can't explain a drill in less than a minute, then work on your explanation on the next lift up but move on to another drill. I want to do, not have doing described to me.

2) For me personally, be physical. Don't keep saying "get lower" over and over, I heard you the first time. Problem is: I think my stance is low. Next chance you get, put your hands on my shoulders, push me down and say "that's what I mean by low".

3) Don't be annoyingly positive. People can tell what is false praise. Yes, you want to keep their spirits up during a rough stretch, but clapping and high fiveing after every run whether they fell 20x or not at all annoys me.

4) Give me some tip or drill that I can use to self-assess when you're not around. For example, I know I have a tendency to not shift my balance fore and aft well when carving. It just creeps in turn after turn and I don't notice until I start washing out a lot more frequently late in the day. I used to think it was a starting sign of my old legs getting tired later in the day. My instructor gave me one stupid little drill that I can do to check up on myself and now I can tell that it's not me getting tired, it's me getting lazy. Best $20 lesson I ever had.
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Old 11-20-2012, 05:31 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Wolfie had some great nuggets up there.

The main thing to remember about your new profession is it's student centered. You're not the important one... they are.

Empathy is a common trait I see in many talented instructors. Try to gather enough information to put yourself in their boots. It's the difference between teaching to them VS at them.

In another area, I think Bones really hits on something important here. Many first year instructors struggle with this concept.

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2) For me personally, be physical. Don't keep saying "get lower" over and over, I heard you the first time. Problem is: I think my stance is low. Next chance you get, put your hands on my shoulders, push me down and say "that's what I mean by low".
"Get Lower", is quite vague. Tell and show your student what specific body part they need to move, how much movement is required, when to do it and for how long, to achieve the desired board/snow interaction. If they struggle give them smaller pieces of the movement pattern to focus on.

Good Luck
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Old 11-20-2012, 07:10 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Gee wizz Wolfie, almost sounds like you know what your talkin about

I've never had a lesson, I might take one on my spring trip or next year when I hit that wall between intermediate/advanced.Last year I got my GF's 11 y/o son 2 lessons, one private, and one semi private( with one of his friends) The first guy was outstanding, the second one was..okay.
Here's the differences I saw, keep in mind this is a speed bump in Iowa. The first guy met us in the rental area and helped finishing up the gear fitting/instruction part of things (basically took over for me so I could get the hell out of the there and go ride :P) One of the first things he asked him was if there was any heel lift in his boots, and went on to explain what heel lift was. I dipped while he was showing him how to get in/out of the bindings. Very respectful young man, I could tell he was stoked on his job, gave me a "I got this, you can dip" Look.

The second guy showed up 5-10 minutes late to the meeting area and acted like he didn't even want to be there. At the end of the day my GF's son hadn't improved and his friend almost seemed traumatized.

I watched both from the lift, the first guy would talk to the boy for a few, then ride down 20' or so, stop, turn around, and wave for him to come on, then when the boy caught up to him, would talk for a few and repeat the process. On the first chair up I could see by the instructors body movements he was explaining how to get off the lift.

The second guy was texting on the lift, rode about a 1/4 of the way down the hill, texted while the boys were catching up, then took off after less then a minute spent "instructing" .... Nice enough kid, but acted more like he was babysitting, then teaching snowboarding.

The moral of the story is, do your job to the best of your abilities, you are a teacher not a babysitter. Oh yeah..and ya might wanna heed Snowolfs advice, sounds perfectly logical to me.
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Old 11-20-2012, 08:26 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I've never been an instructor although it is something I'd like to try some day. I have taken a few private lessons and I can give you my good and bad experiences.

Good - My instructor for the session looked very young, like 16 years old young. I'm 43 and wanted to learn some basics on how to successfully ride a box. My first impression was negative, a young kid - probably a self-entitled little park rat with an attitude doing lessons he didn't care about to ride for free. I could not have been more wrong. Turns out he was actually 20 (still young!) but just looked like a teenage kid. He was incredibly polite and a professional maturity well beyond his years. What he did right...

He listened to me, what my goals were and what my anxiety was. He quite literally coached me. We discussed on the lift what step(s) we were going to work on on the next run, talking me through the steps. He demonstrated those steps on the hill with me observing. Then he observed me and provided immediate constructive criticism and feedback before moving on to the next progressive step.

Not only did I sincerely thank him but I did tip him out very well. I also spoke with the head of the ski/snowboard school and gave him a glowing review and the next day wrote an email to the resorts GM letting him know that he had a very talented young man on staff and they should encourage him to further pursue instruction.

Bad - I decided I needed another refresher on park features. I've become more risk adverse and figured another lesson was a great way to force myself for at least that one hour to spend it on features. I also wanted a check-point, how was I doing now that it had been about a month since my original lesson described above. I had a different instructor, also somewhat young but seemed to be in his early 20's. Completely opposite experience this time. For this lesson, I was just another number. There was little interest in working with me, it was like he was just punching the clock so he could log another hour of instruction. During the session, he would give a couple words of advice like "just go man, you can do it!" and "Uhhhh yea, just like... ride up and over it you know?" and I basically would ride the run top to bottom without further interaction. I'd occasionally see him off to the side of the trail in the trees. At the bottom, he'd meet back up and ride the lift back to the top. The only constructive piece of feedback he gave me was related to my general riding stance and tendency to over-rotate my upper body downhill. I've always done this, for 20+ years of riding to where it is my default natural riding position to me. Not the most efficient body position but I've always rode this way. That being said, I was open to his feedback and knew it was a life-long bad habit of mine and I figured I could at least get SOMETHING out of this lesson so I asked his advice on how to correct it... he had no idea, just that it was "not the right form". Thus ended the lesson for me that day as I told him I was good the rest of the hour and to take off. I spent the rest of the hour just cruising.

So I guess my take-away for you is this - do it if you love it and enjoy teaching. If this is just a way to get a free lift ticket for you, it will show to your clients/customers. Don't waste our time and money, make room for someone who actually cares about what they're doing.

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