South Africa 2014: Students and Teachers in this together

My mixed feelings continue.  We enter the frigid pool once again for the second confined dive.  The cold is so unpleasant that I just feel like I'm suffering through the experience.  The first task we undertake is to remove our mask for one minute under water.  I find this absolutely terrifying and am suppressing panic for the entire minute.  What a strange sensation to continue breathing with the regulator but have water creep into my nostril spaces.  It takes me some time to process exactly what I am doing to maintain a no panic status.  I am breathing deeply in and then pushing air out through my mouth and nose while keeping my eyes closed.  That seeping sensation into my nostrils is most uncomfortable and unsettling.  Then, I need to put the mask on and clear it.  Again, suppressed panic.  I dare to open my eyes, fearing that I haven't cleared the mask and to my relief, it is clear.  I give the "OK" signal.  After the mask task, the rest seems easy.  One of our students has exited the water over the mask task.  Apparently there are several students from the different groups that have difficulty with the mask task.

With our instructor

During the pre-dive debriefing when we are discussing buddy diving and sharing air the dive instructor tells us, "You always look out for yourself first.  Never share your regulator with your buddy.  They ran out of air so you shouldn't risk your life for them.  That's when I realize I probably shouldn’t be diving with anyone that I care about.  I’d probably give my regulator to anyone in this group.

Well, we finish the rest of the confined dive and eagerly exit the water seeking sunshine, warmth and lunch.  Then, another lecture and quizzes.  It is a relief to have another day behind us. 

Doubt about the entire certification process consumes me.  Why am I even doing this?  Will I ever dive again?  12 years ago I did complete a dive certification program but it was not as thorough as this one and it’s as though I hadn’t done it.  The fear factor is just so huge now.  The need to “put up a front” for my students has disintegrated.  I openly share my fears with them as they do theirs.  Truly, we’re in this together.

Fish after fish after fish are flashing before my eyes on the PPT shining on the wall in the mess hall.  I've lost focus.  I can't keep them apart.  It is just another fish as far as I'm concerned.  The kids are zoned out.  This is probably most interesting to the kids that have actually been diving and have seen these fish.

Fear is tearing through me regarding the first open water dive.  We have to repeat all the tasks we've completed in closed water and I completely dread it: that mask task.  What if someone panics in the ocean???  Again, doubt fills my mind and I just cannot focus on this fish lecture, despite the fact that they are, indeed, seriously cool.  Parrot fish.  Trigger fish.  Seriously?  4 types of trigger fish?  and all different by markings.  "Our Snappers", he says.  They are pelagic.  What the hell is pelagic?  Oh, Open water.  But seriously, there are two snappers on the screen and they look so different in shape and color - I can't imagine being able to put those two in the same family.  Now there are 4 more snapper fish on a new slide: humpback, yellow, twin-spot, blue banded.  Fish, fish, fish and more fish.  On to the surgeonfish.  I cannot look at another picture of a fish.  Thank goodness, now he's talking about conservation of herbivores.

Why not put out some fish I.D. cards for the students and have them practice identifying fish???  That would have been so much better. They need some hands on activity that engages them.

We got lucky in that the staff seemed to notice that the students were completely ZONED and the second lecture was cancelled.  Even the chaperones thrilled to be done with the lectures.  None of us could take any more.  There’s something about being really active all day in the outdoors and sun, finishing off a healthy dinner, and then settling down for a lesson.  What can I learn from this?  We, as teachers, definitely need to be aware of our students’ activities and exam schedules if we want to help them optimize their learning time.  And, the value of hands on, engaging work is forever engraved into my mind.