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3 Factors Ruining Your Scuba Education
diverdown53 - 10/24/2014 2:08 PM
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3 Factors Ruining Your Scuba EducationI’ve seen a lot of good students with bad instructors and I’ve seen a lot of good instructors with bad students. This has as much to do with the mindsets and motivations of the individuals involved as it has to do with their actual abilities. I find the following three major factors work against both students and instructors in the dive industry:

1. Certification vs Education

When you show up for any level of scuba training, whether it is an open water certification or a technical diving course, your primary purpose is to learn. A student’s primary purpose should not be to receive a little plastic certification card, nor should the instructor’s primary motivation be to issue one. If it is, you should reconsider your motivation for training and pursuing diving.

A great failure in the dive industry today is that both students and instructors, whether due to irresponsible marketing or money-hungry dive centers, seem no longer to understand the difference between paying for training and paying for certification. Most open water students seem to feel that if they pay for 3-4 days of training, they are already entitled to a certification. Unfortunately, some instructors seem to agree. But what is a certification without the ability behind it?

Scuba diving students are paying for training, not for certification. Dive students should show up prepared to invest time in themselves; to improve themselves, their diving skills and techniques. Certification will follow naturally once a student has spent whatever time and effort is necessary to master the dive theory and techniques presented in the course. Keep in mind, both as a student and as an instructor, that even if a student walks away from a scuba course without a certification, neither party has necessarily failed. As long as the student has gained experience and knowledge, which is the true value of any education, a course can be considered a success.

2. Ego vs Education

I am often asked “how can you pick a good instructor?” In this regard, I know many instructors that offer great courses, some of whom have big egos. I also know bad instructors who have even bigger egos. My response is always this, "Pick instructors that will invest their time in you, not their egos."

Egos, both those of the instructor and of the student, can be a huge problem in dive training. I find that some instructors try to stroke their own egos by impressing upon their students how tough, how cool, or how great the instructors are. Similarly, students may enroll in a course simply out of peer pressure or to prove that they are hardcore. Both of these attitudes can get in the way of the ultimate goal of a dive course: education. When students enroll in courses as an ego-boost, they are less likely to take feedback from the instructor, therefore diminishing their educational opportunities and personal development. Instructors who focus on their own egos will likely care more about their own vanity and how they appear than about the education and experience of their students.

Instead, students should focus on learning skills and should be open and receptive to feedback, even if the feedback is that certain dive skills need to improve. Instructors must surpass their egos and work for the benefit of the students. Instructors should aim to provide students with safe and reliable instruction, demonstrating patience, compassion, and restraint (not acting like dancing monkeys, entertaining students with stories of their greatness or task loading the students just to prove a point.) Remember, we are simple diving instructors teaching highly specialized courses for the safety and benefit of our students, we are not movie stars or politicians. The goal of both the student and the instructor should be to make the student as good as he or she is capable of becoming during the time allotted for the course.

Again, a dive course that does not result in certification does not necessarily reflect negatively on either the instructor or the student. If a student needs more training, the student needs more training. Remember a good student invests money and time in training to improve himself, not to glorify an instructor. I grew up in the world of Marital Arts and thought that only the world of politics could contain and exhibit more ego. I was wrong. Beware: Ego is everywhere!

3. Time and Financial Pressure vs Education

Scuba education is first and foremost an investment in bettering yourself and your diving skills. Unfortunately, education takes time, and time costs money, even if it is your own time. Try to remember that not just your diving education, but any education, is something you can never lose and no one can ever take from you. Even if you lost all the money or property you own, you will always have what you’ve learned.

I have witnessed many dive students cramming for exams without investing the time to actually learn anything, other than how to forget so they have the space to cram for the next round of useless information. These students are sometimes awarded a certification or diploma simply because they learned how propagate a system. Often, this is done to finish a course quickly and receive the certification with as little investment in time and money as possible.

I have also witnessed scuba instructors brushing over skills and certifying students with a substandard understanding of dive theory or skills simply to finish a course quickly and receive their course fees. In cases where time constraints and financial concerns take priority over a solid base of dive theory and a mastery of dive skills, I would say that the student has wasted both his time and his money.

This is an unfortunate result of the money and the need for profit involved in any system of education, scuba diving included. Many people attain high degrees of rank, authority, certification, accreditation, influence or prominence simply because of money and ego without regard to the true education of their students or how it may affect their wellbeing in the future.

I find these factors pervasive in the dive industry and disgustingly unfortunate. I try to the very core of my being to reverse this way of thinking in not just diver and instructor level courses, but every detail of life. Unfortunately, due to this philosophy I have lost more than one job or student, but as it was well quoted in the movie Kingdom of Heaven: "Who is a man that does not try to make the world a better place."

Thanks to About Sports

Kathy Dowsett