Why Become a PADI IDC Staff Instructor?

PADI IDC Staff Instructor is the last core recreational course before Course Director. It’s a real achievement to attain Staff Instructor so I thought I’d list three of the main reasons to push for the rating and also how to start:

1.Teaching IDCs.

PADI IDC Staff Instructor allows you to teach the Assistant Instructor part of the IDC. This is a great course to teach as it keeps you directly in touch with the standards and updates to the PADI system. It also makes you an invaluable member of the dive centre’s teaching staff as you can promote and aid the dive centre’s instructor development courses.

The London IDC has grown in success over the last couple of years and by becoming a Staff Instructor you can help to engage new candidates and also assist on the IDCs themselves. When we have lots of candidates, Staff Instructors are invaluable to the process. You won’t just be hanging about watching, you’ll be an integral part of the team, running teaching presentations and evaluating the candidates. I personally believe that helping run an IDC is one of the most rewarding jobs you can do as a diving instructor.

2.Master Instructor

After you attain Staff Instructor you’ll be able to begin working your way towards the Master Instructor rating. This relies on teaching AIs and also staffing IDCs. It’s not easy to attain and carries real kudos too.

3.Refreshing your skills.

Even if you’re not too fussed about teaching AI or Master Instructor many Staff candidates comment to me how useful they found sitting in on the IDC again without the pressure of the IE at the end. You’ll be able take everything in again as well as learn about new teaching methodologies. You’ll then be able to apply this to your everyday recreational courses. For example, we cover the neutral buoyancy recommendations for teaching all courses now including hints and tips for getting your students into trim and how to exercise control whilst neutrally buoyant.

What does the PADI Staff Instructor Course involve?

When should you think about staff? To start off, you’ll need to be a Master Scuba Diver Trainer which means having 25 certs and also 5 specialities. I did my Staff exactly one year after my OWSI and just after attaining MSDT.  There’s no great value in waiting until you have 100s of certs under your belt to do the course as, a bit like Advanced following on from Open Water, the information you’ll cover will be useful straight away.

The Staff course itself is fairly straightforward. We need to cover 4 short lectures and you’ll also need to repeat the exams scoring 80% instead of 75%. You’ll need to do a knowledge development presentation and also a confined water presentation scoring a minimum of 4 instead of 3.5 and 3.4. After that you’ll audit a full IDC learning how to evaluate the teaching presentations and matching scores with the Course Director. As such we can run the PADI IDC Staff Instructor course anytime we have an IDC running.

For more information have a look at the course page and also please do drop me a line!

DIVE MYTHS #6: I’m out of air! Er, could I have some please?

The various equipment configurations, hand signals and techniques that revolve around an out of gas emergency are ripe for a good old fashioned internet bun fight. From the contentious to the just plain wrong there are plenty of arguments for the best way to donate gas.

There is a general consensus amongst some divers that in an emergency an out of gas diver will simply rip the reg out of their buddies mouth. This has led to some people poo pooing octo donation as a waste of time or teaching people to cover their reg with one hand whilst handing off the octo with another which gives the overall impression of someone handing medicine at arms length to a plague victim.

In actual fact, most of the time, people follow their training in an emergency. Therefore if they learn to breathe from an octo that is predominantly what they will attempt to do.

At the other end of the scale there used to be a 2 step signal for an out of gas diver whilst practising an out of air drill. This involved giving the standard swipe across the neck to indicate out of air followed by a more plaintive hand to mouth gesture that was supposed to be a request for sharing gas. I used to love the idea that someone might swim up to someone under the water giving a frantic out of air signal only to have their potential rescuer simply look at them blankly in a ‘what do you want me to do about it?’ kind of way until clarification is provided in the form of the air sharing signal: ‘Oh, you want me to give you some gas- why didn’t you say so in the first place?’

Creed With arms wide open

The lead singer (who’s name I couldn’t be bothered to google) from rubbish christian rock band Creed throws his ‘arms wide open’ to reveal his octo.

The current status quo in teaching is to teach the out of gas diver to locate and secure the octopus after giving the signal whilst the donating diver throws their arms wide in a crucifixion pose of beneficence. ‘Here’ it seems to imply ‘Pluck my alternate from my lean and muscular torso and I shall grant you the precious gift of air’. The logic of this methodology seems sound: We are teaching divers to self rescue so we are essentially making the donor an irrelevance during the exercise. However when we look at this set up, do we really want to be teaching the donor to fling their arms wide whilst the out of gas diver attempts to free the octo from one of the myriad of attachments on the marketplace? Surely a bit like telling people not to yell for ‘pizza’ in a rescue course it would make more sense to inject a little more realism?

We don’t really want to teach people right off the bat to do nothing in an out of gas emergency so therefore let’s teach the donor to pass off the octopus.

