My first experience of skiing
A friend of ours arranged for a group of us to go skiing. There were a range of abilities within the group. Some of us had never been skiing before, nor had we practiced on an artificial ski slope, others had been on an artificial slope but done nothing else, a few had been skiing a couple of times, there were a couple who were advanced skiers, plus one who went off-piste because he was a pro.
Teaching the beginners
As a group, we had agreed that the beginners and intermediate skiers should have group lessons with instructors. We had about 5 group lessons booked that were nearly 2 hours long and 4 private lessons that were 1.5 hours longs. The latter would be more focused as we would have 2 smaller groups because there would be 2 instructors.
Before the beginning
The first part of our journey began with the equipment, which nearly all of us had hired. We needed to go to the store and get boots that were the right size. At first, just getting the boots on and off felt like a workout, but this changed as we got used to them. The staff then used the information we had shared when we booked the gear, to determine which skis and poles we would need. Some of us hired helmets from the store too.
The first lesson
The first lesson began with us putting our boots on and carrying our skis and poles to the meeting place. Then we got on what became known as ‘the magic carpet’ to get to the slope. This magic carpet was an escalator. I have forgotten a few of the details, but I recall the instructor taking us to the pre-nursery slope. There was a rope which pulled us up the slope, so that we could practice sliding down the slope. Slowly we began practicing the snow plough which was a way to help us control our speed and direction. Then we began taking turns and trying to manoeuvre around a few cones.
The varying abilities became apparent
By the end of the first lesson it was clear that some of us (including me) were picking up the skills we needed slower than the others.
About half of the group were moving between cones from further up the slope, while the rest of us were trying to master turns and slowing down from half way up the slope.
I told myself that it wasn’t a competition and that we all progress at different rates. This self-talk was the way I avoided getting sucked into thinking that being competitive and succeeding fast, was more important than learning at my pace, and having fun.
The second lesson
The group started off practicing what we’d been learning on the pre-nursery slope and this is where perhaps, the teacher was put in a tricky position.
Half of the group were ready to be introduced to the green slope, whereas the other 4 could have done with staying on the pre-nursery slope a bit longer.
We all went to the green slope. We had to travel through a tunnel that had an escalator within it, and then ski down a longer slope.
I think everyone fell a number of times but we got up and tried again. We fell on snow and we were wearing lots of padding so we were fine!
The half of the group who possibly weren’t quite ready for the green slope, spent a lot of the lesson waiting for the teacher. This was either because he suggested that we wait for him and then ski down while he watched and supported us; or it was because we didn’t want to do it without him.
Getting close to understanding how it feels for a student to be waiting for support when there’s 1 teacher with a large group
As I was waiting, I felt bad for the instructor. Why? He had to challenge, watch and guide the half that were grasping the technique more quickly. Watching took time, because the slope was fairly long. Guiding us meant he had to wait for us to stop and then share ways we could improve. He also had to constantly assess us so that he could tell us what to do next, so we were challenged. He also had to keep a look out in case we fell over, because nearly all of us couldn’t get up without his support. This may have interrupted times when he was watching, assessing, or even speaking with others. He had to remember that some of us were waiting for him at the top of the tunnel, and he couldn’t leave us there too long, or we’d spend most of the lesson waiting. However, skiing with us individually took a lot of time, during which, he also needed to assess us, give us tips and challenge us when we were ready.
He really could have done with having someone to help him with either us, ‘the support group’, or ‘the advanced group.’ I found myself being on the reverse of what I have done since 2001 i.e. teach, and I realised that this might be how children feel when they were waiting for help in class, but there’s only me to manage 30 (or more) children, without a learning assistant or parent volunteer!
There are pros and cons to every situation. We weren’t children, so we could manage ourselves. We could rationalise what was happening and be better behaved. In a class, the physical area that the teacher needs to cover is much smaller and less laborious on the body, when compared with skiing up and down the slope. In these scenarios children often find it harder to wait patiently, remain motivated and maintain good behaviour.
Our first private lesson
I picked up on the fact that the group teacher handed over to the private instructor. It was also interesting to be on the other end of self assessment. We ask the children to tell us how they think they did at the end of an activity and we sometimes ask them to decide whether they think they are ready for a harder activity or if they need something similar to what they were doing!
I realised that in this specific situation, I trusted the teachers far more than myself! I felt unable to confidently assess myself and place myself in a group. I wasn’t sure which group would be a better fit, and I think this was mostly due to the fact that I spent a lot of the lesson waiting. Had I been able to practice more on the green slope, I might have had a clearer view on which group was more suited to my level.
Interestingly enough, the instructor wasn’t sure either! I seemed to be on the border of beginner and more advanced. However, I think they picked up on the fact that I’d feel safer in the beginner’s group and so that’s where I went.
The beauty of having less students
I loved this lesson and felt I was the happiest and progressed more too. In this lesson, there was one teacher and only four learners. We had more time with the instructor, more individual guidance, we were more relaxed, we felt safer and we had less people around us so our attention was more focused.
As a teacher, I am very aware of how much of a difference it can make, when just one child is away. But that’s from a teacher’s perspective. As a learner, it was definitely noticeable!
The third group lesson
This is when we all began on the green slope and us beginners were more confident and willing to tackle it! The others went on to going on the button lift so that they could ski from higher up the same slope. By the end of that lesson, most of the beginners could get to the bottom of the green slope without falling over. It was great!
Were we too quick to judge
We later realised that many of us had wrongly assumed that the beginners were ‘learning slowly.’ Apparently, the instructors had been discussing us and the dilemma that the group had created! Us beginners were progressing at a good pace and we were on schedule for they thought we would be. The others were progressing faster than the instructors expected and were about a day ahead.
This leveling business must have bothered me a little, because hearing that made me feel a bit better. The lessons continued, and we began to enjoy it more, feel more confident and achieve more. It was a fabulous experience!
I learned more than skiing during these few days!
- I got an insight into how learners might feel when class sizes are too big
- I experienced how hard it can be to assess your own progress and level of attainment
- I witnessed the importance of teachers handing over to one another
- I caught a glimpse of how learners compare themselves to others, which might result in them under assessing themselves, which can lead to under-performing, low self-esteem, under-confidence and poor motivation
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you picked up from this experience.