Teaching open water course surely have highs and lows. A few weeks ago I taught two open water courses back to back which could not have been more different, challenging, or rewarding.
My first open water course was a one-on-one experience with Nicole, a retiree from England sailing around the world with her husband. Nicole was apprehensive about diving but was encouraged to do the course by friends who dive. While she had a lot of water confidence and was a strong swimmer, but the idea of being submerged at depth was daunting.
She had a lot of anxiety about being able to complete the skills. To get Nicole through the confined water session feeling confident and being able to consistently reproduce skills tested my abilities and patience as an instructor at every turn.
Overthinking was a key problem for Nicole, as each time she took off her mask or removed her regular, that anxiety and doubt about her ability crept back in. It can be difficult as an instructor not to feel like the responsibility is completely our own when watching someone struggle with any aspect of their diving.
Once on the open water dives, Nicole’s swimming ability was the next challenge for me, as she was too fast for me underwater! Coaching her to slow down, relax her breathing, and try to swim without using her arms took consistent reminders from me throughout each of the dives. The hard work paid off for both of us. Nicole turned out to be a fantastic diver, with buoyancy and trim far above her experience level.
The reward for me was helping her overcome her fear and learn to love being underwater. We bonded over a shared love of clownfish, tobies, and some wonderful turtle moments. One of the most rewarding things about instructing is helping someone through some of the hardest moments they will experience – feeling completely out of control underwater and fighting their fear, and being the one to pull them through and watch as they gain confidence and self-control.
The second course was such a different group. I had a group of four – three friends from Switzerland and a guy from England. In their early twenties and on holiday, they were a lot of fun from the moment they stepped into the dive centre. Diving for most of them had been on their ‘to do’ list for a long time and they were determined to love it.
While the skills were a breeze, the challenge with this larger group was ensuring that each of them received the same quality teaching and devotion from me as a one-on-one course would receive. Lucky for me, they were attentive students and cooperated enthusiastically with all parts of the learning process. Three of them even continued on to complete their Deep Adventure Dive Specialty in preparation for some diving in the following weeks on their trip through Indonesia.
It was so invigorating to watch an anticipated passion become a real one for this group, and to watch them find and point out sea life to each other and laugh as they attempted to create their own hand signals for each creature they discovered.
In all, it was a week that tested both ends of my teaching spectrum for different reasons, but ultimately the outcome was the same. 5 new happy Open Water divers that I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and getting to teach.