After my Divemaster course I returned to the UK to begin my University degree in Social Anthropology.
The following summer I had four months off Uni, so I decided to head to the beautiful island of Koh Tao, Thailand, famous for its all-round dive obsession! This little island has a huge amount of dive centres and most people there are either learning to dive, becoming a divemaster or freediving.
I spent a few days distributing my CV and looking around for Divemaster jobs. Unfortunately every dive centre has several divemaster trainees and most were looking for instructors. I had a look at my finances and after meeting a Course Director I enrolled in the Instructor Development Course. This was one of the most intense three weeks of my life!
I entered a large classroom where I met my three other instructor trainees; two Canadians and a British guy, all still good friends of mine now.
It was a bit of a shock when our Course Director told us we would be starting with the divemaster exam. ‘Which one?’ I asked, hoping it wouldn’t be the physics one… ‘All of them!’ he replied.
Yes, all eight divemaster exams at once (which you have to do again during the Instructor exam). We repeated these in different forms every day until we knew what to expect from them.
We also went through the entire Instructor manual highlighting parts and taking notes, presenting classroom elements to each other, and my favourite part – the water skills.
Open water scuba instructor
We spent time every day in the teaching pool practicing the skills from each course again and again. For each one we had to introduce it to our ‘students’ – played by our fellow instructor candidates – demonstrate the dive skill perfectly, and watch them perform the skill.
Each ‘student’ was given a problem that we had to identify and correct before debriefing the skill. This was a great chance to learn what students tend to get wrong, from dropping their mask during mask skills to holding their breath during a free-flowing regulator skill!
The instructor exam was held over two days and to my huge relief and joy I passed my theory exams with higher marks than I had received in practice.
The day on the boat with PADI examiners was tough – there were over forty candidates. Fortunately I stayed with my original group and we all tried to exaggerate our ‘problems’ underwater so that they could be easily identified! We all passed and celebrated after a very tough few weeks – delighted with our new status as PADI Instructors!
Working as a Dive instructor
Four the next three months I worked as a freelance instructor for several dive schools on Koh Tao.
This taught me a massive amount about how these businesses are run and I did a huge amount of teaching!
My very first Open Water Course was to an English couple and a Kiwi couple and I remember that the Kiwi guy was a sheep-shearer!
I was asked to teach them their confined water skills. After that the senior instructor told me that they had enough staff the next day to continue the Open Water dives.
But my students heard this and asked for me to continue the course which I did and qualified my first Open Water Divers!
I was working for a lot of dive schools and found that as a female instructor I was quite good with nervous students.
The only bad experience was when I taught for a few days for one of the German dive schools on the island. Their team of all-male instructors and very rude boat-master treated me terribly and I didn’t stay there for long.
My next adventures as an instructor would take me to Vietnam, Fiji and the slightly chilly waters of the UK!
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