First off before a collective gasp of horror emerges from the angry instructors of milton keynes this is a directive filtering through from the top bods at PADI. Secondly, let’s have a look at the performance requirement: ‘Secure and breathe from an alternate air source’. It doesn’t say to remove it from the donor’s BCD. In fact, it doesn’t say what side the octo should orient, how long the hose should be nor does it say octo at all. This means that if you want to teach primary long hose donation then knock yourself out. This also means that, just like turning valves a half turn back, the arms wide open gesture is a teaching technique that has caught on without actually being a requirement of the skill. I find this is often the case with many skills, a few other training agencies often like to make out that they teach skills differently to the PADI system but a quick look at the performance requirements of the skill show that there is a lot left to individual interpretation.

I teach this skill by getting the donor to pass off the octopus to the out of air diver but I leave the responsibility of ensuring that the reg is the right way up and the hose free and clear to the receiver. This ensures that the performance requirement of securing the reg is met whilst still differentiating this from a rescue course skill where the emphasis is on the rescuer ensuring that the reg is supplied correctly to an out of gas diver.

The other bonus of doing this is that the donating diver releases the octo clip. Whilst the release of the octo should be covered in the buddy check quite a few divers often have their octos secured in hose clips that often don’t release the reg but simply slide down the hose and restrict it’s length. It’s therefore also crucial that the release of the octo and how it’s secured is something that divers are taught to think about and discuss as part of their checks

I was once given some advice by an instructor who told me that in an emergency the best thing that you can do is consciously slow down your actions and ensure that you get things right the first time instead of speeding up and then forgetting something which causes you to have to repeat it under ever increasing stress. Hopefully by priming students early on to help in a real emergency we might increase the likelihood of gas sharing being completed successfully so that a panicked situation is avoided.

Some FAQs about the Instructor Course

Q. Is it a good idea to become a Scuba Instructor?

A. Yes of course and it will make you more attractive too.

Q. I’ve just learnt to dive and now all I want to do is become an instructor and disappear somewhere hot. Am I being crazy?

A. No that’s exactly how I felt, so that’s pretty much what I did. I started my IDC a week after my 100th dive so I certainly don’t think people need to go and do masses of diving to ‘get good’. You’ll need to do a bit of work and build those dives up but it needn’t take ages and is completely achievable.

Q. What do I need to have done to become a Diving Instructor?

A. You’ll need to have completed Open Water, Advanced, Rescue and Divemaster through the PADI system (or another training agency-crossovers are usually fairly simple). You’ll need 100 dives. If you’re struggling to get the dives up then can I heartily recommend a Red Sea Liveaboard? They’re a fantastic way to get about 20 dives in a week. You’ll also need experience in deep, night and search and recovery diving (best bet is to get the specialities). You’ll need to be declared medically fit and then you’re pretty much good to go.

Q. Will I be able to get a job in the dive industry?

A. Let’s assume that you are a friendly, reasonable person and a competent diver then the short answer is ‘yes, no problem. The longer answer is that full time jobs in the industry are usually abroad but if you’re prepared to go overseas then work can be found easily through the PADI jobs board and once you’re ‘in’ you’ll find out about more opportunities. In the UK most dive centres are crying out for weekend instructors, especially through the summer. It’s a part time occupation which most people do on top of a normal job but it’s immensely fulfilling. However there are fulltime opportunities in the UK if you’re prepared to seek them out and put yourself forward.

Q. Will I be showered with riches?

A. Er no. This isn’t a job you do if you want to get rich. You should receive payment for your work but If you’re primary motivation is money then you might want to re-think….

Q. Do I need to have excellent skills to start the IDC?

A. You don’t need to have them nailed to perfection but you should be comfortable and familiar with them. That’s part of the Divemaster Course. If you’re rusty or want a little more practice it’s a good idea to get a pool session in before the IDC starts.

Q. I’ve read through the website blurb about the IDC but what exactly does it all mean?

A. The IDC is about teaching you to use an educational system which becomes the foundation of how you teach. What that means is that you’ll learn how to put together classroom presentations where you use a template to make sure you hit all the required points. The idea is that you can use the template to put together any teaching presentation. The same applies to the confined and open water stuff. You’ll use a structure where you show control of the group, problem solving and use of your Divemaster. It all follows a logical process and most people eventually click into it fairly easily. You’ll just keep on practicing until you’re happy and then it’s off to the IE

 

A few thoughts on the new padi open water course

Last weekend I finished an IDC for the lovely Aquanaut in Kingston and Dive Wimbledon. We had a great time and I know the candidates will nail the IE. As part of the IDC we spent some time discussing the new skills in the updated Open Water Course and practising those skills in the pool.

One of the things that came out of the practise sessions is that there is definitely a little more investment of time in the new version required to deliver a valuable course.

