Jun 11, 2013

Sharing the class

Fifteen to one.

That's the generally accepted maximum ratio of students to teacher in learn to skate.

For tots it's 8 to 1; for the 3 and 4 year olds four to one.

Some municipalities base the ratio on statutory classroom ratios, some on their own metrics, and some just fill classes until no one else wants to sign up. In practice, most rinks will try to keep the ratio low, with multiple coaches on a single class.

Personally I like a higher student/teacher ratio. I find the class flows better when you have to deal with more kids. (I had 27 all by myself in a PreAlpha class once. That was a bit much.)

Multiple coaches are helpful not just to keep the student/teacher ratio reasonable, but also because if one coach can't be there on any given week due to scheduling conflicts or illness the students still get a "regular" coach rather than a sub. Back in the day, when coaching staffs were larger however, you'd sometimes get the agonizing phenomenon of 2 teachers on a class with only 4 or 5 kids.

It can be tricky to find a rhythm with a second teacher. There are rinks with rigid week-by-week syllabuses (syllabi?), but generally you're sort of making it up as you go along within the general constraints of the USFS or ISI curriculum.

So how do you "share" the class?

If I'm new to a program, or the other teacher is the 'main' teacher, I 'll let them set the stage. Just tell me what to teach, and for how long.

If I'm the main teacher, I'll sometimes tell the other teacher what to do, or just turn the class over to them for some period each week. (I'm really bad at this; I always want to jump in.)

Double Act
When you've been on a staff for a while, you start to know the other coaches well enough to really develop a rhythm, and they know enough to trust you. This is the best way to share a class; where  you understand each other's strengths, and know when you can jump in and when you should hold back.

Once the kids are skating, competent teachers, however many there are, will simply move from student to student and give personal advice. If I start to see common errors or questions, I'll stop the class and bring up the point for everyone to hear.

Student teachers
At rinks with serious student teaching programs, you get to teach the student teachers as well, letting them know when to jump in, when to help kids individually, and when to take over.  I feel that from the stands, parents should not be able to distinguish student teachers from staff coaches by the level of involvement-- every coach on the ice should be engaged in the class.

Hang on, have to pick myself up off the floor, where I fell down laughing. You could actually sit down with your co-teacher and create a syllabus, although I've never seen this happen in the regular classes. (I actually do have syllabuses for every level through FS4, which I pull out mostly when I'm teaching a level I'm less familiar with, or when I have a class that's struggling.) In specialty classes like dance or power, however, this is fairly common.

Do the classes at your rink use more than one teacher per class? What successful (or failed) strategies have you used or observed?


  1. Number of kids seems to be less of an issue than how involved the teacher is. I've seen some coaches who work their way around to every kid, with EVERY exercise they ask the class to do, making specific corrections, adjusting arms, etc -- even in a class with 8 or 9 low-level LTS kids and only one coach. I've also seen coaches in classes with just 3-4 kids where the coach will demonstrate a move once, and then ask the kids to do it -- and then just stand there in the center of the circle and watch them fail over and over and over again without offering any concrete help beyond demonstrating again. It's especially frustrating to watch your child struggle with something fundamental (like crossovers) and have a hands-off coach. In my experience, it's the willingness to a) work briefly one-on-one with each child; and b) recognize that sometimes a different explanation will be easier for a child to understand, rather than a repetition of the same demo over and over.

    The worst coaches seem to have a, "well this is how I teach it" attitude, while the best ones have a "let's see how best you can learn it" attitude and try all kinds of creative things to help the kids figure out the skills.

    1. You're absolutely right. Sometimes, however, the coaches don't have a choice-- a second coach is assigned, and you have to use them. If you happen to draw coaches with very different teaching styles, as in your examples, it can be challenging to not marginalize one of the coaches.

  2. Successful - when the employees of the rink have a culture of being supportive.

    Unsuccessful - when relationships are strained and the class coach seems hands off because they are teaching something slightly differently than the student's private coach who may be vocal about the change.

    Unsuccessful - when the student is vocal about how their class coach said to do it THEIR way so the class coach is WRONG.

    Most unsuccessful - when the parent is echoing their student's gripe to management.

    1. Once, I had a group coach who was also my private coach. In group he taught me to do something, and I said, "My private coach told me to do it this way."
      His face got all red, then he realized he was getting mad at it himself.

  3. Our rink's adult class on Wednesday night is GORGEOUS. The only flaw is it's on studio rink, but everything else is just perfect. The most adult-friendly coaches who are patient and knowledgeable. The pre-freestyle class often has 2-3 (!!) coaches and from what I observe they divide up the class by level and tailor to the student's needs. The freestyle class is ~awesome~ with 2 of the best coaches rotating each week. Usually group warm up then individual projects.