In an unending quest to develop Indian Valley Scuba into the finest dive center in the Northeast, your own Dave Valaika finally has entered PADI’s highest level training program, the Course Director Training Course. This comprehensive two week program, conducted once annually at two locations, Newport Beach CA and Malaysia, brings some of the most qualified PADI Master Instructors from around the globe together to help develop them into Course Directors, able to go forth and train the next generation of PADI instructors. For me personally, this has been 33 years of diving in the making, and I’m thrilled to have been accepted into the program.
My journey started on an auspicious note, as I landed at John Wayne airport in Orange County, CA. My flights from Philadelphia through Atlanta were uneventful, and even on-time, not always something to be expected anymore. I wandered on down to the baggage carousel, feeling pretty good so far, and waited for my bags to arrive….and I waited…and I waited. Three bags sent, only one arrives with me….so much for the uneventful travel! The good news is that my friends at Delta have confirmed that my bags are indeed traveling westward, but they opted for a different flight than me. They should arrive on the Delta flight due in at 10:49 p.m that evening, which is exactly 11 minutes before the mandated 11 o’clock curfew on arriving flights kicks in and they shut the lights off at the airport! So, praying for a strong tail wind and no weather delays in-route, I waited paitently for my errant bags to re-unite with their rightful owner.
As the clock ticked slowly towards the curfew, the skilled pilots managed to touch ‘wheels down’ spot on at 10:49, saving the day and bringing my bags and all materials I needed for my coursework to me. A quick (second) wait at the carousel, and I had my bags. Now for some much needed rest and start of a busy two weeks.
The first official day of the program started off great, with much anticipation for each individual as well as the group as a whole. Years of planning and preparation had led each of the candidates to this moment, and it was obvious at first glance what a qualified and prepared group this was! We started off with a general orientation, some in-dpth personal introductions, and a chance to meet and mingle with the other 37 candidates selected for this year’s program. Over 140 PADI Master Instructors worldwide applied for this course, and the final selection was based on a scoring system that included teaching experience, number of PADI certifications issued, continuing education, and most importantly, the submission of a personal business plan outlining how each candidate will best go forward and promote the PADI program in their local area. It’s a very diverse group here, with only 9 Americans among the 38 candidates. The U.K. has a large contingent, and there are a number of Canadians also, plus folks from places such as Brazil, Spain, Sweden, Dubai, Egypt, U.A.E., Malayasia, Korea and more..….a very international group overall. And as a result there are a number of translators in the room also, so any given presentation is being simuoultaneously listened to and spoken again in a multitude of languages for the non-English speaking candidates. I even found myself having to translate for my new friend Rob Mills – he only speaks Canadian! Thank goodness I have so much language training with Jim Cormier, Tom Brennan and our other regular gang of IVS Canucks!
The group was divided into six teams, and parts of the program wil involve some friendly competition between the teams. The groups were assigned by color, and one of our first team assignments was to select a name for our unit. As the red team, we couldn’t come up with anything more creative than the “Red Bulls”, hoping the name inspires to ‘give us wings’ to fly through the next two weeks of PADI course director boot camp!
A long first day indeed, but full of very informative presentations and group discussions as the PADI team set the tone and pace for our program. It is very exciting to be here and to be part of such a unique group!
Finally the time arrived for us to take a break from all the great input and board a bus to go visit Mecca of scuba diving, PADI World Headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. We journeyed down the highway, entertained by the less-than-stellar jokes of PADI examiner John Land, as he tried to inspire others to take the microphone and share some of our humor. Unfortunately the rules were that the jokes had to be clean, non-discriminatory, politically safe, non-religious…you get the picture – that rules out every single joke in my repetoire!
Finally we arrived at PADI HQ, and our first stop was a photo session along the PADI pool. Then a thorough tour of the PADI facility, where we got the chance to meet so many of the folks who support our programs and take care of our needs every day – very cool to finally put faces to the voices on the phone and to the emails!
