Tricks, Tactics, and Technique: Copy, Choose, Create

Tricks, Tactics, and Technique: Copy, Choose, Create

Written by Noah Hopkins – RM Education Children’s Staff & Committee Member

Mountains Are Full of Magic

Think about some of the first lessons you taught. For me, it was a copy-and-paste job. I was shown a progression by my trainers and all I had to do was copy what I saw. And, honestly, this made it easier for me to also manage all of the other variables of teaching that inevitably presented themselves…remembering every student’s name, keeping my group safe, making sure the 7-year-old’s weren’t crying or trying to run away from me… You remember. Ahhh, the wonder years.

Sometimes the cookie cutter progression I had been handed at Basic Training didn’t work. I probably just tried teaching the skill again the same exact way. Freud’s definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. And it probably made me a little crazy to teach the same way over and over again. But it was the only tool I had in the box, until I talked about it with a colleague at line-up or in the locker room, where I would learn about a “trick” I could use. And, miraculously, the tricks worked! Just like magic, I didn’t necessarily know how they worked, but it didn’t matter. I could start distancing myself from insanity just a little bit.

Over time, I added more tricks to my bag and could begin to pull them out as I saw fit. It wasn’t until I dove into Cert 2 training that I connected the tricks with specific fundamentals of snowboarding. As I began to link stance and body movements with equipment performance, the veil began to lift. What was once a magical trick metamorphosed into a tactic that could be combined with other tactics or scaled in different directions of duration, intensity, and timing.

Equipped with the knowledge of cause-and-effect relationships, I was able to apply tactics with added precision, tailored to each student’s demonstrated ability. My bag of tactics became an artist’s palette and with each application, I refined my technique and each student learned how to stop and turn in less time than the one before.

Certification Pathway

You might have already heard the phrase, “Copy, Choose, Create”. Not only do these verbs represent a simplified version of Bloom’s Taxonomy, but they can also be associated with typical skillsets at each level of Certification. As a Level 1 Certified Instructor, we’ve demonstrated an ability to copy a basic beginner progression and teach students how to use their equipment, load and unload a chairlift, and safely control speed and direction.

The path from Level 1 to Level 2 is defined by a significant amount of problem solving. “Why didn’t this work for my student?” And at that point, we seek out alternative methods of teaching (tricks). A trick often works, but we don’t necessarily know how or why. Once we understand how and prescribe it appropriately for the situation, then it becomes a chosen tactic.

The path from Level 2 to Level 3 is defined by an explorative process of proofing and experimentation. Through this experience, we deepen our understanding about which tactics work best in a variety of applications and circumstances. With an open and creative mind, we can also synthesize new tactics.

Level 3 Certified Instructors share a common foundation of understanding and have comparable bags of tactics. However, they are likely to have developed slightly different opinions about which tactics work best for their students. This becomes known as our technique. Each technique has its merits and a champion able to explain the technique through a technical lens. The quest beyond Level 3 is mastering techniques other than our own and becoming a supplier to instructors seeking to fill their own bag of tricks and tactics.

Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn

Teaching and learning go hand in hand and each experience complements the other. As a first-year instructor we learn how to teach. Our ability to teach dynamically expands as we learn more about fundamental concepts and understand teaching, technical, and people skills from a broader perspective.

It’s easy to become complacent about the way we teach or the process we use. There are always opportunities to expand our skillset. Consider where you’re at in your teaching. Perhaps you can take some different lesson assignments and go beyond the ordinary instructor experience. Lessons with children are always an easy avenue for creativity and reinvention.

As you consider training goals for this season, take a moment to self-evaluate. Are you still using some teaching tricks to get the job done? Have a conversation with a trainer or another instructor to make logical sense of it all and create a platform for higher learning.

And for those of you with an established bag of tactics and techniques, consider sharing more of what you know with first- and second-year instructors. As you teach everything you know, you’re bound to learn a little more about the craft we enjoy so much.

Noah Hopkins is an Assistant Training Manager with Breckenridge Ski & Snowboard School, member of the Rocky Mountain Division’s Children’s Education Training Team (CETT), and RM Children’s Committee Member.

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