A week’s teaching and instructing makes me realise why I am glad I do not do this full-time.
On the one hand I would deeply regret to not be able to climb daily, as I love climbing, the sense of flow and balance it gives me. Also I would feel a bit of a fraud, teaching people about something I do not do myself. Do not get me wrong, by this I do not mean to value judge anybody who does different, after all there are many circumstances that may force a person to change the direction of their career, but to my mind, the link between practical work in the field and the other projects and activities I am involved in is essential in order to be able to deliver a quality product in a training or teaching context.
On the other hand I find working with novices or less experienced climbers quite a challenge. It really forces you to be concise and clear in the way you deliver content – and even then you cannot be sure it is being received the way it was intended. To put it differently: I know what I am broadcasting, yet I can never be sure what the person opposite me is receiving. This is probably one of the great mysteries of teaching.
Take this example… before lunch break on day four of last week’s level two course, one of the teams was struggling with their aerial rescue practice, as one of the climbing systems was anchored a bit too far away from the other, this made things unnecessarily difficult. So I decided to use the pull-back technique to bring the line over the other side of a large limb and closer to the other line, to make their lives easier after lunch. I got a throw line over, we attached the end of the line and I asked the trainee to tie a stopper knot to block the friction hitch, as you do, prior to pulling it up and over.
So he did.
I pulled up and over and… whoopsie, watched helplessly as the friction hitch took off upwards.
What had happened?
The guy had tied a stopper knot under the hitch, as I had requested – but not attached it into the karabiner. He was terribly apologetic and more than a bit sheepish, but I told him it was not his fault, it was a classic broadcast/receive misunderstanding. What I said was: Can you please tie a stopper knot under the friction hitch and block it. To my mind attaching the karabiner into the stopper knot was implicit to this communication, but this kind of shorthand does not work around someone who is less experienced, as will often be the case in a training situation. I had watched him tie the hitch to make sure that all was ok, yet had turned around before he attached into the lower karabiner on the Hitch Climber, as I took that bit for granted. I simply expected he would do it.
Expectations are all well and good, but it makes sense to adapt them to the situation and to the person you are dealing with. Furthermore it is wise to base them on facts and not suppositions or assumptions.
This little episode again brought home to me how important it is to consider the content and implications of what I am broadcasting, even if I consider them to be blindingly obvious, and what the person I am talking to may be receiving. To do so is not rocket science, it simply takes a bit of empathy, self-reflection and patience – and actually makes teaching more fun, as it forces you to think out of the box of conventions and assumptions you normally work with.