We ended with a tour of Founders Hall, virtually a museum within PADI, chock full of diving and PADI history, displays and memorabilia. And they opened the PADI private tavern for us, serving libations of all flavors and putting out a great spread of food for all to enjoy. Many of the PADI luminaries joined us, and I had the chance to enjoy some excellent conversations with PADI Chairman Brian Cronin, CEO Drew Richardson, Director of Worldwide Training Johnny Wetzstein, and host of others. The drinks and relaxed setting had the intended affect on the class, and before you know it everyone was enjoying themselves and chatting and sharing stories. Good thinking on PADI’s part, and a great way to foster bonding within the group. Finally, it was time to surface, and we boarded the bus and returned to our hotel for the night.
Our second day started off with four non-stop hours of us learning all about the pyschology of evaluation and counseling of instructor candidates – some deep stuff indeed. Lots of role play back and forth – oh fun!
We followed that exciting morning up with our Prescriptive Teaching workshop, where we broke into small teams and worked together to help develop our prescriptive teaching assignments which we will present to the group tomorrow. My particular assignment is to review an incorrect answer from the Project Aware course, about diving “Aware”. A perfect opportunity for me to wax on about Zen and the art of scuba diving – “be the ray!” By mid-afternoon we were ready for something new and different, and that’s exactly what we got as we transitioned to the pool for our skill circuit review. Here we worked in our teams, going from station to station, and performing demonstration-quality examples of standard diving skills that we teach all the time in our classes. The Davester was on a roll, scoring an average of 4.9 points per skill out of a possible 5.0, when we came to the combination weight belt removal followed by underwater BCD removal skill set. As most know, I wear a backplate & wing system, and with such a setup, I never need to wear any weights. Well, never is a relative term, and when you are performing your skills for this program, you will be wearing a weight belt! So, I threw one on, and we submerged for our team to perform the two skills. Weight belt off & on – no problem, and I added another 4 or 5 points to my evaluation score. Now, the BCD removal – well let me tell you, your BCD comes off a whole lot easier if you don’t have your crotch strap tangled up in your weight belt! Dang! There went my perfect day, and my fun-loving Red Bulls team gave me the moniker of “Do it again Dave” – nice bunch, eh? Enough on that, but rest assured we’ll be revisiting that particular skill later this week!!
Following the skill circuit, we then went on to a Confined Water Evaluation Workshop, watching and scoring the PADI Examiners as they conducted pool teaching presentations for us to grade, and then to compare our scores. Finally, after about four non-stop hours in the pool we called it quits for the night, and went to work on our presentation assignments for tomorrow.
Today’s focus was clearly followed the Marine Corps philosphy, where they “break them down and build them back up as Marines”. Each of us came to this program with a fair degree of confidence in our ability to listen and watch presentations given, and to accurately score them based on the PADI evaluation process. Well, scratch that! Our entire morning was spent listening to five different knowledge review presentations given by PADI Examiners. Each presentation was carefully scripted to challenge the candidates ability to carefully evaluate the content, delivery, effectiveness and accuracy of the presentation. And challenge us they did – it was utterly amazing to see the range of scores and interpretations of what the different candidates saw or perceived from the presentations. Obviously we need some work here!!
Following that self-esteem busting morning, we then spent half the afternoon working on the preparation of our IDC academic presentations, which we’ll be giving in a day or two. Learning all the in’s and out’s of the preferred PADI system, we were able to make significant team and individual progress on our assigned topics. The key difference here is changing our mindset from presenting to diving students, to working with instructor candidates.
Finally the moment we had been waiting for, our chance to make our first public academic Knowledge Review presentations to the class. Lots of nervous energy filled the room, but each of us proceeded to present our topic to the class, with an examiner and a fellow candidate performing the evaluation while we spoke. Each of us took our turn at the gallows, er, I mean podium, and proceeded to make our presentations to the group. Other than the usual little hiccups, it really showed how much the candidates had prepared and how uniquely qualified each was to become a PADI Course Director. I was even able to maintain my stellar 4.9 out of 5.0 point average for this portion of the program. The evaluators felt I was just a little short on one area of my presentation – ready for this? I didn’t SELL hard enough! For a guy who could sell ice cubes to eskimos, this was clearly not an area I focused on in preparing my presentation. Oh well, live & learn, I guess I’ll have to work on my selling techniques!
