Tuesday, March 18, 2008

All we hear is, ACA goo goo, BCU ga ga...

Well, I haven't had a really parlous deep kayak-geek moment here on the blog lately. I had a MAJOR one last night when a friend emailed asking for general thoughts on different classes I've taken at different times, from different organizations. And since I've got plans for the next couple of evenings, and too much work to really take lunch hours to blog during the day, it just hit me...

why not inflict my late-night musing on the ACA/BCU thing & my approach to classes on the blog?

Actually the kayakers might find it interesting - and part of why I'm posting is because I'd be really curious about the input of people who've taken an ACA certification course sometime within the last couple of years (paging Ron, are you out there, Ron?). I think my last one was in 2000 & it was GREAT, Ray Killen ran a fantastic ICE & I had more fun, but dang that was a long long time ago and all the rumours I hear are of major changes.

So here we go. BTW, for those who find this sort of stuff unreadable - check out the BEAUTIFUL new pool some of us from Sebago got to go check out last weekend!

Anybody still here? Here we go...

Oh gosh, question guaranteed to generate a whole lotta blah blah - hope at least a LITTLE of it is useful.

OK...first off, my ACA certification was years ago - I think I got my first training in 1999, then got certified after getting another year of teaching professionally under my belt. I got the ACA Open Water Coastal Kayaking Instructor certification, then let it lapse when I dropped out of MKC in early 2002 and was no longer teaching professionally. That was long enough ago that a) I don't remember it very precisely and b) even if I did, I think they've reworked the curriculum quite a bit, so what I remember isn't necessarily much like what they do now. They've even changed the approved modelling for some of the strokes, I've run into situations where I was teaching old-school ACA & somebody else was teaching new. Now the good thing about the new form is that under the old form, it was sort of an all or nothing thing - from what I've heard, with the new form, there are a couple more levels.

ACA vs BCU - well, I've mostly done BCU training over the last few years because I like Atlantic Kayak Tours, plus now I'm in a club that made the decision to go BCU before I joined, so I'm going after my 2star coach certification because that'll be more useful to me in my current situation, where we have a set of people who the coaches will work with for long periods. In some ways I also felt like the ACA approach - which seemed less continuous, more modular, like here, you take this 2-day class, you learn this skill set - was better for a company like MKC, where we were teaching a steady stream of new people, some of whom would come back but who frequently just wanted a quick intro before heading off to do one of those no-experience-required tours or would come out, have fun with it for a while, then move on to the next novelty. But that's one of the things that I think the ACA has changed A LOT since when I was certified - seems like it used to be more about having the skill set to give a person a solid grounding in a fairly short time (usually a weekend) - now, I think they're taking an approach closer to the BCU, with more of an emphasis on continuous training.

Long story short though - which flag an instructor has chosen to teach under really doesn't make that much difference - a good instructor is going to teach a good class, a bad instructor's going to give you a frustrating experience. Both organizations' teaching schemes are being constantly reviewed & developed by people who really care about the sport & they both teach a good solid set of skills - really no wrong or right about it, boats is boats & they don't care if your name is
Nigel or not!

So, uh, let's see...specific pieces of advice from a person with a whole patch collection on the bookshelf -

Well, the big one is, have fun, and when you're in charge of a section, try to make sure your "students" are having fun too. Keep your group together, stay focused & engaged, the IT is always watching, even if it's not "your turn" (what you do when you're not on stage says things just as much as what you're doing when the spotlight's on you, no pressure mwahahahaaaa!)

Approach the class with an open mind. Like I said, there's conflicting versions of things being taught out there. Your instructor trainer may teach something differently than the way you were taught - be flexible, give their way a try, it's all just a little more for your own bag of tricks. Three years down the road, it will change again - it's a young & evolving sport, it's all part of the fun.

Personally, I tend to not stress out that much anymore about whether I'm going to pass or not when I take a training class. My 2-star coach assessment may be a different matter as our club really needs a couple more of us certified - but when
I'm doing something purely for kicks, like when I went for my BCU 4 star, I just go into it with the idea that I AM going to walk out of that weekend with some good stuff, if there's a patch, too, well, awesome, but the weekend's about learning new stuff & solidifying old & as long as I walk out feeling like a better, stronger, more confident paddler (or instructor) - well, then it wasn't a waste. Looking at it that way, I'm more relaxed, I have more fun, and I paddle better. Making "passing" the be all & end all just puts a lot of pressure on a course that's really a ton of fun (it really is - one thing I remember about both of the ACA certification classes I did was that there was an awful lot of laughing - there were serious moments but a lot of it was like one big game).

Nice thing about the IDW, assuming that they are running it even close to how they used to (warning - that's a HUGE assumption!) - the first weekend, they will teach you to teach - it's pretty low-pressure, and you'll get comfortable with your IT & the rest of the group. At the end of the weekend, you'll have a sit-down with your IT - you won't be going into the ICE blind, you'll know what the IT thinks are your strengths & what things they feel you might need to focus on a little more (and if they don't find some of the latter, they aren't doing the job you're paying 'em to do!)

I guess the one other universal piece of info you always hear about these things, that's very true & worth remembering -

The instructors are totally rooting for you to do great.

So there you are.

Hm. Claire told me I should put about six inches of horse manure on my little garden bed. I think this would just about do it if I could just figure out how to extract it from cyberspace...

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