The making of a Diving Instructor - Part 1

It's been a while since I updated the site and I know that is not a good thing. I haven't been sitting idle however and that leads me to the purpose of this post. I'm currently sitting in a serviced apartment in Port Vila, Vanuatu! As the post title suggests, I'm here to earn my PADI Dive Instructor qualification and fulfil a dream that has been kicking around quietly since I started diving back in 1990.

The story that leads here isn't a particularly interesting one but the journey since I've arrived has been quite enlightening. Our course director, Mick Wheatley, has been pushing our class of four trainee-instructors through the material and early dive sequences at a rapid pace. Classroom days, pool days and more classroom! The speed is tiring but this is somewhat a marathon, not a sprint and I need to conserve the energy I have to make sure I hit the exam next week fresh and prepared.

The interesting thing about a PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) is that all the raw dive theory and skills are basically assumed knowledge. In other words your theory and skills need to be completely on point and practically at "instructor level" on day one; there's no remedial work for trainees with gaps in their dive capability. Thinking about this is daunting because the exam tests not just our skills and knowledge (exhaustively) it also evaluates our skills and more importantly our ability to teach those skills.

And there's the key point; we are being taught how to teach what we already know. Whilst it's easy to say that, and it sounds relatively straight forward, the reality is the devil is in the detail. Even simple skills require many considerations and subtle nuanced steps in execution that after years of diving are automatic. Then we need to break out those subtleties and explain them simply to a novice in a way that is engaging, informative and simple to follow. Now multiply that by hundreds of different skills across the entire PADI curriculum and you're starting to get a picture of the vast mountain that lies ahead of me called the "Instructor Exam"!

Speaking of the exam, the passing grade is quite high. So "P's for degrees" might work at University (hell, it did for me) it wont cut it; try 75% for most components and even higher in others. This is even higher than the Airline Transport Pilot License pass of 65% per exam and aggregate of 75% overall (when I did it anyway). When I got to thinking about this it makes sense. As a pilot, if I do something dopey that could kill the passengers, I have some skin in the game because I'm in the same aeroplane. However, as a diving instructor, I can easily kill someone through neglect or ignorance and yet I walk away unscathed (physically). That is one heck of a responsibility!

Right now, I'm feeling daunted but inspired. I haven't felt this mentally and physically challenged since I was doing my flying training back in 1993-94! I've always said diving scratches an itch that flying used to, and now I'm really starting to feel it. Bring on the exam (next week).


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