Teaching is a skill. Teaching a skill is rewarding and teaching a skill that might change peoples lives even more so. Every diver remembers their certifying instructor. It’s a pivotal moment in the development of new divers. And I even remember the feelings, fears and elation of my first dive week on Malta.
Back in 2008, my then partner – Arnold – and I were planning our vacation and I felt I had to change my life. My mom died 2 years before at the age of 45 and I wanted to lose my fears one after another to be able to live life to the fullest, to not waste time anymore and to have as few regrets as possible if I were to die as early as she did.
One of my many fears was to swim in the ocean and snorkelling was a big test of my nerves – so we decided to take a scuba vacation. Maybe being able to look at the underwater fauna and flora will help me to just jump in with both feet and free me from the constraints of not going swimming whenever a natural water source presents itself. Spoiler alert – it didn’t 🙂
It did change my life though. Kevin and Melita from Corsair Diving in Buġibba were exactly the right kinds of teachers for me back then. A dash of humour, safety conscientious, role model and mentor wrapped up in two neat packages.
Once I felt comfortable they helped me push my boundaries. I told them I was scared of stones in water, so they chose rocky places to do a dive, went through a few swim-throughs and as we added the advanced course, showed us a cave – which as I realised with experience, was not much of a cave but more a wall indentation. However, it helped me to feel like I can do this and in extension felt like I can deal with the rest of the world much more easily.
We kept diving back in Holland and enjoyed it so much that we went back to Kevin and Melita to do our Divemaster on Malta. We intended it to be an experience. Something to make us better divers and to elevate our skills rather than seriously intend to work in the field. If we could however work as divemasters in a side job somewhere back in Holland – all the better.
5 glorious weeks of being on the flip side of the dive industry and I can tell you, it has its ups and downs. Being a full-time, working instructor is hard work, both physically and mentally. It should never appear that way to your customers, however. Whether you’re briefing the first dive of the day or cleaning equipment and filling tanks when the day is over, you’re still on duty until you’ve signed the last customer’s logbook and they wave goodbye.
Long hours, beautiful underwater office, tired bodies, fishy coworkers in the most exuberant colours, heavy cylinders, grumpy customers, bloodied hands and feet, but the first time we were part of teaching someone to dive for the first time, the wonder in their eyes and the spring in their step when they left made it all worth it and forgotten where the aches and pains. That was about the time I decided that I would like to become a dive instructor in earnest. I loved teaching and now I had a skill worth teaching too.
But life has its own ways and plans and so my previous attempts at getting together the money or finding the perfect dive school were met with resistance by the universe.
A few weeks ago we decided to move to Malta for the next 2 years. Partially that was one of the first steps of testing a theory about a dream we had. Our dream was living on a boat someday when Hass had retired and being a citizen of Malta would give us a base county in which we can understand the official announcements and paperwork and tax structures and so forth. Malta was also a choice because I moved a lot for Hass, so Hass thought it would be great for me to go back to a place I had so many positive memories of and I like the idea that I don’t entirely start from scratch in getting to know people. A few people are still living there since 10 years ago.
We also decided that there is enough time to get my instructor certificate before we move. It sounded right. I would love to work in Malta, showing new divers the wrecks and spots that inspired me to get so far in the first place.
As I signed up for the IDC[modern_footnote]Instructor Development Course – the course making me ready to take the Scuba Instructor test[/modern_footnote], I noticed that it had been rather longer than I thought and to get back in the saddle booked a few dives and a wreck course. Unfortunately, the Universe had other plans for me yet again and used COVID, to make sure that I started the IDC with no practical dive refreshment whatsoever and a 4 year gap between my last dive and the first time in the water. At least I had plenty of time to wade through all the basic theory again and also revisited my old friends “dive physics” and “physiology”, together with all the other dive knowledge in the dive theory course as preparation for the IDC knowledge development and dive theory tests.
Because of the big gap, Jo [modern_footnote]My Instructor and course director [/modern_footnote] took some extra time for evaluating me and refreshing my skills. Then, the first time a hypothetical student took his regulator out and I descended with him, I doubted my entire choice of becoming an Instructor. For the hundredth time, I realized that I will be responsible for people’s choices underwater. But better I realize that in training, than out there with a customer and Jo and her team drilled me in anything a participant could do to accidentally harm themselves and how I can recognize and prevent this in an early enough stage. That’s what an Instructor development course is for after all. Over two weeks, I refreshed my skill knowledge, tested the theory I learned in preparation for this, learned teaching methods and got familiarized even closer with PADI’s standards and procedures till I felt confident enough to entertain the idea of getting tested.
I noticed again, being an instructor is both a joy and a responsibility. The right attitude is the cornerstone attribute of any respected professional diver. Without the right attitude, the remaining qualities are almost inconsequential. So I picked myself up and nervously went to the IE [modern_footnote]PADI instructor exam or IE is usually spread over 2 days and includes written Exams, classroom presentations, confined water sessions and open water teaching scenarios including a rescue scenario[/modern_footnote].
For those who don’t know me that well, I have terrible exam fear. I shook so badly taking my motorcycle license, that the bike went everywhere but straight on and with my car license I puked onto the shoes of the poor examiner. Neither of the experiences I’m proud of and in both cases, it worked out in the end so now that I am older I seemed to be able to keep my stomach content to myself at least.
I can’t say the same for my hands and my constant worried look though. So much even that some people thought I might end up with a heart attack rather than a certificate. But I concentrated and I knew my stuff, so I carried on.
I guess there is something to be said for multi-day exams. I didn’t go out as nervous and shy as I went in. By the end, I made some friends, had a few laughs, could prove my teaching qualities and enjoyed the experience on top of it. I am ready to get to Malta and use my newly formed skills and my 10+ years of dive experience to spread my love for the underwater world and my love for the wrecks of Malta.
If you’re ever in my neighbourhood, let me know and let’s go dive together!