Both of these centres just like Diving Leisure London and Big Squid offer a quality Open Water Course/Referral. They all charge in the region of £400 for the full open water and just under £300 for the referral course. They don’t do one day groupon deals for £80 (plus course materials, plus PIC etc etc). My views on groupon can be found here…..

The price of an open water course hasn’t changed much since I started in the UK industry over ten years ago. However in that time VAT has increased, rent, rates etc all have gone up.

All these centres are running with a group of students over four days for a full course or two for a referral making it around £100 per day to learn to dive. Personally I think this is a total bargain especially as that is pretty much all inclusive too. Really it should cost more and I’m hoping to see the price of an open water rise to around £450 and a referral to £300.

I’m not aiming to point out the impossibility of delivering a course to the same quality level as the aforementioned dive centres when you’re charging a third of the price with 3 times the number of students and half the time (oh I just did) but more to express my hope that the demands of the new open water course will begin to affect the ability of low cost/high volume operations to actually meet the required standards.

Without entering into specifics, the main differences between the old course and the new are an emphasis on trim and buoyancy as well as the student demonstrating the ability to plan and conduct dives as a buddy team. Buoyancy in particular is a hard concept for many students to grasp over a two day referral let alone one. Introducing trim (ie hovering in a more horizontal position so as to be more efficient and less likely to damage the marine environment) adds a greater level of difficulty.

Trying to bash this stuff out in an afternoon (except in one on one situations) is going to lead to divers who are unprepared for the open water dives and perhaps, just perhaps, the centres overseas that receive these students will begin to question more firmly how the referral course was run.

The new open water course is a fantastic opportunity for quality dive centres to differentiate themselves from the others. Let’s make a big deal about the new skills and how the extra time and smaller groups offered over a 2 day referral course will lead to much more confident divers.

Personally I’m really enjoying getting instructors up to speed with the new course so we can all begin to create happier, confident divers who are much more likely to continue their diving education.

The London IDC June 2014

The second London IDC has just finished this time with Aquanaut and Dive Wimbledon candidates. The ethos of the London IDC is to bring quality London dive centres together to pool their candidates to make much busier IDCs. This has a double advantage, for the dive centres it makes the IDCs a more profitable enterprise but it also makes the IDCs more enjoyable and useful for the candidates, IDCs benefit from having larger groups as the candidates can watch multiple presentations of a variety of different skills as well as seeing how different dive centres do things in slightly different ways.

We began on Friday night with a skill circuit at Putney Leisure Centre.  In total we had 5 IDC candidates (Rick, Sam, Wiktor, Cheryl and Mark), 2 Staff Instructor candidates (Billy and Laura), 3 Staff Instructors (Kristine, Steve and Geoff) and me. Coordination is the key to things like this and it was immensely helpful to have Staff Instructors along too to help with the evaluations. This is another massive advantage of running bigger groups in that it means there’s a real need for the Staff Instructors to come along and help out. The skills were already at a really high standard so things were looking good for the rest of the program.

Putney pool

Looking good in the pool,. Thanks to John Southill for the great picture

We also had a plan to workshop some of the new open water course skills too so we had some DMs and other instructors along as well as Lynne the owner of Aquanaut. It can be a little intimidating even for big, bad Course Directors like myself(!) to suddenly have about 16 faces swivel towards you and watch you demonstrate new skills but we all had fun trying the emergency weight drop and tightening a loose cam band. By the end of the session we had everyone hovering in horizontal trim which was a fantastic sight to see!

Classroom

Pizza in the classroom. Note sun outside

The next day was spent in the classroom doing lectures. Sam amused us all with his non digital, unbound version of the instructor manual which caused him endless frustration in every lecture that required the candidates to check standards (pretty much all of them). Pizza was consumed, coffee was drunk and the day was done. The next morning saw us at the pool practicing our confined teaching presentations. The pool was at a posh public school but something had happened to the water (maybe they had dissolved naughty pupils in it) which meant it was somewhat cloudy. We took this in good spirits as preparation for open water the next weekend and everyone did incredibly well.

Instructor manual woes

Sam discovering he’s in the wrong section again

In the afternoon we headed back to the classroom for teaching presentations, where Sam amused us again by wrapping paper around a workbook and calling it a PPB manual. They love stuff like that on an IE.

Not a PPB manual

Not a PPB manual

I then jetted off to Malta for some sidemount fun(it’s a hard life) before zooming straight back to Heathrow the following saturday morning and directly from there to Wraysbury. I had one of those mornings where the world aligns for you and I landed at Heathrow at 9.25 and was at Wraysbury just after 10. After the sunshine in Malta and the sunshine whilst we were all locked up in the classroom the previous weekend, the UK obliged by sending a torrential downpour for most of the day, leading to the use of a transit van as the base for delivering dive briefings.

