It is a strange thing, thinking back over my diving career. I remember perfectly how I was introduced to GUE and the way that I slowly grew my experience, both in the tech and cave areas, within this agency. But the idea of taking the ITC arrived just this last year when I started to think about transforming a great passion into something I could also "share" with other divers. I’ve always been a little bit scared of the idea of making a passion a job, for the fear of ruining the pleasure of the hobby by making it a duty. With time I thought about it more and eventually decided to take the chance of the ITC.
I started slowly, first by participating as a video operator in a Fundy class lead by Lodovico Venturoli, with the goal of understanding if what I was thinking could be a blast… if it was a real interest and not just the thrill of the moment: and lucky for me, the countercheck was right.
I then started the process to become an instructor candidate, signing myself up as an intern, and starting a series of internships, both with Bruno (Borelli) and with Lodovico. Then it was just a matter of time before I signed myself for the ITC. The first ITC available - and the only one available in Europe at that time - was in Tilburg (Holland) in May 2012. So, after having contacted Dorota Czerny (one of the ITC planners) I signed myself up for it.
In the middle there were a lot of changes, a move to Finland (where I’m living and planning to teach) with all the problems connected with such a change: but the decision had been made, and the time had come!
On the 5th of May I found myself at Turku airport, with 2 big bags full of diving equipment, destination Bruxelles! From there, a friend gave me a lift to Tilburg where I found the other 15 candidates and the instructors - Jesper Berglund, Jarrod Jablonski, Dorota Czerny, and Richard Walker - helped by Panos Alexakos, JP Bresser, and Maarten van Baal.
The time schedule was tough, as it is in every GUE course: a lot of material, a lot of work to do, and the need to maximize both with the available time. We started immediately with some theory, a course introduction and a quick discussion of how the lessons must be prepared, for then starting immediately was a "real check". Once the candidates were divided in groups, we needed to start "teaching" our lessons, with the other candidates and instructors acting as our "students".
It’s quite a difference being on the other side of the "line". Explaining, using examples, catching the attention of the students, challenging the class to make it active and interested about the subject we are discussing, and being able to summarize all the material in an efficient way. It was a challenge! And an experience totally new for me since I have no prior experience of teaching. It is also something really fascinating. The instructors were there with us, ready to correct us, explaining where to improve, analyzing and correcting the way we explain and teach.
The days were divided between academic and in-water parts. For the in water part we were always divided into small groups. We simulated the teaching techniques (from swim techniques to smb deployment to passing from the s-drill to the valve drill). In every session the instructor was an active part of the class, or even better, the "worse" student of the class, challenging us to solve possible problems and difficulties that we will probably eventually face in a real class.
Visibility was not the best, only around 6-7 meters max, and this forced us to get perfect control of the team and of the students, reducing our chances of penalties from the instructors.
At the end of every in-water session followed a long debriefing where the session was analyzed. We reviewed our teaching methods (there is always space for improvements!) and mistakes.
The instructors alternated between the different groups as a way to get the chance to be watched by all of them and having a more complete judgment.
Every night we had homework to do for the next day that was basically the preparation of the slides or the field lesson we would have the next day. The day usually started at 8 am and ended around 11 pm....
The days - even if quite tough - moved quickly, and the thing I appreciated the most was the "good mood" that was always in the air. Even if the main goal of every course is to learn something, here the "pressure" for been evaluated was always present. But the atmosphere among us students was always great – always supportive and relaxed. I had the chance to work with really cool buddies, both in and out of the water, which made everything easier.
It was awesome having two Italian buddies during the course (Marco and Max). I didn’t know them that much before the ITC, and it was a pleasure to have them along with me on this adventure.
I also need to thank my ITC roommates Kacper, Pim and Adrian. It was a lot of fun having them around, and this course creates a bond that I do believe will last a long time. They made the 9 days something fun and constructive (not mentioning the fact they were also excellent divers and quite some hungry bellies to feed every night when I was cooking!).
Big thanks also goes to the instructors, divers, and persons of an incredible value. It was great having the chance to know them, and "stealing" some techniques and ways to teach from each one of them.
And special thanks also goes to Martijn, owner of the diving shop (de Aalschovers) and always present with a smile, ready to solve every possible issue we could have.
This is the story of my ITC. I love to think about it as the "coronation" of a road started during the autumn of many years ago, when I took my Fundamentals class, a class that taught me a lot, even if at that time, I had quite some difficulties on managing both my buoyancy and trim. Well...some time and some water has passed since then and it is quite a satisfaction starting to see now the results of all that work!
Just for completing the story and for making it clear for the ones who don t know how the ITC process works, in the best scenario, at the end of the ITC you do not become an instructor (immediately), but it is possible to obtain some signatures. The idea is the same as on every GUE course where scores go from 1 to 5. There are different fields, and to get a signature you need to get at least a 4 in every field. This works both for Rec and Fundamentals. So in the best scenario, at the end of the ITC you will get a signature for Rec and Fundamentals, but you are not able to teach until another instructor (an IE - Instructor Evaluator), different from the one who gave you the first signature, is evaluates you in a real class, to confirm your teaching ability.
After the ITC I took the chance to work with Richard Walker (already here in Finland to evaluate another candidate) to be evaluated as a Rec instructor. And so now I am proudly a member of the "GUE instructor family", and I can’t wait to start teaching my very first Rec1 class here in Finland!
Getting the chance to teach the back kick to Jarrod was priceless. I mean...the guy quite quickly got the right movement and he made outstanding progress. He really seems like a natural talent…Photos: Brixio Tosoni