As the candidates filed into the meeting hall today, the group was treated to a outstanding display of Team Red Bulls solidarity, with each member of the team wearing the official team color. Go Team Red!!
Today’s topic du jour was marketing, and how we could most effectively market and sell instructor level training programs and beyond. Tons of great ideas and information shared, lots of interactions and discussion among the candidates, notes being furiously taken all around the room, indicative of just how much good information was being gleaned from this session. Keeping things light, the folks from PADI, led by VP James Morgan, kept the teams competing against each other with trivia contests, diving knowledge questions, and of course, the dreaded ‘Gong’ each time the break timer went to zero.
For the afternoon we enjoyed a great session, led by eMarketing Executive Amy Warren, that covered electronic marketing, e-learning, and the web. The information superhighway, as some of us like to call it, is truly one of the most under-tapped and under-appreciated assets we have available to use in our businesses. Amy shared with us an extensive list of valuable tips and tricks to help energize our website activity and usage, and to bring the full power of the web to bear for us to use in our business growth. Fantastic session overall, and the Red Bulls scored heavily in the bonus points with lots of interaction and participation from our team. PADI’s Linda Van Velsan handed out stars as awards for group participation, and my name tag had a bit of a “Mr. T” look to it with all the glitter and bling from the stars that were awarded to yours truly, the Quiet One. At the end of the session the I ended up tied for second and Team Red Bulls ended up in first place with 23 stars awarded. Go team!!
One of the most interesting and personally rewarding moments of the day came when the discussion turned towards how dive shops and Course Directors can best utilize the power of the internet to connect with current and future clients – and the example PADI used was Indian Valley Scuba’s website, and specifically, Dave’s Dive (b)Log – where we are blogging this entire course real-time! How cool was that? Good thing I was not shopping for hats this afternoon, as I am sure I could not find one big enough to fit!!
Finally it was time to “transition to the pool”, as they like to say in PADI-land, and to give our first Confined Water presentations to the group. I had a particularly difficult skill to teach – Cramp Removal. Hours and hours were spent in the preparation of my presentation, with lots of thoughts given to potential problems and how the designated ‘students’ could try to trick me up on this.
First up on the agenda was a Rescue Workshop, where we got to watch the PADI Pro’s show us how to effectively conduct a Rescue Workshop for IDC instructor candidates. PADI’s Supervisor of Instructor Development Alan Jan, and Examiner Neil Fishburne from the PADI UK office, gave us hands-on training, tips & techniques on how to do it right! After that we had a chance to practice it amongst ourselves, and Team Red is looking good, dare I say. Finally, it was time for our first Confined Water teaching presentations, and each candidate got a chance to show their mettle to the group. First a thorough briefing, then a demonstration, followed by working with the students (each of whom was assigned a problem) and finishing with a de-briefing. By this time, I must admit my Kor-English is getting pretty darn good, and I am actually starting to understand ahead of Ju Ju Hyun Lee as she interprets for our two Korean speaking team members, Duck Koo Han from Phuket, Thailand, and Hyun Joon Kim from the Philippines. Sharon Ainsworth from Womersley, England speaks a close-enough form of English for me (lord knows what those people did to our language over there!), and finally Joanna Mikutowicz from Honolulu and I are spot on with our lingo. Maintaining my consisten upper mediocre scores for the week, my presentation earned me another ‘perfectly near the top but not quite’ 4.8 out of 5.0 and my evaluation alongside the PADI examiner’s control score scored well, matching 4 of 5 scores and only differing by one point on the final one. Woo hooo!