Once in the water the vis wasn’t fantastic and once again the candidates did a superb job running their teaching presentations in some tough conditions. They cracked straight on unaware of the ariel jostling for position amongst the evaluators trying to get in close enough to grade the proceedings.

We ended the day with some knots and lift bags and a DSD workshop that saw the candidates attempting to control some really quite abysmal DSD students. It was another excellent day.

Our last day was spent in the classroom wrapping up lectures and finishing up in the Aquanaut shop before a celebratory beer and paperwork sorting at the Norbiton and Dragon.

Aquanaut

Aquanaut

Massive well done to all the candidates for working so hard and all the staff instructors who came along and assisted on the program too, it wouldn’t have gone so smoothly without you.

Bring on the IE!

Customer Testimonials

Read what some of our successful candidates have said about us!

IDC Aug 2015 – “A fantastic IDC with a great balance of support and challenge… not to mention fun! Opportunities were built in for development to meet personal needs and a high level of support through the entire course. I cannot recommend Alex highly enough!”

Maryse Dare

IDC March 2015 – “Being a young Course Director, Alex Griffin was someone I could really relate to. His teaching was relaxed, creative and very good. He restored a lot of trust at a time when I was very unsure about things. Because of him, my PADI IE was completed with great results! I dedicate my success to him.”

Adrian Jones

IDC Aug 2013– “I started my IDC in February of 2013 in preparation for the IE in August of that year in Peterborough. The AI was conducted by Lynne Clafton of Aquanaut Scuba in Kingston with the OWSI being conducted by Alex Griffin. Having been a DM for a few years it was important for me to take the next step and also find a way of regularly being in the water doing what I love. Lynne was excellent and very flexible to fit around my busy schedule plus her relaxed teaching style meant that ‘most of it’ sunk in the first time. Lynne also accommodated for extra pool sessions when I felt they were needed and was a constant source of knowledge on all things diving. Having completed my AI I was next introduced to Alex who took me through my OWSI and got me prepared for my IE. Alex’s teaching style also warrants applause as not only does he possess a mountain of knowledge he has an excellent way of delivering it. The OSWI was conducted across 2 weekends and was very well organised. Alex had recently completed his CD and was right up to date with the latest teaching techniques which gave me great confidence. Alex and Lynne both did an excellent job in preparing me for the IE and after a few nervous hours of exams I really began to enjoy myself. At no point during the IE weekend did I encounter something  that I was not prepared for, in fact, I found myself having more time to prepare things than I expected. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire IDC and the IE and thanks to Lynne and Alex I passed with flying colours.”

Paul Searle

IDC 29th June 2014 –  “My IDC was scheduled over 2 weekends with 4 other candidates. Our Course Director for the IDC was Alex Griffin (who seems to be known by the whole PADI world, and was highly recommended by other OWSI’s to do my IDC).  Alex’s PADI knowledge, patience, presentation skills, enthusiasm and humour made the IDC experience and IE Examination preparation a pleasurable one rather than a chore.
 My IE was at Peterborough on 16/17 Aug 2014 and throughout the weekend Alex was always available on the phone for guidance  and re-assurance. A huge thank you to Alex for your support and sharing your wealth of PADI experience to help me get through the IE to become an OWSI.  (My Instructor Specialities with Alex……already being booked).”
 
Mark Greenslade #252206

IDC Aug 2013- My name is Richard Cullen and I am a PADI Staff Instructor and an Instructor Trainer for Deptherapy Education. I completed my IDCS with Alex Griffin at Diving Leisure London. I had known Alex for a long time and found that on the programme he brought to the course his friendliness and enthusiasm for diving that are very much a hallmark of Alex as a person. This was Alex’s first IDC programme as a Course Director and I know the IDC students and those of us working towards Staff Instructor had an amazing experience. Alex’s enthusiasm for diving and his knowledge of the PADI system are obvious and this creates a desire to do well in his students. Whilst the programme is intense Alex also brings a style of his own that encourages and facilitates learning. Feedback is very well managed even when this involves some bad news. For me Alex’s description of the scoring system in skills evaluation and student presentations was absolutely brilliant. He deals with student feedback in a very caring way and manages performance issues in a sensitive manner that encourages achievement amongst his students. I really enjoyed the programme and learned a good deal, the IDC students were enthused by Alex’s style and his obvious love of diving and delivery of the IDC programme.

Richard Cullen

IDC Nov 2013- I did my IDC with Alex Griffin and it was a great experience. Doing it out of season I was able to get thorough one on one tuition which was really beneficial. I was made to feel really comfortable to ask any questions about the course and also using the teams experience to further my education. The course was very enjoyable and was a great introduction into UK diving which I had never considered before. I will certainly be using Alex to further my diving education by completing my MSDT course with him.

James Clack