All that I need to know about teaching I learned while teaching skiing at Sunday River in Maine.  It may seem odd that ski instructing has anything to do with classroom instruction, but consider the atmosphere that the learner is thrust into.  They are forced to wear boots the size of trashcans, as someone once described them to me, and stand on a slippery hill with little sleds on their feet.

They face the emotional anxiety of being in a difficult learning situation and the physical discomfort caused by strange equipment and cold weather.  For someone who skis six days a week, there are many things to take for granted.  Above all what I learned was to try to see the experience through the student’s eyes.


My most memorable lesson was with a group of middle-aged women, first time skiers all, who came as a group.  All beginner lessons began on a small practice hill with a course made from traffic cones and no lift.  The idea was to exercise the students until they could easily handle turning around the cones before taking them on the chairlift

Since it was a weekday, there was only one other morning lesson on “cone hill”.  The other class moved briskly through the rudiments and hit the lift.  One of my students asked why we were not going to the lift as well I explained that we were taking more time learning the basics so that it would be easier for them on the slope.

About a third of the way down Easy Street, making perfect “S” shaped curves, we passed the other class.  They were standing on the side of the trail and looking uncomfortable and scared.  My class thanked me for preparing them so well.

Rarely does a classroom teacher receive such instant gratification from positive feedback.  One has to hope that by taking nothing for granted, challenging your students and preparing them to succeed they will sometime, somewhere thank you.