President Woodrow Wilson, a renowned orator and speechwriter, was once asked how long it takes him to write and prepare for a speech. He quipped, “…if you would like me to speak for 15 minutes, I will need 2 weeks; for 30 minutes, 1 week; for 1 hour, 1 day; for 2 hours, I am ready to go right now.”
This quote came to mind during the recently held Single Pitch Instructor Provider training in Boulder and the Climbing Wall Instructor Provider Training in Rockville, Maryland. During both trainings the over-riding question was “what is the standard, and how do I teach it?” Both Trainers did a masterful job of paring away the fluff and getting to the essence of the curriculum. They challenged the participants to let go of their 10, 20, and, in some cases, 30 years of climbing experience and approach the curriculum with the “end user” in mind. The end user not being the SPI or CWI Providers’ students, but the students’ of the students; the novices that certified climbing instructors will be teaching. All the participants on the training had witnessed recreational climbers on CWI or SPI courses (and some experienced guides and climbing instructors) blather on endlessly on a given topic, incorporating every trick or variation of a technique they have ever learned in their presentations. Most admitted they can and have fallen into the trap of allowing the luxury of time to compromise their effectiveness as teachers.
As the components of the curriculum were explored, the Trainers made it clear that a Providers’ contact time with students is short and that there is a lot of material to cover; there is no luxury of time. The conclusion reached by these prospective course providers was that they need to take the “Wilsonian” approach. Sure, they know the subject matter, but it will take time and focused preparation to provide their students with a truly exceptional learning experience. By role modeling good planning and execution, and stripping the curriculum to its’ core their students will be better prepared to pass along their knowledge to the end users, the next generation of climbers.
Unrelated, but I’ll close this with something I heard John Bicknell say to a group of SPI student: “when presenting a topic, if the thought even begins to enter your head that you have been talking too long, you have been talking too long.”