Scuba instructors learn how to teach in Key Largo

As I walk to the pool I see a large group of scuba divers bunched into small groups. Each group appears to be instructed by a diver holding a plastic card containing detailed instructions.

Some of the groups have persons translating the diver’s instructions into sign language. Near each group is another diver, holding a larger plastic card, who seems to be scoring the presentation.

I am at the pool behind the visitor’s center located at mile marker 106 bayside watching a group of scuba divers attending a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Instructor Development Course (IDC) being conducted by Rainbow Reef Diver Center — one of the several dive operators in the Keys that conduct the course.

I learn that the divers making the presentations are student instructors and the “students” they are teaching actually are high level instructors certified to train scuba instructors.

The course, which covers confined water teaching, open water teaching, academic teaching, PADI standards and procedures, and academic topics such as physics, physiology, equipment, and more, is designed to prepare qualified candidates to pass a rigorous two day testing program to become scuba instructors.

Why are these divers going through all this?

Well, they have been “bitten” by the scuba bug and want or need the instructor certification for their career (such as oceanography) or to “live the dream” of working in a faraway tropical island or maybe to go back home and work for the local dive shop.

The journey to becoming an instructor may have started by the excitement of taking a resort or discover scuba experience.

This might have led to scuba training as an open water diver where the student received what is called a C-card (certification card), which divers must show dive shops before renting dive gear, getting their scuba tanks filled or diving.

Divers with an open water certification who decide to have professional supervision and training to become better or safer divers have a wide range of specialty or continuing education courses available to them.

Some divers obtain an Advanced Open Water Diver certification, a Rescue Diver certification or get training in CPR, first aid or in providing oxygen for diving accidents.

Here is where the path splits. Many divers take several specialty diving courses and become Master Divers — a respected non-professional rating. Others decide to continue on to become Divemasters — a professional rating needed to supervise or lead divers, work on dive boats, and assist with classes.

A PADI Divemaster who has been a certified diver for at least six month, taken the required pre-requisite courses and has the specified number of dives may enroll in the IDC, which is taught by a Course Director.

PADI Course Directors are PADI Master Instructors who have taken additional training and are certified to teach PADI Instructor IDCs and other instructor-level training (see https://goo.gl/l6H8QO).

The IDC is composed of two parts — the Assistant Instructor (AI) course and the Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI) program. Most dive professionals complete the entire IDC and go on to attend an Instructor Examination (IE).

The IDC teaches candidates to conduct all PADI core courses including how to organize and present information, conduct skill development sessions, and control open water dives.

Candidates are taught to be better public speakers, demonstrate scuba skills, and to ensure the safety of student divers. Other PADI IDC topics are: standards and procedures for courses, risk management, the diving business, the role of the instructor, and marketing.

Recognizing that this is a lot to learn in an average eight-day course, PADI has developed choices for learning some of the course material on-line. One topic is dive theory — a review of dive physics, physiology, skills, equipment and environment, and use of a chart to determine dive time limits.

After completing the IDC instructor candidates, who wish to become instructors, attend the IE, which tests the candidates’ teaching ability, dive theory knowledge, skill level, understanding of the PADI teaching system, attitude and professionalism.

PADI IEs are standardized and conducted by specially trained PADI Instructor Examiners. The IE location, testing environment and examination sessions are organized to be as objective as possible to fairly and consistently evaluate a candidate’s abilities. Only those who meet the IE performance requirements earn the PADI instructor certification.

OK, back to Rainbow Reef Divers.

After operating as a successful PADI resort for several years, it decided expand its operations to train dive instructors. It has been very successful, training the highest number of instructor candidates each year in North America. It is considered a “top” IDC center.

The dive center and staff have been awarded the “PADI Member of the Month" five times.

Rainbow Reef has some of the most experienced and award winning instructors found anywhere in the world. Two of its six course directors are “Platinum Course Directors” (a course director who has certified a minimum of 30 instructors and has 70 instructor-level continuing education certifications in the last year).

There are numerous dive certification agencies in the world that train divers from entry through instructor levels. The two largest in the United States are PADI, www.padi.com, and the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), www.naui.org.

Other scuba agencies around the world include: BSAC- British Sub Aqua Club: www.bsac.com, CMAS- Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques/ The World Underwater Federation www.cmas2000.org, SSI- Scuba Schools International, www.divessi.com, IDEA– The International Diving Educators Association (www.idea-scubadiving.com), ACUC– The American Canadian Underwater Certifications (www.acuc.es), PDIC– The Professional Diving Instructors Corporation ( www.pdic-intl.com), and SDI/TDI- the Scuba Divers International/Technical Divers International (www.tdisdi.com)

So, if you decide to get rid of the suit and tie and “live the dream” there are many scuba instructor training centers right here in the Keys, including Rainbow Reef Dive Center, that are very willing to help you get started.