Saturday dawns, but there is no rest for this dedicated (and weary) group. Our exciting topic this morning was Instructor Development Standards. This riveting discussion, led by Alan Jan, covered one of the most challenging aspects of running Instructor Development Courses – the dreaded paperwork monster! We reviewed all the forms associated with Instructor Development and all it’s components, paying special attention to all the “T’s” to cross and “i’s” to dot to ensure the files are properly papered and the applications are complete at all levels. We covered Con-Ed, Staff Instruction, Specialty Instructors, Crossovers, Status Updates…..you get the idea. Lots and lots of details. After that invigorating session, we then had the chance to step up the inter-team competition with a little version of PADI Bonus Knowledge Rounds, with points awarded for correct team answers, ranging from 1 to 500 points, based on a very scientific scoring basis – NOT! Penalties were also assessed for answering wrong, answering too quick, whining over scores, or whatever else inspired Alan to head to the big white board and adjust the scores.
After lunch, we enjoyed quite the surprise when we were introduced to PADI’s latest product, the new eRDP – Multi Level version! This little puppy replaces the current eRDP AND the never-easy-to-master Wheel RDP. It allows calculator type operation for planning and calculating dives, including multi-level dives. Very Cool product and one we’ll intergrate into our PADI Multilevel diver class immediately.
Finally, if that wasn’t enough, Project AWARE Director Jenny Miller Garmendia, assisted by Ania Budziak, spent most of the afternoon enlightening our group about the latest and greatest from Project AWARE, and shared tips on how we can incorporate this program into our instruction, and how to best encourage the next generation of instructors (which we should be responsible for producing!) to embrace Project AWARE and support it on every level, most importantly with diver education and participation.
Our day wrapped up with another round of Knowledge Review presentations, and a general question & answer session regarding PADI contacts, setting up IDC’s and a host of other topics.
Our activities for today and tomorrow center around two optional training programs that PADI offers in conjunction with this years CDTC. First on the list was the new PADI Emergency Oxygen Provider specialty course. Taught by DSAT Instructional Designer Bob Wohlers, this just-released specialty certification is being introduced to teach O2 providers specific for the diving community. It is similar to the DAN O2 Provider Course, but expands a bit on the basic DAN O2 Course, while not quite being equal to the DAN Advanced O2 program. Look for it soon at Indian Valley Scuba. Our second half of the day was devoted to the new PADI Digital Underwater Photography specialty course, with Bob being joined by John Land & Karen Boss. Each of them spent the afternoon sharing techniques for teaching and marketing this program in our Instructor Development programs.
An early start found us gathered at the PADI van at 7:15, in time to head over to catch the Catalina Express high speed catamaran over to Catalina Island, a beautiful little little bump in the Pacific about 30 miles off the coast of Southern California. Our destination was the lovely hamlet of Avalon, and the Avalon Underwater Park, a marine preserve located at Casino Point on the island. Our mission today was to demonstrate to Bob Wohler that we had indeed completed our homework assignments from last night and that we were ready to take some good photographs under the water today. Dive #1 found us working without strobes, using white balance and natural light to bring out the beauty of the aquatic scenery and the divers too! Nice dive, an hour in the 68 degree water, warm to some of us, and cold to some (including the Swedish contingent who were diving in drysuits – go figure!) After a short surface interval, we headed back in for dive 2, where we we allowed to use our strobes and given a laundry list of assigned photos to take, using various settings and composition techniques to really work test our photographic prowess. Hundreds, no maybe thousands of photos taken, and probably a dozen really good ones too! Ha ha,,,,not the easiest thing, but the park provided us with the perfect setting to attempt to achieve our goals. And by the end of the day, after some counseling with Bob, we were ready for our next trip into the water with cameras!
