Safety, fun and learning are the three major directives for every sailing instructor. If your students enjoy themselves, return uninjured, and learn something new and interesting you will have met your primary responsibilities to your students.
People expect to be safe while in the care of an expert. As a sailing instructor you are the expert. You have a responsibility to safeguard your students from harm. You have a legal duty and a personal responsibility to try to anticipate danger and protect them from it. You are responsible for taking charge of all facets of the learning environment and maintaining sufficient control of it so that nobody gets hurt.
If a student becomes injured, you have a duty to provide care to the extent of your training. More extensive treatment, beyond what you are trained to do, should be administered by qualified medical personnel.
Whatever style of sailing your various students aspire to (cruising, daysailing, racing, windsurfing, etc.), one thing they have in common is a desire for recreation. Sailing long ago lost its commercial value as a cost-effective mode of transportation. Today people sail for fun. One of the first and most common questions friends and family ask after class is, “Was it fun?” You, the instructor, have to deliver that reward or risk losing your students. If you lose your students, you are out of work, and they are out of a good learning opportunity.
Much of this manual is devoted to the specifics of teaching and learning sailing. You succeed when your students learn. But your success in getting through to them depends on setting the right tone from the outset of your relationship.
Students naturally expect a certain degree of personal attention and care from their instructor in helping them learn. No one likes feeling anonymous or neglected. Start by memorizing students’ names or use name tags to help break the ice and begin team building. Avoid the appearance of playing favorites by trying to meet the needs of ALL students. Take a few moments to make contact with each individual in your care and continue to give feedback to each of your students, as it is an important element in trust building and leadership.
Finally, treat your students with respect:
– Arrive for class on time and prepared.
– Give the class your undivided attention.
– Greet each student as you would a guest.
– Be polite and courteous at all times.
– Protect their personal confidences with proper discretion
– Accept your students’ differences objectively and professionally. It is inappropriate to be judgmental.
– Never mock or make fun of a student in or out of class.
– Provide all students with ample individual supervision.
– Answer their questions thoughtfully.
– Follow-up on any promises you make.
Sailing students want to have FUN. They expect to be SAFE. They hope to LEARN. Be the professional that fulfills their expectation.
Teaching beginners is a great challenge with an even greater reward. For more from US Sailing’s Small Boat Sailing and Coach Workbooks, visit US Sailing’s online store.