Ted Tips

Making Students do the dirty work

We’ve all been there. You are in the pool, you are linking all the past exercises together and you now your students are just about to have their ah-ha moment.  Now it’s time to put the bow on this perfectly delivered freediving package of information and await their thunderous applause.  Then you look over at Stanley and he has his mask in the water, he’s blowing bubbles and busy counting how many bubbles he can make on one breath.

When I teach a course, I create an environment where students must pay attention. If you instruct your students they must do perform that task.  As an instructor if this is not enforced, you are showing the class you are not as serious about your standards and can be ignored.

From 2009 - 2016 I would have asked the student- Stanley to do me a favor by keeping his eyes on me and stating how it would otherwise make it seem as though he was not listening, then deliver a polite thank you.


I’d say 60-70% of the time this gentle reminder helps clear the issue.  I do however get a lot of hard-headed macho spearfisherman, some of them do not take lightly to being called out in front of a class when they are not paying attention.  This causes a problem because it can create a sense of friction and where the student does not want to be told what to do and also feels as if they know better.  Thus, will continuously disrupt the course.  When this occurs, I respond with the same phrase word for word.

As I have become a more experienced instructor I have worked with students of all different abilities, strengths and weaknesses.  You might have come across a problem I have started to face more and more.  I have personally noticed there are more and more students with significant attention deficient disorders. I’ve had situations where I’ve had to correct a student in this manner 4-5 times in under 5 minutes.  At this point, they feel picked on and typically get angry, again which can cause problems.  Finding a way to correct the behavior before it becomes a problem for the duration of the course and the other students is vital.  As well as making the problem student know there are standards we need to follow and complete but will be happy to spend extra time if needed in order to help them accomplish their goals within the course.

Typically, these issues are not persistent throughout every course I teach, but they arise enough for me to be aware of them and know a better solution is needed.

In the beginning of 2017, I added this one procedure to the start of the pool session and will always continue to teach my courses from now on.

First exercise in day one of the pool is as follows:


I ask by a show of hands if any students could tell me in what environment do we do three hooks and three cleanings breaths as well as what environment do we do six cleansing breaths. I ask one of the students who raised their hand, to stand near me, pretend they are the instructor (not to worry about getting everything correct) but to explain what types of breaths we do and in what environment.  I simply add “no matter what you see me doing keep talking.  Do not stop until your explanation is complete.  Everyone else keep your eyes on me.”

 Instantly as the student starts explaining I make excellent eye contact, nod my head several times then I “wander,” I put my face down in the pool motorboating. After 10 seconds, I come up make excellent eye contact.  I will continue to give small “yes” as I nod my head and then face down in the water again. This time I’m fiddling with my watch or I am blasting my snorkel.  This proceeds until the explanation is complete.

When the student is done explaining, I ask the folks watching me, how well do you think I was processing that information.  They all say not well.  This gives the students a tangible explanation as to why is it is not only important to pay attention but it is respectful of my time and other students so the one “wanderer” does not become an entire class disruption.

After the demonstration if there is a need to still encourage a student to pay attention, it is hard for them to feel friction because they empathize with how I am feeling and the distraction they are creating.

The great part is other students have my back.  Everyone has paid for our courses and wants to be there.  Either to gain depth, comfort or time, everyone has taken time out of their busy lives to be in that place and learn a new skill.  If I ever need to correct a student more than twice, 80% of the time other students will find a way to correct the student before I need to again. They show the student gentle reminders by nudges or more aggressive tones I would not use and remind them they are trying to watch and learn.  Having other students give reminders is way more effective. As instructors we wear many hats, one is being parallel to a parent at times.  Telling students who are the majority of the time our age and sometimes older they need to respect us and listen to us can be hard.  By having a friend or associate remind them can be the gentle but strong reminder students need.

One important note.  When you are in the ocean circumstances can be a bit different because students can feel seasick and or trying to protect their face from the sun.  Before you address one or multiple students for not paying attention, make sure we are going back to our basics in our instructor training.  Be environmentally aware.  Have your students face away from the sun so you are looking into it.  Communicate with your students and make sure they are taking their seasick medications and are not trying to hide their queasiness.  If they are not feeling well, I will absolutely allow them to keep their face in the water if it makes them feel better.  If needed I can deliver the information to them personally up close while they are still face down.

Hope you found this usefully try it out and see the response from your students!