A Lesson Spark from COVID
This season instructors have had to integrate the COVID policy of social distancing into our lessons. There are social distancing procedures for chairlift riding which involve having the instructor ride alone or leaving a space between the instructor and the guest.
Recently, I have found myself working with two children* from the same family. It’s time to ride a quad chair lift. I tell the children that they need to leave a space next to me and to move closer to their brother or sister because of our COVID policies. This message became repetitive and boring every time I loaded a chairlift. To make things more interesting, I decided that I would tell the children that they needed to make room for my secret friend who rides the chairlift with me. We successfully loaded the chair with sufficient space between me and the children. It worked!
What I wasn’t expecting was that the children were not done with my secret friend. The older girl asked if my secret friend had a name. I said, “No, but she needed one.” The brother and sister quickly decided that my secret friend’s name was Sally. We then proceeded to describe her outfit and the helmet she was wearing. When we entered the chairlift line again, we were careful not to step on Sally’s skies, and I didn’t have to remind them of leaving a space. We then talked about what Sally likes to do. We found out that she is funny and likes to sing and tell jokes. We were totally engaged with Sally and brought her to life. We talked about how she skied and how we could help her to ski better. She had a tendency to sit back when she went off the jumps, and she needed to move forward to have a better landing. The imagination of the children was intriguing and made for a wonderful dialogue. The lesson was fun. Others heard us laughing in the lift line as we brought Sally into our lesson.
I wondered if this was just a coincidence, or if Sally could be a benefit in other lessons. The next day I had the opportunity to bring Sally into the lesson with two other children. Sure enough, the children made room for my secret friend. I told these children that my other clients had named my secret friend, Sally. They thought that Sally was a good name and started to make Sally come to life too. These children drew images in the lift line as to what Sally looked like. Sally allow us to talk about things in the lesson in a non-threatening way. It made the lesson fun.
What started off as an aid to help with a COVID policy turned out to be an icebreaker for my lessons. Being able to talk about an imaginary person was fun, creative, and liberating to the children. They would say things through Sally what they were thinking and feeling. I was able to role play along with them and really enjoyed the interaction. I never had to remind them to leave a space between me and them on the chairlift again. They were very respectful of Sally, and Sally helped us build a bond that made for an enjoyable lesson.
*The ages of the children were from 8-11.
Contributing Writer- Libbie Sheldon, Alpine Level 3 Certified, PSIA-AASI Western Division Alpine Examiner & Educator