ACA course outlines are famous for very extensive outlines and somewhat short durations. Based on my experience, it is indeed possible to cover all of the material in the time allotted but you will need to pay serious attention to your time management skills. I like to prepare a spreadsheet with the topics I plan to cover and time allotment for each - a class outline. As I proceed thorough the class, I can quickly determine if I am ahead or behind schedule and deal with appropriately.
Get to know your students, ahead of class if possible. The introductions in the beginning help out immensely. Based on your student's needs, you may need to modify your class outline a bit. Prepare yourself as well, stay current in your discipline. Recruit extra help if needed, your students will appreciate the extra effort and extra qualified help makes your job immensely easier and more rewarding.
Demonstrate the following skills
Lets face it, we all want our clients to recommend us to others in the future. Good interpersonal skills are essential for teachers. Most of our clientel have come to us because they want to learn something new and have fun while doing so. Drill sergeants might work in boot camp but not in our field. Don't forget that many of your students are new to these skills and may lack your background. Differences in techniques are expected, some may work well - others not so. How you communicate your tips goes a long ways in their acceptance.
Group management/leadership skills can be challenging. You will encounter the occasional student that wants all of your attention, don't fall for that trap. Some students will need extra attention to succeed, there are many ways to manage this.
Choosing an appropriate class venue is a critical success factor. Noisy and crowded rapids are a bad idea. First off, you can easily lose track of your students and that can be a major safety issue. High noise and lots of distractions may make it difficult for your students to pay attention to you. Choosing easier rapids to practice tough moves is generally a great way to go. Your students will feel far more comfortable trying new skills if they are not fearful for their safety.
The ACA has adopted a very consistent training regimen that works well for our sport:
- Sell the topic/skill - remember WIIFM. This provides the motivation.
- Presentation - Many start off a full demo and then explain the components.
- Demonstrate - several times as necessary. Be slow and deliberate if possible.
- Practice - It is now time for the students to try their hand at the skill. Watch their form closely. Use your critical observation skills. Answer any questions.
- Review - This is a very crucial step for all scenario based exercises. Have the students judge their performance, what worked - what didn't and why. This develops critical thinking and far deeper understanding.
You might not perform everyone of these steps for all topics. Some may be combined when it makes sense. Whenever possible, have the students try their hands on each skill and they will remember the skills long after the class has completed.
Demonstrate knowledge of teaching and learning theory
When running classes, you need to adjust your teaching style and techniques for your students. Over time, you will encounter many different students, each with their own unique learning styles. Identifying learning stayles is your first challenge, pay close attention to your class and read their body language.
An old rule of thumb I use is 4 hours of preparation time for each hour of class time - especially the first time around. Actually, I put in far more effort than this. Once you have developed your material, the next time around goes much faster. Many novice instructors try to "wing it". Although this saves time, you will overlook crucial class material and generally take much longer in class than had you prepared properly (and be a nervous wreck as well). Formal classes may require prepared PowerPoint presentations. Even purely outdoor classes should have a checklist prepared. I laminate my checklist and refer to it often during breaks. Give strong consideration to providing some sort of hand-out at the end of your class - your students will really appreciate this.
Effective feedback is a crucial part of coaching/teaching. Pay close attention to how your students are mastering the skills you have taught them. Look for any dangerous or bad habits and nip early. The new ACA assessment program is a great way to gain experience in feedback skills.
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