Back in the classroom after the day of diving, our exciting topic to start the day were Quality Management & Risk Management Workshop. Led by PADI’s Steve Mortell, this session delved deeply into understanding the intricacies of customer complaints, standards violations and how PADI maintains the organizations standards of quality worldwide. This was followed by each team presenting their own IDC marketing presentation, where we pitched our virtual dive center to attract a specific target customer. The results of the past few days efforts were obvious as the teams presented newly-minted websites, email histories with the target customer, and a variety of other great ideas to help others reach out to bring the clients in. Team Red Bull finished with an honorable mention in this event, with the Blue Marlins (huh?) taking the Blue Ribbon for today. Lots of fun, lots of creativity – good stuff!
The afternoon led off with Alan Jan conducting an Open Water Evaluation workshop, where we reviewed what the PADI Examiners are looking for in a candidates presentation. Very helpful info to tailor our own teaching styles around when we get back home. Finally it was time for each of us to present our second individual IDC level presentation, and present we did! The Red Team members passed with flying colors, and this is finally off the list! Some individual counseling wrapped up the day, and we left to get ready for our Open Water work tomorrow, starting with a 5:45 a.m. gathering to board the bus to the ferry.
4:30 came early as the alarm roused me from my slumber, and I set about preparing for the days activities. Pack the gear. grab some grub, and board the PADI bus for the ride to the Long Beach ferry terminal. My antennas were wiggling at the timing of our departure, and sure enough, when we arrived at the not-yet-open ferry terminal at 6:30 for our 8:00 boat. Hmmmmm…..I was in the Army years ago, and I thought I had finished with this ‘hurry up and wait’ stuff. Oh well, finally we boarded the high speed catamaran and headed over to Catalina Island to complete the final required presentations and evaluations for thr program. We disembarked, humped our gear to the waiting truck, and jumped into some taxis for the short ride to the Descantos Beach Club. The folks at Scuba Luv in Avalon had done their part, and we found tanks, weights, and belts, all neatly arranged on – you guessed it – blue tarps (remember, this is California). Each team geared up, and we met the Examiner who had been assigned to our group for the day. Small world, our examiner was John McFadden, who was the PADI Examiner on my original PADI Instructor Examination many years ago. Fate is funny, eh? My personal assignment for the open water presentation was Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent, or CESA. This is probably the premier PADI diver skill in both confined and open water, primarily due to the risk of diver injury in the event of an improper execution of the skill. No pressure, eh?
Once we got geared up we headed into the water and conducted a descent workshop first, then began our skills. Everyone marched through, showing great IDC presentation skills. Finally, it was my turn, and I was able to finally score that perfect 5.0 score that had been eluding me all week long!! Yeah baby! Back to the beach for a de-briefing, then lunch. After a quick snack I grabbed my gear and jogged over to the Casino, where I was able to grab a tank from the kiosk and head in for lone last California dive for the week. Great dive, octopus galore, big bat ray rooting in the sand, tons of sushi all around. Great way to cap the day’s activities.
Finally it was time to re-board the ferry and head on back. Note to PADI staff here – it was VERY uncool for the PADI staff members to enjoy the upgraded First Class lounge for the return trip (as well as this mornings run out) while the rest of us had to grovel amongst the common folk. It would have been a very powerful positive statement for PADI to have reserved first class tickets for the ride home, as a token of award for a job well done for each of the candidates who as of today have essentially completed the requirements of the program. Hope PADI reads this and perhaps makes a note for future CDTC’s.
Remedial Course Director training was the planned activity for this morning, as the various candidates with requirements to make up or re-do gathered in the classroom or at the pool. Everyone did well, and we put the required task list to rest. Then Johnny Wetzstein led a comprehensive discussion and review on the roles and responsibilities of the PADI Course Director. Great question & answer session, lots of good points raised.
Finally it was time to let out the deep breath of relief – we passed! Welcome thirty-eight new PADI Course Directors into the family! We celebrated that evening with a great dinner, a fun picture & video show of the past two weeks, and awardng of credentials to the candidates. Mission accomplished!
Filed under: Indian Valley Scuba, PADI | Tagged: Course Director, Indian Valley Scuba, Instructor, PADI | 4 Comments »